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Kartell: the understated luxury of plastic

Kartell: the understated luxury of plastic

Italian statement brand Kartell did the impossible: making plastic look and feel luxurious. But how? Let’s find out!

How did Kartell bring such humble material to high-end design standards? How did this company transform plastic into something so iconic? Kartell’s goal was to push innovation to extremes, to experiment with new technologies and materials, to face increasingly complex problems, to support designers' creativity with maximum freedom. Kartell pursues challenges and always manages to be ahead of its times: the brand brought plastic into the home and gave life to a second "industrial revolution", so to speak, in home décor and interior design.


The Lantern

Once upon a time…

It all began in 1949 when founder Giulio Castelli decided to put to good use the discovery of the new polymeric materials that the market was making available. His intuition started from a simple idea: using plastic to create, in an industrial way, objects for common use. Today it might seem like an ordinary concept, but at that time it was absolutely avant-garde. His intent was to create beauty through innovation, to surprise and amaze the market with something new.


The Victoria Ghost chair


From this simple idea, the famous Componibili cabinet line was born. This first piece of furniture, designed by Anna Castelli Ferrieri in 1967, is the symbol of the ennobling of plastic, an icon that has changed the destinies of a poorly perceived material: from packaging and wrapping to high-end modern design. It was 1967 when Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Kartell founder's wife, first designed this peculiar pieces. It was in 1967 when Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Kartell founder's wife, first designed these peculiar pieces. Originally named “Mobili 4970/84”, they immediately achieved high levels of success. What the public loved about them was their versatility, the simplicity of their mechanical design and their stylish modularity. This unique design of furniture was meant to be combined according to the customers’ taste in a million different compositions. This design by Anna Castelli Ferrieri is a true icon and went through half a century without losing its appeal. With a charm that goes way beyond trends and styles related to time, the Componibili line by Kartell is a piece of the Italian art history as beautiful as the paintings that people admire in Museums. Even the MoMa in New York wanted to make these unique pieces of furniture a part of their permanent collection.



Just a family company

The continuous research has made it possible for Kartell to add new characteristics to these materials, such as satin finishing, transparency, flexibility, resistance to atmospheric agents, softness and a wide variety of colors. Turning plastic from a functional object into a real luxury item has become the greatest legacy of this brand. The story of Kartell is one of a "family" company: a concept that seems to hardly fit the reality of a brand with 120 flagship stores and 4000 points of sale all over the world. But the truth is that the values of the brand have stayed the same throughout the years, transmitting from father to son (or daughter) with the same intensity and passion. That is why Kartell’s designers always nurture their creativity: keeping the fiery passion that made the company famous and continuing to keep the flame burning with new ideas.


The Ming vase


When Marie of Philippe Starck first designed it in 1999, transparency finally entered the world of furniture. This was the very first chair in transparent polycarbonate, made with a single mold it is not hard to see how it can perfectly fit any design contest: it can be the perfect complement for a modern and minimalist living room, or it can act as a charming contrast when combined with some classic or antique furniture. The Marie chair, with its astonishing simplicity, marked a turning point in Kartell’s journey, and in contemporary design history. From its creation, transparent plastic has become Kartell’s signature and a synonym of true elegance.


La Marie chair

The revisited Baroque

In 2002, Louis Ghost was created by Philippe Starck. The reference to the Louis XV style makes it a symbol of the revisited Baroque. Its expressive power immediately charms, excites and fascinates. Moreover, speaking on a technical level, it is a courageous example of polycarbonate injection in a single mold. The Louis Ghost armchair characterizes the company's image more than any other product made up until that point. The revisited Baroque shape, as Starck himself states, derives from the collective memory of the Western culture. Two years later, in 2004, another iconic piece was created by Ferruccio Laviani, following the same inspiration: the Bourgie table lamp.


The Bourgie lamp

Kartell for kids

Some may think that the furniture designs from Kartell have a naïve look, seemingly inspired by the world of children. Well, they are not wrong. The very first Kartell made chair was, in fact, meant to be a kids seat: in 1964 Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper designed the 4999 model, the first chair in the world entirely made of plastic for the Compasso D’oro design award. This kids chairs won the contest and were a great source of inspiration for the future designs of the company. Fifty years later, Kartell goes back to basics with the Kartell Kids line for the 3-8-year-olds. This exuberant collection incorporates the elements that have always characterized the Kartell style, bringing the brands most famous pieces into the children’s world. A design for kids must be joyful, practical, and most importantly fun!


The Lou Lou Ghost chair

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