“Good design is a Renaissance attitude which combines technologies, cognitive sciences, human needs and the charm of producing something that the world didn't even know was missing”. So says Italian designer and architect Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art of New York, when describing the work of Italian design companies. The blending of revolutionary production processes and materials with the an old Italian manufacturing tradition has resulted in Italian design companies and brands playing a fundamental role in the history of interior design.
The roots of Italian design can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century when industrial design companies showed their wares at the Turin Exposition of 1902, but the first real success came after the Second World War. Because the whole country needed to be rebuilt, many Italian design companies sprang up, literally building a new way of life along with the new houses they created. Alongside the interior design companies came many product design and industrial design manufacturers, whose innovative approaches and quality of design meant they achieved global success for the made-in-Italy brand.
Italian home design companies cover many sectors, from kitchen design to home accessories. Brands like Alessi, which can be considered the standard-bearer of Italian style and quality in the kitchen accessories sector and Flos and Artemide who have dominated the Italian lighting sector. Their famous creations are now thought of as pieces of contemporary art, for example the Arco and the Tolomeo lamp, invented by the Castiglioni brothers.
Thanks to famous Italian designers such as Achille and Piergiacomo Castiglioni, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Ettore Sottsass and Vico Magistretti, Italian design companies are now a symbol of style all over the world. Their smart, innovative ideas meant Italy played a leading role throughout the boom of the 1960's and 1970's, when neo (or post)- modernism was coming to the fore in the design world.
Nowadays, Italy is synonymous with beautiful, contemporary design and eco-friendly solutions. In the kitchen sector the revolutionary Varenna kitchen is one shining example, while the totally innovative materials used by the designers from Valcucine highlight their commitment to producing systems that respect the environment without sacrificing the needs of the client.
Italy has always been at the forefront of pioneering new design which shakes things up and banishes preconceptions. The country's strong hand made manufacturing tradition is what makes every piece of Italian design a unique product, a piece of contemporary art. Although nowadays most of the production process is industrialized, every Italian design still has that hint of its hand-made origins. Even the simplest home accessory has that touch of class, the hallmark of well-thought out and functional design which is also lovely to look at.