Molteni & C: 80 years making furniture at the forefront of design
Formal purity, experimentation, technology, and artistic expression turned into unique pieces of furniture designed by great designers. Molteni & C, one of the most emblematic Italian furniture design firms, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. And it has done so with several events, including several exhibitions. Inaugurated in November 2015, its museum has been the perfect culmination. Moreover, its work philosophy has given rise to many pieces that are already true classics of contemporary design. Please get to know the history of this mythical company through the following selection of designs that will guide you through its trajectory.
Design that lasts. Molteni & C has earned a place in the contemporary home with furniture pieces that masterfully combine functionality and design. Eighty years have passed since this family business - now in its third generation - started as a furniture factory, having left its mark on the history of industrial design with several emblematic pieces. So much so that an exhibition at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan this year presented a selection of 45 pieces, curated by British designer Jasper Morrison, as a tribute to the company's history on the anniversary.
"The intention was to choose the best pieces produced by the group, from the 1930s until now, those that could tell the story of a family business and the evolution of design in Italy," explains Francesca Molteni, granddaughter of the founders. Since November 20, all these pieces have been on permanent display at the recently inaugurated Molteni Museum. At the forefront. In the 1950s, Molteni & C began its orientation towards contemporary design, with pieces with simple, linear lines such as the chest of drawers designed by Werner Blaser in 1955 and Yasuhiko Itoh's 1959 bookcase (pictured). Both were prototypes that garnered numerous awards despite not reaching the industrial production stage and, as Francesca Molteni explains, "came out of the past with a very contemporary soul."
Formal purity. In 1968, the company entrusted Luca Meda with its art direction, who designed a wide range of pieces since then and gave Molteni & C an aesthetic close to traditional craftsmanship but with a clear focus on contemporary design. Good examples of this are the Mop bookcase by Afra and Tobia Scarpa (pictured), a new concept of shelving made in wood with machined solutions, and the 505 modular system, designed by Meda himself. Interior architecture. Aldo Rossi's pieces are another of Molteni & C's references, to the point that the company says it is thinking about new editions of them. One of the most recognizable -and recognizable- is the Carteggio secretaire, designed by the architect. It combines its stylized figure with an endless number of compartments that allow everything to be organized and classified to the millimeter.
It is suspended in the air. In the 21st century, many pieces have made a place for themselves in the recent history of interior design. This is the case of the Graduate bookcase, designed by Jean Nouvel in 2003. Its light structure, suspended by thin steel rods fixed to the ceiling or walls, makes the wood and aluminum shelves seem to float in the air, despite supporting up to 125 kg of weight per linear meter. Lightness and transparency in a volume made of air. The versatility of design. Day bed, chaise longue, sofa bed in the Night & Day series, designed by Patricia Urquiola in 2009, exemplify Molteni & C's vocation for experimenting with new forms and uses for the most traditional pieces of furniture. Its reclining backrest and the versatility conferred by the multiple modules make this series a particular project—sustainable lines. The firm's passion for shapes and innovation is evident in the Arc table, designed by Foster+Partners in 2010. Inspired by the fluctuating forms of tensile structures, its foot is made of an innovative lightweight concrete, made of cement and natural fibers, ten times Classics reissued. Dating between 1952 and 1955 is the D.655.1 sideboard by Gio Ponti, reissued in 2012, with fronts in a white finish and handles in mahogany, walnut, rosewood, and elm veneer applications. A characteristic design that stands the test of time like few others. The rug made with pieces of colt skin is another proposal of the 1954 designer, also available today in the collection dedicated to it. More robust than conventional cement. The tabletop is tempered glass with beveled edges, creating a set that combines lightness, solidity, and sustainability.
Emblematic pieces. That same year, the Milan furniture fair presented the reissue of the D.154.2 armchair, also from 1954, made by Ponti for the Planchart collectors' villa in Caracas. An architecture born of the new expressive forms emerged in Latin America in the early 1950s. Today, the armchair has a rigid polyurethane frame, a soft polyurethane counter-frame, and a cushion. Each of the different elements can be ordered with other fabrics, to be chosen from the range offered by Molteni & C. Endless possibilities. Molteni & C's modular systems are a benchmark in the industry. This year, the Pass-Word collection by Dante Bonnucelli has been expanded with a new open module, which allows the development of a host of new decorative solutions, including multimedia equipment, cupboards, and cabinets of various heights. Suitable for the base and wall-mounted units, they are available in matt lacquer in the Molteni & C range of colors.