The List #11

by Antonella Dedini

This month’s The List celebrates rest and relaxation, especially en plein air as the summer approaches. 


Phaidon Design Classics, Phaidon Press Limited
Cover image: Phaidon Design Classics, Phaidon Press Limited; USA; 2006


If relaxation had a shape, what would it be? It would definitely be more in the form of a chair than a bed, which is certainly for resting but which has changed little over the centuries.

Drawing on the history of design and a wealth of contemporary seating, we see just how many marvelous forms of comfort there really are. And that doesn’t simply mean sitting down at the table, at a desk, or in the yard, but in seating that was designed for a longer period of rest and relaxation of the mind and body. 

From beach lounge chairs for carefree sunbathing and beach-going, to a new generation of chairs with increased functions thanks to new technologies, to classics like the Thonet rocking chair or the iconic chaise lounge chairs by famous architects and designers, this month’s The List celebrates rest and relaxation, especially en plein air as the summer approaches.



Folding fabric chair; 1850s–present

Deck chairs are all about anonymous design and absolute perfection.


Folding fabric chair

This chair is one of the most famous pieces of furniture in the world. There’s no doubt that it was created for the decks of cruise ships, with its design dictated by seafaring practicality, and it was a variation on the hammocks where sailors slept, with its fabric seat being inspired by boat sails. As an outdoor and seasonal chair, it can be easily folded, taking up little space.


Folding fabric chair


With a sturdy wood frame, the chair can be tilted back at various angles, creating the perfect spot for reading and dozing. 


Beach chairs and deck chairs are undoubtedly some of the most popular seaside furnishings, especially in Europe and are synonymous with summertime relaxation.




Beach version

This beach classic is similar to a director’s chair with its crossing legs and can be traced back as far back as military camps in ancient Egypt between 2000 and 1500 BCE. 


black director's chair Beach version

Its design remained unchanged even as it was adopted by the Renaissance clergy as the Savonarola chair, up to the beginning of the 20th century when it started being used by directors in the booming American film industry.


red and yellow director's chair Beach version

Made of wood with a canvas seat and back, the classic director’s chair has a traditional X-shaped frame that allows it to be folded up, while the beach version includes additional  reinforcement. 

white gray black director's chair Beach version


This ultra practical and stable chair is as comfortable as it is reasonably priced.



Folding garden chairs; in wood and metal; 1900s–present

You find this type of chair everywhere, made by thousands of different manufacturers. 


1900s Folding garden chairs; in wood and metal
Folding garden chairs in magazine in wood and metal 1900s



Today’s outdoor folding chairs have an all-wood yet less practical predecessor. They first appeared in public spaces in Paris in the early 20th century. Their popularity was linked to their functionality and the style of their design. They had a scissor-like frame with hooks that made them fold up nicely. 


Folding garden chairs with a metal frame are lightweight and can be moved around easily, which are essential qualities when it comes to outdoor furnishings and furniture for public spaces.






Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier; LC4 chaise longue; France; 1928; produced by Cassina since 1965.

Below: Cristiano Magnoni; Jalamar outdoor chaise longue; Missoni Home Collection


We could say that rest has the iconic form of the LC4 chaise longue chair designed by Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier in 1928. This recliner has a frame which rests on a curved H-shaped base so the seat can be adjusted along with the cylindrical headrest cushion. 

 Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier; LC4 chaise longue

 Cristiano Magnoni; Jalamar outdoor chaise longue; Missoni Home Collection




This iconic lounger stems from an in-depth study of ergonomics and Le Corbusier’s theory of spaces and furniture conceived as “machines for living in”.


The shape of the chair, which conforms to the natural curves of the body, is said to have been inspired by resting soldiers with their heads resting on their backpacks.


 Cristiano Magnoni; Jalamar outdoor chaise longue; Missoni Home Collection



Thomas Lee; outdoor chair; USA; 1903

ADIRONDACK ARMCHAIR Thomas Lee outdoor chair



Originally this armchair was called Westport, after the seaside resort on Lake Champlain near New York.


It was a comfortable seat and was simpler and wider than the Victorian chairs that the market offered at the time, and offered relaxation outdoors while taking in the view.


With a winning design that remains popular to this day, the chair has 11 sections of wood and has wide armrests where you can rest a glass or other objects.


ADIRONDACK ARMCHAIR Thomas Lee; outdoor chair

As the story goes, the patent for the original Westport ended up in the hands of a carpenter named Harry Bunnel, who seized the opportunity to produce and sell it in record numbers, without giving any of the profits to his friend and the original inventor of the chair, Thomas Lee.

ADIRONDACK ARMCHAIR Thomas Lee; outdoor chair

Over the following decades, many other designers modified the original outdoor Westport chair. Eventually, the chair came to be called Adirondack, after the mountains near where Thomas Lee originally designed it.



Franco Albini, chairlift seat Seggiovia
Franco Albini, chairlift seat Seggiovia; living room in a villa, VII Triennale di Milano; 1940. Reconstructed in 1988 for the Milan Furniture Fair


Franco Albini, chairlift seat Seggiovia; living room in a villa


This chair by Franco Albini resembles a classic chairlift that takes skiers up mountains. 

"...the two surreal Seggiovia armchairs, a surprising and unique invention where the seat swings in the living room while suspended from the mezzanine floor with two curved T-shaped steel bars painted white, while the structure of the armchairs is in white tubular metal with foam rubber padding” (From Franco Albini e il progetto dell’effimero (1936-1958) (Franco Albini and the ephemeral project (1936-1958)), by Chiara Lecce).



Franco Albini, chairlift seat Seggiovia sketch



Gebrüder Thonet; rocking chair;  Gebrüder Thonet; Vienna, Austria, 1885

“After the fall of the Roman Empire, no era has had a more classical mindset than ours (...) Take the Thonet chairs as an example: are they not creations with the same spirit that led to the creation of the Greek chairs, with their curved legs, their no-frills back, the very embodiment of an entire epoch’s attitude towards sitting?” (Adolf Loos, A Review of Applied Arts, 1898).

Gebrüder Thonet; rocking chair;  Gebrüder Thonet

After the first rocking chairs were created in North America in the 18th century, inspired by cradles and rocking horses, since the 19th century the Thonet rocking chair – with its classic wood frame and Vienna straw seat – has always been associated with comfort, relaxation, and time which slows down to make space for rest.



Osvaldo Borsani; chaise longue P40; Tecno; Italy; 1955

The origins of Tecno, an historic company that contributed to the worldwide reputation of Italian design, date back to the early 1920s. 


Osvaldo Borsani; chaise longue P40; Tecno

Upholsterer and cabinetmaker Gaetano Borsani (1886-1955) founded Atelier Borsani Varedo (later renamed Arredamenti Borsani Varedo) in Varedo, Brianza in northern Italy. Borsani’s twin sons Fulgenzio and Osvaldo Borsani were an active part of the company from a very young age.


Back then, the company produced elegant custom-made furniture in a style that embraced the Art Deco movement and the artisanal traditions of the unique furniture manufacturing district. Atelier Borsani's attendance at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Monza earned it many awards in 1925, 1927 and 1930.


After WWII, Osvaldo began to consider transitioning the family business from artisanal manufacturing to mass production, and the company’s name was changed to Tecno.

Its first mass-produced collection of sofas, chairs and tables was presented at Milan Triennale X in 1954. The simple, adjustable sofa bed D70 (1954) was awarded an honorable mention, and Osvaldo quickly patented its adjustable backrest mechanism. This led to the adjustable and reclining P40 Lounge Armchair (1955) with its incorporated footrest.



Peggy Guggenheim; Art of This Century; Surrealist Gallery; New York; 1942.

Below: Piergiorgio Cazzaniga; Sign Matt; MDF; Italy

Peggy Guggenheim; Art of This Century; Surrealist Gallery


Peggy Guggenheim commissioned architect Frederick Kiesler to design the Art of This Century gallery, which became legendary for its innovative design of exhibition spaces and pioneering collection and exhibitions of European and American avant-garde art which were displayed there. 


In February 1942, Peggy Guggenheim invited Frederick Kiesler to transform two tailor shops on 57th Avenue into galleries that would display her already formidable collection of European avant-garde art. 


The visionary Austrian architect and artist created what is considered an architectural masterpiece and experimented with highly innovative ideas for exhibition spaces. 



Piergiorgio Cazzaniga; Sign Matt; MDF

Kiesler designed three separate exhibition spaces: the Abstract Gallery, the Surrealist Gallery, and the Kinetic Gallery, which could be quickly adapted to accommodate works which were exhibited from time to time.

The comfortable seating at the exhibition had such a futuristic design that today we see their contours reflected in various pieces by contemporary designers.

Piergiorgio Cazzaniga; Sign Matt; MDF



Luigi Caccia Dominioni; Ambrosianeum armchair; Azucena; 1955


In 1947, architects Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Ignazio Gardella, Corrado Corradi Dell'Acqua, Franca and Maria Tosi founded brand Azucena (named after the gypsy woman in Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore). The brand was created both to collect the furniture designs for the buildings they created and to be able to produce some of the furniture they designed individually. 


Luigi Caccia Dominioni; Ambrosianeum armchair

Iconic pieces came to life, including the Ambrosianeum armchair, an ingenious reinterpretation of the classic comfortable bergère à oreillettes, or with ears, which originated in France in the 18th century. The name “bergère”, meaning shepherdess, comes from the pastoral scenes depicted on the fabrics the chair was upholstered in.

Caccia Dominioni's armchair adds functional elements such as wheels on the front feet (often found in 19th-century English chairs), and unique details like a wooden handle embedded in the structure of the backrest so as to allow the chair to be moved easily.. Luigi Caccia Dominioni; Ambrosianeum 
armchair; Azucena; 1955.



Brando Design; Dune; pet bed

The well-being of our pets is extremely important. And they very much need comfort, especially when they live in spaces designed for humans and not for them. Considering them as people and as having their own needs helps us to treat them even better. 

 Brando Design; Dune; pet bed

Pet bed Dune, which is ideal for both cats and dogs, is made of birch plywood and has a comfortable surface. It is slightly raised off the ground thanks to four feet that allow natural ventilation and ensure the bed doesn’t come into contact with damp, hot or cold surfaces.

Brando Design; Dune; pet bed

Dune is available in different sizes and can be customized with cushions or other covers in natural fabric. And with waterproof and washable cushions, it’s also the perfect pet bed for use outside.




Aldo Petillo, Andrea Dichiara, Eliana Lorena; Metamorfosi; Stone Island and Zanotta; for exhibition Metamorfosi; Milan, 2010.

Below: Gatti, Paolini, Teodoro; original Sacco armchair; Zanotta; 1968

Metamorfosi; Stone Island and Zanotta

For the Metamorfosi exhibition held in Milan in 2010, a limited edition version of Zanotta’s anatomical armchair Sacco was produced, designed around a shell containing high-strength expanded polystyrene balls. 


Inspired by the idea of Piero Gatti, Franco Teodoro and Cesare Paolini in 1968, the armchair became a  “body” that could be “dressed” by changing its coverings.


orange sacco chair by Zanotta

Iconic garments from Stone Island's historic collection have been used to create a new generation of traditional yet innovative products.

Each object is a “metamorphosis” similar to a sculpture, but with the primary expressiveness of material, with its physical properties of hardness, malleability, fluidity, reactivity, brightness, weight and color, together with Sacco’s ability to take on different shapes.



Giorgio Ceretti, Pietro Derossi, Riccardo Rosso; chaise longue PratoneGufram; Italy; 1971–present

At the Milan Furniture Fair in 1968, Gufram exhibited polyurethane foam pieces produced as a small series called Multipli, in order to move past the uniqueness of artistic production and to affirm its opposition to the world of consumption and industrial design of the time with its strong functionalist imprint. 


pratone chair


With an avant-garde ecological approach to lifestyle and with a close relationship to the artistic movements of the time including Pop Art, chaise longue Pratone, designed in the years just afterwards, represents an irreverent piece of furniture in antithesis to the traditional, bourgeois style of the homes of the time. 

The chair presents long green “blades” of grass which one sinks into as they lie back. It’s an unconventional seat that defies tradition, and it offers individual or collective rest that is temporary, unstable, and always depends on the elasticity of its material.



De Pas, D'Urbino, Lomazzi; inflatable armchair Blow; Zanotta; 1967–present

This was the first successfully mass-produced inflatable design, although inflatable furniture had already been available in Denmark starting in 1961. 


De Pas, D'Urbino, Lomazzi; inflatable armchair Blow Zanotta

Its cute and playful shape is reminiscent of the Michelin Man, who has been the mascot of the Michelin tire company since the 19th century. 


The chair’s materials and technology, on the other hand, are the fruit of 20th century creativity, perfect for a simple and comfortable, unconventional and youthful lifestyle.


The PVC cylinders that make up the seat are connected thanks to a high-frequency welding process to make it even more stable. 

This inflatable armchair was designed for both indoor and outdoor use, and it even floats on water.



Ron Arad; sofa Transformer; OneOff
Ron Arad; sofa Transformer; OneOff; UK; 1983

Ron Arad’s Transformer sofa and bed features an ingenious design.


Ron Arad; sofa Transformer; OneOff

The collection offers a series of PVC casings filled with granular expanded polystyrene that take on a rigid conformation when air is sucked out.


Ron Arad; sofa Transformer; OneOff

It’s all very easy: Transformer adapts to the contours of the person sitting down when a vacuum is used to deflate the cushion.


Tokujin Yoshioka; Tokyo Pop lounge chairDriade; Italy; 2002

Tokujin Yoshioka; Tokyo Pop lounge chair; Driade




Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka is considered one of the masters of contemporary design and is one of those designers, like Zaha Hadid was, who has revolutionized the concept of design and architecture in the 21st century. 


His pieces of furniture are true sculptures. He has worked with Shiro Kuramata and fashion designer Issey Miyake, from whom he learned the idea  of beauty related to the multiple expressions of nature by overcoming the concept of the traditional forms of objects.




English garden bench; unknown designer; 1860s–present.

Image taken from Castle's catalog; 1936; taken from Phaidon Design Classics, Phaidon Press Limited; USA; 2006

English garden bench


This is perhaps the bench that has been least influenced by fashion, and it continues to survive throughout the various eras, starting with the Victorian era. 

Its classic form was used in Lawrence Holofcener's famous sculpture, which immortalizes Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill sitting on a bench in London’s Bond Street. 


These benches were made from oak and later from teak, which was imported from the African colonies and was highly durable, and their unassuming and sturdy presence was cozy and reassuring.


English garden bench

Recently, contemporary designers have come up with benches in the same shape, or made from polyethylene, or equipped with electronic devices that allow you to listen to music or connect to the Internet while sitting down.


English garden bench



Renzo Frau; Chester armchair and sofa; Poltrona Frau; Italy; 1912.

Below: Sirchester Moleskin armchair by Bazzicalupo & Mangiarotti; Serralunga; Italy

Sirchester Moleskin armchair by Bazzicalupo & Mangiarotti; Serralunga



Its shape, decorations and proportions are inspired by the classic armchairs of English clubs and Edwardian country houses. Armchair and sofa Chester are functional and simple, but are the work of highly specialized craftsmanship. 


Renzo Frau; Chester armchair and sofa; Poltrona Frau

They exude sophistication and simplicity and are upholstered in leather that folds into a series of pleats at the ends of the armrests to create that typical pattern that is recognized all over the world.The armrests and backrest are hand-stitched in a classic diamond capitonné pattern, and the nails are also covered in leather. 


Sirchester Moleskin armchair by Bazzicalupo & Mangiarotti

They also conform perfectly to the human body, satisfying that need for comfort as all good seating should. 


These icons of design are so renowned that contemporary designers have successfully recreated them in polyethylene.



Denis Santachiara; Play Panca; Icon Award 2016; sound bench in Carrara marble; created with CNC technology

White Carrara marble bench Play Panca features a trumpet shape, and it becomes a large amplifier, thanks also to the hard marble, when a smartphone is inserted into the opening.


This design was created thanks to CNC technology*. It won the 2016 Marmomacc Icon Award.

Denis Santachiara; Play Panca sound bench in Carrara marble

“...Designers have an extra formidable weapon. Not only for production-ready 3D printers, but the whole creative and digital supply chain. Therefore, also CNC machines, laser cutting, etc. All those technologies take a file and turn them into objects that are ready for the market…” Denis Santachiara.

Denis Santachiara; Play Panca; Icon Award 2016; sound bench in Carrara marble

*Computer numerical control (CNC) is used to automate control of machine tools.


Until the 1980s, CNC machines were used only for high-precision machining. Now they are widespread and used in almost every field of mechanics. CNC machine technology has covered somewhat all branches of mechanics and beyond; the most common CNC machines are press brakes, punch presses, lathes, milling machines, welding machines, and sheet metal cutting machines (laser, oxyfuel, plasma, water jet, etc.). 


They represent the evolution of NC machines because they allow direct numerical control from an external computer (CNC).