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Photo Courtesy of B&B Italia

La Dolce Design of B&B Italia

Nest Casa discusses the creative, historic brand with artistic director Piero Lissoni.
Elizabeth Brown Jun 16, 2021
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B&B Italia is famous for its bella, modern design. Its iconic furnishings—both futuristic and historic in feeling—have received distinctions in Europe and beyond, including four Compasso d’Oro awards. The luxe brand continues to resonate with those “who appreciate beautiful Italian design,” shares Francesco Farina, B&B Italia’s CEO of North America. “They want to purchase pieces of furniture that have exquisite craftsmanship and will stand the test of time.” Some of these discerning customers include celebs like Athena Calderone, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, and Julianne Moore.

Here, Nest Casa dives in, discussing the brand’s influence with Farina and Piero Lissoni, B&B Italia’s artistic director.

The Beginnings of B&B Italia

Piero Ambrogio Busnelli established B&B Italia in 1966. Busnelli (who has been described as “a visionary entrepreneur on the scene of design and an extraordinary ambassador of ‘Made in Italy’ in the world”) embraced manufacturing, which was more flexible than the period’s hand-construction. He flourished, creating furniture that was modernistic featuring fluid lines.

Lissoni shares: “Throughout its history, B&B Italia has always been contemporary in its approach to design, thanks to its manufacturing model, to research, and to innovation, with a catalogue of products that over time have become modern.” He continues: “I would like to continue along this road and allow B&B Italia to speak with an even more contemporary language, possibly taking a few risks with the style but always in continuity with the past, in the hope that the products that we will develop will become modern in their turn.”

Some of the brand’s most famous designs have included: 

  • Serie Up, which was designed by Gaetano Pesce in 1969. One of the Up Series’ chairs is connected to its ottoman, commenting on the figurative chains that hold women back. 
  • Le Bambole, which was designed by Mario Bellini in 1970­–1972. Its shape was inspired by a shopping bag—and it received a Compasso d’Oro award in 1979.
  • The Charles, which was designed by Antonio Citterio in 1997. Its name is in reference to Charles Eames, whose mid-century modern creations defined the 1950s–60s.

Since the 1960s, B&B Italia has collaborated with Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni, Mario Bellini, Gaetano Pesce, Naoto Fukasawa, Patricia Urquiola, Barber & Osgerby, Doshi Levien, and Michael Anastassiades (among others). B&B Italia Group has expanded to include B&B Italia as well as three more Italian brands: Maxalto, Arclinea, and Azucena.

The business is based in Novedrate in Como, which is located 50 kilometers from Milan. (Como has been known for silk production, starting in the 1100s.) Since 1971, B&B Italia’s headquarters have been housed in a sculpture-inspired building from architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers.

Farina shares: “B&B Italia continues to resonate with customers because of the way it evolves to stay modern, admirably combining innovation, technology, and taste while also staying true to its heritage. The quality of the furniture is unparalleled and that is absolutely a reason we continue to have customers coming back to us. We continue to partner with some of the leading architects and designers to bring these new collections to life so there is always something fresh for the brand to offer.”

Current Trends

In 2021, B&B Italia remains a source of effective, imaginative innovation. Recent events, like the Coronavirus, have influenced the design (and associated) industries, challenging brands as forward-thinking as B&B Italia to consider and rethink function and multi-function.“It’s clear that the pandemic has forced us to spend a lot more time in our homes than before,” explains Lissoni. “The upside of this is that for many the home has once more become a key priority, and this has influenced new consumer trends. There is certainly much more attention focused on those outside spaces that are part of the domestic environment, such as terraces and gardens. Spaces have become even more multifunctional and hybrid.”

Recently, in 2020, B&B Italia debuted its new flagship store in Miami’s Design District. This design-centric destination is focused on creating custom spaces for its customers with a phygital experience (phygital is a combination of physical and digital). “Miami is international, is a booming market, and has always played an integral role within the arts and design community,” explains Farina. “The flagship, which we decided to open in the Design District, is the first of the B&B Italia retail spaces in North America to offer a physical and digital immersive experience, providing a unique way for the client to interact.

The Future of this Futuristic Brand:

B&B Italia continues to be a brand that is revolutionizing the business—as it did when it first debuted in the 1960s. Currently, the brand is concentrating on sustainability. But what does that mean for a brand as historic as this one? Remember: Being artistic and creative while being inventive and progressive exists at the heart of B&B Italia.

Farina shares: “B&B Italia is constantly evolving to stay at the forefront of design and innovation. Knowing how important and pressing it is to find ways to be more sustainable is something our team is quite passionate about. The brand has put emphasis on each new collection to employ sustainability tactics that are fully immersed in the furniture design permanently without compromising on quality, durability, and aesthetic, which has always been the foundation of the company’s designs.”

This is especially seen in B&B Italia’s Borea collection, a cohesive assortment of outdoor furniture that was designed by Piero Lissoni—who describes, “Borea is a collection that looks in this direction, taking the comfort of the living room to the outside.” Borea features seating (including, two- and three-person sofas) and tables. The frames—which are fluid and tube-shaped—have been constructed from metal with the assistance of aeronautical techniques. The fabric for the cushions comes from recycled plastic bottles. (510 plastic bottles are recycled for the Borea three-person sofa.)

Farina: “For example, for the Borea Outdoor collection, we used hundreds of plastic water bottles that go through a process to be made into couch cushion filling. The glazed surface of the dining table is made with special material obtained by recycling the glass of discarded T.V. and P.C. monitors through an exclusive manufacturing process. This is just the beginning of the ways the company will continue to innovate in this space.”

B&B Italia evolves with the times, enduring as a brand that continues to create striking—and strikingly ingenious—pieces that enchant each generation.

Elizabeth Brown
Elizabeth is an editor/writer who resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her Brittany spaniel, Gemma.
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