It’s fair to say that Italy might not be quite as synonymous with design as it once was. There’s a global marketplace now, with designers from all over the world competing on an equal footing with Italian interior design specialists. For those of us who live and breathe design, that’s obviously a good thing. There’s much more pressure to achieve excellence now, so no designer can rest on its laurels. That includes those who might have been given an easy ride to the style pages thanks to the green, white and red flag.
You’ve probably already heard of Versace, although it might not be because of the Italian giant’s interior design. We’d urge you to take a look at the collection, because there really is some outstanding Italian-style furniture and furnishings in there. But there are other Italian furniture designers and interior designers who deserve the attention of the world, but can’t possibly shout as loudly as the multinational behemoth. We’ve collected our favourites here, to show how Italy still manages to inspire and excite in the world of interiors.
1. Versace Home
You can tell in an instant that you’re looking at the Versace Home collection. It’s not just the obvious quality on show – it’s the boldness of vision that comes from having nothing to prove. Some might describe the designs as over the top, and if they’re used to the subtler things in life, they might have a point. But you should never overlook the humour and the humanity that Versace Home products encompass. It’s part of who they are, and it’s what makes the brand all the more impossible to ignore.
While Versace Home draws inspiration from all over the world, there’s no denying the Classical iconography that permeates much of its collection. You’ll see plenty of references to Medusa, the snake-haired Gorgon of Greek mythology who would turn to stone all who gazed on her – indeed, it’s part of the Versace logo. The Romans (and the Milanese, obviously) would later be captivated by the tragedy and the triumph of her story, but 2,000 years later, you’re safe to snuggle up to her cushion without fear of petrification. Whether it’s crockery, slippers, homewares or the ultimate bath robe you’re looking for, if you insist on the best designer names, you simply have to look to Versace.
2. Roberto Cavalli
Making his name in the women’s fashion world in the 1970s, Roberto Cavalli founded a fashion empire that has since branched into menswear, children’s clothing and home furnishings. Expect traditional craftsmanship with boundless luxury, using the highest quality materials to produce exquisite soft furnishings, dinnerware, ornaments and loungewear.
Cavalli homewares always have an air of quiet sophistication and classical elegance about them. But the skill of the brand is that it never takes this brief and turns it into stolid, conservative designs. There’s always that Italian flair - sometimes it’s a simple monogram that elevates a cushion or bedspread, sometimes a decadent animal print, and other times the subtle use of colour and form to lend everyday products like plates and bowls the essence of life. We love it.
At first glance, Kartell’s luxury furniture has the understated look of a Scandinavian or Japanese design house. But this is Italian modern furniture design at its most restrained, with technical wizardry and a cultured way of putting materials together that makes it really stand out. Founded in 1949, it enlisted the help of some of Italy’s greatest architects and designers to put together a company that designs, develops and distributes furniture, and it has changed the world in the process. It’s why its displays are always a highlight at Milan Design Week.
For decades, Kartell’s flagship product was the transparent one-piece La Marie Chair, the forebear of the Louis Ghost, using pioneering moulding techniques. Transparency remains a hallmark of the company’s output, whether it’s a dining table, a coffee table or chair. Their lighting is modernity exemplified, from ceiling lamps to side table lights. Italian contemporary furniture is safe in Kartell’s skilled hands, and will doubtless remain so for decades to come.
If Kartell is “minimalist Italy”, Seletti is “fun Italy”. Behold the nation’s quirky side in a house full of eccentricity and laugh-out-loud joy. A browse through Seletti’s collection takes you to places you didn’t know existed in the world of modern Italian furniture and homewares. You can sense the brainstorming sessions in the design studio, where no one is afraid to voice an idea for fear of it being dismissed as too off-the-wall. If monkeys are your thing, just scan the whole wide range – you’re going to fall in love with this most fabulous of Italian furniture brands.
Masters of metalwork and refined style, Zanetto has been around since the early 1960s, and that sensibility shines through in its superb collection. It’s a luxury Italian furniture brand, although most of its products can be found on top of kitchen counters and console tables in the world’s most stylish living spaces. Precious materials are lovingly crafted into designer vases, bowls and trays that make them a favourite for anyone who appreciates how the timeless skills of the forge and the hammer can create objects of such beauty and detail.
6. Casa Bugatti
Our final brand shares its name with a supercar company, and it also has the same commitment to engineering and beautiful lines, albeit on a smaller scale. Casa Bugatti is one of those Italian designer brands that you probably encounter more often than you think, perhaps in restaurants or the homes of your most stylish acquaintances. It develops, produces and distributes stunning kitchen appliances and kitchenware with Italian looks and performance on tap. Check out their dining cutlery and their kettles and coffee machines for a taste of the Casa Bugatti ethos. And there’s no two-year waiting list for these Bugattis.