These 12 Companies Are the Beating Heart of Italian Design

Above, clockwise from left: Founders Giuseppina and Angelo Molteni; (from left) Andrea, Giulia, Carlo, and Giovanni Molteni; Gio Ponti’s reissued Round D.154.5 chair, 1954; Arc table by Foster + Partners, 2010.

Molteni Group, Giussano, Lombardy, est. 1934

Founders Angelo and Giuseppina Molteni
Family Tree Carlo Molteni, son of the founders and the current president, paved the way for the third generation of Molteni leadership, including Giulia, Giovanni, and Andrea.
Signature Style Obsessive attention to detail and a reverence for historical heritage. The brand got its start reproducing classic furnishings; now, it has a reputation for modern pieces, while continuing to offer reissues by design icons like Gio Ponti, with whose archives they have an exclusive partnership.
Products There are four brands under the Molteni Group roof: UniFor and Citterio
office systems, the sleek Molteni & C furnishings, and the cool Dada kitchens; the latter two are overseen by creative director Vincent Van Duysen.
News Ponti’s Round D.154.5 chair, designed in 1954, is being reissued.

Paola Lenti, Meda, Lombardy, est. 1994

paola lenti

From left: The Meda factory; Orlando sofa with Zoe rug; Paola and Anna Lenti; Rene Gonzalez Hammock chair; Cerchi table.

Rosanna Webster

Founder Paola Lenti
Family Tree Lenti worked in fashion art direction and graphic design before founding her own brand. Her sister, Anna, previously an engineer in the aerospace industry, joined the company as managing director and CEO in 2000.
Signature Style A passion for colors, textiles, and recycled materials. The result is modular sofas, chaises, rugs, and chairs in organic forms that can multitask from living rooms to patios. (The actress Salma Hayek, for one, is a fan of the Float and Frame chairs in dark purple.) The brand also employs proprietary, patented materials, like Rope, a high-tech yarn that is 100 percent recyclable and resilient; it has been used in outdoor pieces for the W Dubai-The Palm hotel, as well as on yachts and the MV Esmeralda cruise ship.
News In the past year, Lenti has embarked on collaborations with the American architects David Rockwell and Rene Gonzalez; a third endeavor, with architect Bryan Young, is forthcoming. And earlier in 2021, she soft-opened her first flagship store in Los Angeles.

Baxter S.R.L., Lurago d’Erba, Lombardy, est. 1990

baxter srl

Clockwise from top left: A detail of artisan leather; Luigi and Paolo Bestetti; Alfred upholstered leather sofa by Marco Milisich, 1997; Brigitte armchair by Draga & Aurel, 2020.

Rosanna Webster

Founders Luigi Bestetti and his nephew Paolo
Signature Style Small-batch, Italian-tanned leather that is pleated, folded, printed, and polished in a broad palette to express a modern sensibility. Working with a select group of designers, including Paola Navone, Piero Lissoni, Studio Pepe, Vincenzo De Cotiis, and Draga & Aurel, Baxter reinterprets and reapplies natural materials to of-the-moment furniture forms. Accompanying pieces include tables, bookcases, and carts in marble, concrete, wood, metals, and stone.
News The company continues to expand its global identity, which includes supplying luxurious furnishings for hospitality projects from Tel Aviv to Dubai; among its past endeavors are the Lissoni-designed Ritz-Carlton Residences in Miami, for which Baxter furnished a sleek unit, and the Wild Hotel in Mykonos, which features outdoor pieces in cane, copper, and leather by Navone. The brand will debut new furniture collections in September.
Philosophy “The beauty of Baxter’s leather is born from the craftsman’s hands,” Paolo Bestetti says.

Scavolini, Montelabbate, Marche, est. 1961


Clockwise from top left: A restyling of the Carattere kitchen collection designed by Vuesse, 2020; Fabiana Scavolini, CEO, and her father, Valter, president; Scavolini trucks; Svedese, the first kitchen, produced in 1961.

Rosanna Webster

Founders Valter and Elvino Scavolini; Fabiana Scavolini, Valter’s daughter, now runs the company.
History The Scavolini brothers started by making wood furniture before launching their brand with a small workshop in Pesaro. Since the 1960s, they have become an international design authority, recognized for their ultrasleek kitchens emphasizing innovation and technology.
Signature Style The company’s lifestyle collections now encompass living rooms, closets, bathrooms, and even a wellness/fitness concept called Gym Space. They recently partnered with the Milanese celebrity chef Carlo Cracco, who masterminded the chic yet adaptable MIA kitchen; it features a wall-hung herb garden and multiple warming drawers.
News Scavolini’s latest introductions include Dandy Plus, a “talking” kitchen designed by architect Fabio Novembre that incorporates Amazon’s Alexa technology, and Formalia, an experimental kitchen–living room system by Vittore Niolu. The brand hopes to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year with a series of special events, if the pandemic permits.

Officine Gullo, Florence, Tuscany, est. 1960s

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From left: A late-19th-century stove, part of the Gullo Collection, manufactured by Florentine metalworkers Massetani Fumisti; Carmelo Gullo (center) flanked by workers; the Fiorentina 30-inch range.

Rosanna Webster

Founder Carmelo Gullo
Family Tree Sons Pietro, Andrea, and Matteo Gullo are all managing directors.
Signature Style Stoves, hoods, and refrigerators rendered in modern metals by Tuscan artisans for home cooks and Michelin-starred chefs alike, including Antonino Cannavacciuolo of Il Ristorante Villa Crespi.
News This year, the newly minted Contemporanea Collection debuts in a powder-coated steel that comes in a variety of metal finishes and colors, available for custom orders. And there are plans to open an experiential showroom in Florence this spring that will eventually boast a chef preparing Tuscan cuisine for visitors.
Philosophy “Our cooking ranges are finished in the same way that artisans in Florence have forged metal for centuries,” Carmelo explains.

Flexform, Meda, Lombardy, est. 1959


Clockwise from top: (Clockwise from left) Luca, Saul, Giuliano, Pietro, and Matteo Galimberti; Gatsby armchair by Antonio Citterio, 2020; Citterio’s Groundpiece sofa, 2001.

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Founders Originally called Flexform di Galimberti, it was started by the brothers Romeo, Pietro, and Agostino Galimberti and now features a third generation of family leadership.
Signature Style Understatedly elegant, comfortable, and timeless furniture that works equally well in a Milanese villa or at an oceanside retreat in Miami Beach.
Iconic pieces Joe Colombo’s innovative 1969–70 Tube Chair, a coveted collectible comprising four connected plastic tubes wrapped in vinyl; anything from the brand’s almost five-decades-long collaboration with architect and industrial designer Antonio Citterio.
News In 2020, Flexform introduced the wood and woven-paper-rush-cord Tessa lounge chair; a leather-wrapped metal frame sofa; and an outdoor sofa and daybed, all by Citterio. The firm is tentatively planning more launches for the September 2021 edition of Salone del Mobile.
Philosophy “In an era dominated by marketing strategies and the aggregation of brands, to be an independent family-owned company means a lot,” says Matteo Galimberti, the sales director of the domestic market. “As Uncle Pietro says, ‘Family is paramount; it is a priceless legacy of resources, inspiration, and expertise.’ ”

Minotti, Meda, Lombardy, est. 1948


Clockwise from top: The factory floor in Meda; Roberto Minotti (left) and his brother, Renato; Sunray Meg table by Rodolfo Dordoni, 2020; Torii armchair by Nendo, 2020; block side table by Rodolfo Dordoni, 2020.

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Founder Alberto Minotti
Family tree The company is led by Alberto’s sons, Renato and Roberto, with support from third-generation family members, including Susanna, the head of interior decoration, and Alessandro, the general manager.
Signature Style Understated modernism that emphasizes sartorial elegance. Since 1998,
Italian designer and architect Rodolfo Dordoni has served as creative director and coordinator and has recently collaborated with designers like Christophe Delcourt, Nendo, GamFratesi, and Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan of Studio MK27, whose Boteco sideboards and coffee tables debuted in 2020.
News In 2020, the company created an ad hoc space at its Lombardy headquarters to house the Minotti TV Studio, which helped the brand launch its 2020 collection digitally and speedily. Minotti is planning a flagship store in Boston for 2021, as well as an expansive 43,000-​square-​foot logistics hub, adjacent to the HQ, which will enable the company to manage shipping more effectively.
Philosophy “Family members have always shared the same long-term vision, focused on achieving a set of common goals,” Roberto says. “As a family-run company, we follow our intuition rather than the logic of profit.”

Alessi, Crusinallo, Piemonte, est. 1921


From top: The Alessi family holding Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif citrus squeezer; (from left, top row) Ettore, Michele, Stefano; (middle row) Alessio, Carlo; (bottom row) Alberto; Anna G. corkscrew by Alessandro Mendini, 1994; 5070 condiment set by Ettore Sottsass, 1978; Alessi headquarters.

Rosanna Webster

Founder Giovanni Alessi
Family Tree Carlo and Ettore, sons of Giovanni, put the brand on the design map; Carlo’s son Alberto is now in charge.
Signature style The quintessential—and deeply playful—Italian housewares brand debuted its coffee and tea services in a mix of metals, like silver-plated alpaca and nickel-plated brass, in the 1920s and ’30s. Soon it expanded to stainless steel trays, wire baskets, and fruit bowls. Today its offerings encompass glassware, dishes, flatware and serving utensils in plastic, and even appliances.
Defining Moment Under Alberto’s leadership, Alessi began collaborating with a who’s who of international designers (and chefs), including the Italians Aldo Rossi, Ettore Sottsass, and Achille Castiglioni, the Frenchman Philippe Starck, the German Richard Sapper, and the American Michael Graves, whose 9093 Kettle has sold more than 1.6 million units.
News This year, the company celebrates its centennial with the Alessi 100 Values Collection, which features 12 product releases, a mix of reissues of classics and new, limited-edition pieces.

F&M Ballarin, Murano, Veneto, est. 1956

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From left: Carnevale vase by Angelo Ballarin, 2013; cofounder Francesco Ballarin; a selection of tools.

Rosanna Webster

Founders Francesco and Mario Ballarin
History Brothers Francesco, 90, and Mario, 80, still actively participate in the business, working alongside their offspring to oversee new designs. Since 1997, Mario’s son Angelo has run the company; his children Lisa and Cristian have now joined him.
Signature Style Old-world respect meets experimentation. The company continues to push the boundaries of Murano glass, for example, by manipulating borosilicate (Pyrex) to create contemporary forms while employing historical Venetian glassblowing techniques, such as molatura (grinding), engraving, and gold leaf.
News Even during the beginning of the pandemic, Ballarin kept the furnaces running to produce glassware for online orders. The forthcoming Avventura line of vases, lamps, glasses, and bottles, launching in July, will fuse two methods: murrinas, or millefiori, small cylindrical glass rods that are melted, cut, and arranged into floral compositions; and the Canne technique of glass rods melted and blown together.

Laboratorio Paravicini, Milan, Lombardy, est. 1991

laboratorio paravicini

From left: Plates from the Rocaille collection; (from left) Benedetta Medici, Costanza Paravicini, and Margherita Medici; the atelier’s courtyard.

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Founder Costanza Paravicini
Family Tree Paravicini began the business as a hobby, and it attracted a local Milanese following before amassing global customers with a little help from Instagram. Paravicini is the artist and creative force behind the brand; her daughters Benedetta and Margherita Medici help with inspiration and production, and colors and bespoke pieces, respectively.
Signature Style Ultrathin dishware with old-school motifs, including signs of the zodiac, hot-air balloons, and circus acrobats as well as stylized snakes, monkeys, and chinoiserie. Each piece is painted, stamped, or screened by hand (or digitally printed), then glazed and fired for everyday use.
News The new Rocaille collection, created exclusively for Moda Operandi, will debut in 2021 in a trunk show on the retailer’s site. Plans are in the works to unveil a collaboration with Milanese designer Lisa Corti in June.
Philosophy “We have fun in what we do. Maybe that is the best part of all,” Benedetta says.

Fornace de Martino, Salerno, Campania, est. 1479

fornace de martino

From left: A terrace at Le Sirenuse hotel; (from left) Antonio De Martino, Carmine Esposito (a family friend), Tommaso De Martino, Angela De Martino, Daniele De Martino, and Carlo De Martino; hand-decorated glazed tiles.

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Founder Carolus de Martino
History According to the De Martino family, their furnaces were built between 932 and 1032 A.D. for a Roman nobleman named Rufus. Today six family members from multiple generations run the company, among them Daniele De Martino, the general manager, and his father, Tommaso, who oversees production.
Signature Style Hand-painted terra-cotta and ceramic tiles, the product of centuries-
old techniques and high heat from the medieval furnaces. Fornace De Martino has produced tiles for the interiors, exteriors, gardens, walls, and even the pools of multiple five-star hotels, including the beloved Le Sirenuse, Il Pellicano, Santa Caterina, Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, and Il San Pietro di Positano.
Technique The clay for Fornace’s terra-cotta and ceramic tiles is sourced from an ancient quarry located in Rufoli di Ogliara, in Salerno.
News Along with tiles, the e-commerce site now offers a collection of design objects, such as a set of four espresso cups with coordinated saucers, lids, and a tray.

Rubelli Group, Venice, Veneto, est. 1889


From left: (from left) Lisa Paola Nicolis, Leonardo Favaretto Rubelli, Matilde Favaretto Rubelli, Alessandro Favaretto Rubelli, Pietro Frizziero, Irene Favaretto, Andrea Favaretto Rubelli, Alessandra Bonetti, and Nicolò Favaretto Rubelli; Di Varia Natura collection, 2021: (from left) Nadar, Contessa, and Beyond.

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Founder Lorenzo Rubelli
Family Tree Fifth-generation CEO Nicolò Favaretto Rubelli now oversees the 132-​year-old brand while his father, Alessandro, remains president and brothers Andrea and Lorenzo are active on the board.
Signature Style Handmade velvets, lavish brocades, damasks, and sumptuous silks; the company also has a line of furniture and wallcoverings and produces chic, understated wovens for Dominique Kieffer and exclusive textiles for Armani/Casa. The brand’s Venetian glamour is on full display in the draperies and fabrics that adorn the interiors of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and at La Fenice opera house and the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, all part of Rubelli’s ongoing patronage.
Technique While cut and uncut velvet are still woven on four original hand looms from the late 18th century, Rubelli’s Cucciago factory also has state-of-the-art electronic jacquard looms.
News To commemorate the 1,600th anniversary of the founding of Venice, the company recently launched San Polo, a new damask in 16 colorways, along with a spring fabric collection.
Philosophy Rubelli fabrics are a subtle combination of research, tradition, heritage, and innovation,” Nicolò says.

may 2021 cover  elle decor

This story originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

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