The List #01

by Antonella Dedini


Outdoor seating The List #1 by Antonella Dedini

We are proud to publish the very first edition of The List, Deden Design List’s monthly feature for Design Italy. Each month, we’ll showcase a specific category of iconic pieces of design, with this first list being dedicated exclusively to outdoor furniture.

Patios, terraces, gardens, yards, and the like need furniture that has two functions: that of keeping in step with the styles of the time, as well as providing maximum comfort.

Since the dawn of time, people have been furnishing outdoors spaces. This month’s The List will be a journey to understand which pieces are at the forefront of contemporary outdoor furniture design, while also delving into the essential materials and features of garden furniture, which have to be weather-resistant, light-weight, and easy to store.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the pieces that over the centuries and decades have made their mark on the outdoor seating design landscape.

Image showing detailing from a fresco found in Villa Livia in Pompeii, Italy, dating back to the 1st century AD.


Gio Ponti, Lio Carminati, Peacock armchair, Vittorio Bonacina & Co, 1948–60

The Peacock chair is perhaps the most famous outdoor chair ever designed. Made entirely of rattan, an extremely strong, light material, the chair is often also referred to as a Manila chair or a Philippine chair due to its likely having originated in Southeast Asia as early as 1600. It features a high, curved, and enveloping backrest which gives it the appearance of being a throne, and it has been featured in many famous portraits and settings throughout history.

Rattan, a vegetable fibre obtained by processing certain species of climbing palms, is one of the most used materials in garden furniture thanks to its being waterproof and breathable. This natural fibre is obtained from plants belonging to the Calameae palm tree tribe in the subfamily Calamoideae, and is not to be confused with wicker, which is finer, or bamboo, which is hollow and stiffer.

One of the most famous modern versions of the classic Peacock chair is the Gio Ponti and Lio Carminati’s version which they created in 1948 for Italian company Bonacina. Their rendition was produced for the outfitting of the cabins and living areas of the famous oceanliner Conte Biancamano. It then met with great success in private homes and became a timeless icon.

Wrought iron furniture, 1860

The booming industrial revolution in the mid-19th century gave way to the application of various new materials for the production of furniture.

It was around 1860 in Europe that the use of cast iron to make outdoor furniture faced difficulty, as it was a material that was too expensive, heavy, and durable for a nascent consumer society. It was thus replaced by a new metal: chair were created from curved, welded iron rods, with seats and backrests often made from thin and flexible or perforated sheets to allow rainwater to drain easily.

The new technique gave way to inexpensive and extremely practical seating with sinuous lines, and the seats soon began proliferating everywhere. They required more maintenance than cast iron furniture, but were far easier to move around. Often found in the paintings of the Impressionists of that period who depicted them in parks, cafes, and private gardens, they had become protagonists of a joyful society.

Sissi Chair, 2017

Ludovica + Roberto Palomba, Sissi Green Chair, Driade, Italy 2017


In the mid-19th century in Europe, thanks also to the Art Nouveau movement, a new formality pervaded public places, gardens, and homes. The new, semi-industrial production of furniture employed new materials, including wrought iron, as well as new techniques, such as in Michael Thonet’s bent wood chairs.

Furniture thus became prototypes of a concept of reassured living that we still find in contemporary projects that, albeit with experimentation and the discovery of materials, still holds on to the memory of unforgettable forms.

The Sissi chair by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba is a flawless example of a modern piece that nods to the past. A synthetic, highly wear-resistant, and light material is used to create this monobloc in polypropylene, reinforced with fibreglass, creating forms that call to mind the work of Viennese artisans.

Deutscher Werkbund, 1904

Richard Riemerschmid, rattan and pinewood armchair, Germany, 1904


Richard Riemerschmid, a German architect who was a central figure in the Art Nouveau movement, was a multifaceted designer of architecture, furniture, fabrics, glass, and furniture that could overcome the prevailing floral tastes of the time and replace them with unpretentious geometric lines. He was one of the founders of the Deutscher Werkbund movement (1907) and his goal was to bridge the gap between industry and applied arts that at the time hindered artistic creation.

The rattan armchair that he designed in 1904 is one of the most famous garden chairs thanks to its modernity and faultless volumetric proportions. At the time, formal plasticity could only be achieved by sculpting wood, for example Antoni Gaudì’s furniture, or by weaving materials such as rattan, as in this case.

This chair is remarkably comfortable thanks to a careful study of proportions and ergonomics. A chair that is now considered a classic that cuts across styles and trends, many contemporary designers still use its form as inspiration, using various materials for both indoor and outdoor use.

Historical Archive, Bonacina, 1940

Vittorio Bonacina with Renzo Mongiardino, Antica Chair, Bonacina Historical Archive, Italy, 1940

Mario Bonacina and Renzo Mongiardino created furniture for the most beautiful and photographed homes around the world, inspired by the company’s historical archive. The union of a visionary entrepreneur who made dreams come true and a great interior architect brought about the Antica chair, which has a rattan structure and rattan-core weaving. Today, Elia Bonacina represents the fourth generation of Bonacina, which is famous all around the world for its rattan and wicker products.

“Each creation has a serial number”, Elia explains, “and is the product of craftsmanship that has been handed down over time. Rattan, which grows in in Southeast Asia, is carefully selected and then handcrafted by skilled craftsmen”. That is how timeless products are born, whereby traditional style is combined with contemporary forms. “Craftsmanship and the search for detail are the underlying aspects of made-in-Italy manufacturing that is loved all around the world” (from an interview in newspaper Corriere della Sera on 31 May 2018).

Bonacina’s Decor took inspiration from the iconic pieces collected in the company’s historical archive: classic, unaltered, and quality pieces that are still available in the company’s catalogue but with updated finishes and matching upholstery.

Uragano, 1992

Vico Magistretti, Uragano Chair, DePadova, Italy, 1992

Vico Magistretti – known as Vico – was a master of Italian creativity. His career of undeniable genius spanned over sixty years in industrial design, architecture, and urban planning. He is remembered thanks to his attention to the theme of living with innovations, which we still reap the benefits of today: for example, he created the first plastic chair in the world, as well as the down-filled bed that eliminated bedspreads and replaced them with the Swedish tradition of a decorated duvet).

Indoors, outdoors, across time and styles. His Uragano chair is a perfect example of this. With a structure in bleached or black ash wood and curved wicker for the seat, this seat is handcrafted and finished and is a classic yet modern gem. A modern revisitation of the rattan chair, Uragano can be used both for indoor living areas and outdoor spaces on verandas or patios. It is a piece that its Italian designers succeeded in reinventing thanks to their culture and methodological approach to the project.

A must when visiting the city of Milan, the Vico Magistretti Foundation is a place that not just professionals will love. It shows that design is all around us and that it can improve life. Here, one can discover design that conveys elegance and sobriety, which are rare today.

Tripolina Chair, 1881

The Tripolina folding chair was designed by Englishman James B. Fenby and was patented in the USA in 1881. Originally produced for military use given its comfort and stability on uneven ground, the Tripolina frame is in either wood or metal, while canvas or leather are used for the seat. The chair is easy to assemble and disassemble, thanks to its clever design with pockets of fabric that slide over the frame, and a special bag to carry it around.

It was also used for safaris, exploring, and simple outdoor trips given its stability in the sand. Named after the city of Tripoli in Libya, which was an Italian colony from 1922 to 1932, in the 1930s the chair was produced by Italian company Paolo Viganò and sent to Italian armed forces in Libyan territory.

Since then, the chair has inspired numerous companies that produce various versions, including the English Paragon chair, sold by Harrod’s until the end of the 1980s. One of the most famous projects inspired by the Tripolina chair is the BKF chair, better known as the Butterfly chair, which was designed in Buenos Aires in 1938 by Grupo Austral, an architectural collective of three Argentine architects who assisted Le Corbusier in Paris.

Image of the original patent by J.B. Fenby:

Image of antique leather used for a Tripolina chair from the 1930s:

Steel rod chair, 1914

Frank Lloyd Wright, Midway 2 Chair, USA 1914, Cassina Italia re-edition, 1986

Not many people know that the great American pioneer of modern architecture Frank Lloyd Wright also made important contributions to the furniture sector. His reflections on the function of form and matter were of decisive importance, in a continuous examination of the most important artistic and social theories of the time. He was not only fascinated by Japanese-inspired basic geometric shapes, but also had a strong propensity for nature and a tendency to use natural materials. For him, furniture had to have simple shapes, be easily assembled, and possibly made with machines. This was Wright’s decisive contribution to the evolution of modern furniture.

The metal Midway 2 chair (the first was an indoor wood chair) was designed for the Midway Gardens in Chicago. Made with glossy enamelled steel rods and available in white, red, blue, and grey, the seat has a removable polyurethane foam cushion.

The metal structure of this chair, which can be used both indoors and outdoors, highlights the lightness of its structure. The intention behind this, according to Wright, was to create furniture with a complete lack of sentimentality. Yet this chair is not inexpressive: the circular elements used for the seat and back, which seem to express lightness and floating, create a feeling of freedom.

In 1986, Italian company Cassina obtained a licence to produce Wright’s furniture from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Soul of a chair, 2019

Radice Orlandini Design Studio, Paloma chair, Baleri Italia, Italy 2019

Experimentation with furniture made from metal rods has evolved over time. It is fascinating to observe this development and discover that now, some have decided to use this material more to remove than to build. This demonstrates that knowledge of the potential of materials as a fundamental aspects for designers, and even at times, as Castiglioni stated, the “main design component”.

Thanks to its outlined form and lightness, the Paloma chair always makes a big impact. It is a chair that that conveys the concept of minimalism with great expressive force while seeking the essence of form and digging into the essence and spirit of things. It is a surprising play on contrasts that challenges the concept of lightness, fragility, and transparency and embodies solidity and comfort.

Landi Chair, 1939

Hans Coray, Landi Chair, Vitra, Germany, created for the Swiss National Exposition in 1939

One of the most famous chairs in the world, the Landi chair is made from matte anodised aluminium and is ultralight, stackable, and perfect for outdoor use. At the time, this was a chair that allowed for the introduction of a new type of production process, involving a three-dimensionally moulded seat shell on a separate four-legged base.

The chair’s structure is made with a pair of folded U-shaped profiles connected by welded crosspieces, meaning that the legs also serve as low armrests. The seat has punched holes that give the chair character, lightness, and flexibility. A seat that was incredibly modern for its time.

Elisa, 1974

Enzo Mari, Elisa chair, Driade, Italy 1974

The 1970s and early 1980s was the liveliest and most innovative period of time for Italian design. From 1968 to 1982, thanks to the business savoir-faire of Enrico, Antonia, and Adelaide Astori, founders of Driade, the three networked with Italian and international designers, interpreting and guiding first the tastes of the Milanese bourgeoisie and then those internationally who sought out design. A refined relationship with the designers, and one that was never easy, was dialectical, and that came about from long clashes such as those with Enzo Mari, who was an extraordinary designer.

The Elisa armchair was designed in 1974 for Driade in honour of Elisa Astori, Enrico Astor’s daughter, but it was produced only several years later. The project was revised and optimised in a continuous and infinite search for perfection. The chair is striking for its play on contrasting volumes, whereby the lightness of its minimal structure contrasts with the large size of its cushions, which make it perhaps one of the most comfortable armchairs in the world. This is a practical seat that is easy to move around and has been created with highly technical materials that make it suitable for the outdoors.

Thinking Man, 1987

Jasper Morrison, Thinking Man’s Chair, Cappellini, Italy, 1987

In 1987, architect Giulio Cappellini visited entrepreneur and gallery owner Zeev Aram’s exhibition in his gallery in London. One of the young designers chosen to present new prototypes of chairs was young English designer Jasper Morrison, who had just graduated from the Royal College of Art. Morrison’s chair was inspired by English garden furniture and especially by an elaborate armchair in wood and without a seat cushion.

The designer tried to simplify the chair, improve it, and make it more functional by creating it from a different material. The structure is in painted metal tubing, with a seat and back made from flat metal bars. The elegant tube structure is perfect for garden furniture and is a nod to the artisanal production of seating. Small trays were also added to the armrests for easy placement of a glass or ashtray.

An outdoor seat for relaxion and reflection, as the chair’s name suggests. Giulio Cappellini was impressed by Morrison’s project. And on his way to the airport The day after his visit to the exhibition, he stopped by Morrison’s design studio to invite him to Italy. Thus began a long and fruitful collaboration with the historic Cappellini company.

Provocation, 1989

Philippe Starck, Dick Deck, Driade, Italy, 1989

We can all agree that objects don’t always have to be designed for something specific. What does functionality mean? Can’t a concept extend to something dreamlike tied to emotion? An object can be functional to pleasure, joy, and amotion. Sensations that go beyond the concept of “being a chair to sit on”.

At the end of the 1980s, Enrico and Adelaide Astori from Driade and Adelaide Acerbi began working closely with Philippe Starck’s nascent French design studio. It was thanks to their partnership that they created a parallel production line of their company under the name Aleph.

The goal was to create visionary, experimental, highly iconic, and technically flawless projects. It was in those years that Starck especially loved experimenting with various materials, and he created this wooden chair with an ironic and cheeky name, just like many of his projects that play on similes and metaphors.

This chair’s seat, deliberately out of proportion due to its being too narrow to rest one’s backside on, challenged anyone who wanted to sit down. Some say that it was just perhaps a ‘headrest’. Yet it didn’t matter: the chair was perfect thanks the material used, its colour, a nineteenth-century outdoor armchair, a bit Thonet and a bit Superleggera by Ponti. The chair makes you stop, look at it, and think. Some objects can speak, all you have to do is listen to them. This seat was the precursor to others by Driade, including chair PIP-e in polypropylene.

Clay Creatures, 2006

Maarten Baas, Clay Collection, Netherlands, 2006

It was April 2006, and in Milan the Fuorisalone design event was in full swing. In a small room in the basement of an industrial building in the Tortona district of the city, two young people were presenting their extraordinary pieces. The two designers were Bass Den Herder and Maarten Baas, who chose a few select words to explain his projects. The two were partners and had founded a small production company to create their designs.

Bass + Baas has never tired of explaining the resin used to create their sculptural objects, which resemble surreal creatures made from clay. Their brilliant collection includes chairs, benches, fans, and even brooms.

Swiss Fibre-Reinforced Concrete, 1960

Willy Guhl, Loop Chair, Switzerland, 1960

During a business trip to Zurich in the early 1960s, famous Italian collectors Eligio Ferrero and his son, Adriano, learned that architect Willy Guhl was creating the first prototypes of a seat in fibre-reinforced concrete. This innovative industrial material had until then only been used for construction but never to create furniture.

Guhl had enthusiastically welcomed Swiss company Eternit’s invitation to experiment with new applications of the material, thus creating a prototype of an outdoor chair using a seamless sheet of fibre-reinforced cement that formed a sinuous and elegant loop.

Rare pieces can still be found on the market, but the Ferrero men purchased two copies, which are now part of the Ferrero Comotto Foundation collection in Turin, Italy. The version pictured dates back to 2000, after Guhl re-worked the project in 1998 by applying the new asbestos-free Eternit material.

At the time, this seat was common and was often placed in indoor spaces. It was certainly a seat, but also an almost sculptural piece.

Eternit is a Swiss company that was founded in 1903, and its name is inspired after the Latin aeternitas, or ‘eternity’, to underscore the highly resistant nature of the material. The material was adapted with asbestos-free technology in the late 1980s, and Eternit fibre-reinforced cement was thus one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. It is highly weather-resistant and light.

Dual Use, 2020

Salomé Hazan, Flip Seat, Giacopini, Italy, 2020

A seating element that can be both a double-seater chair and, when flipped upside down, a chaise longue, the Flip Seat is made from a single sheet of perforated aluminium that are the essence of the seat’s remarkable ergonomics. The strength and elasticity of the material used offer flexibility that allows for high comfort when sitting, while the thin aluminium gives the seat a look of elegance that defies gravity and exalts simplicity.

Imagine holding a sheet of paper in your hand, crumpling it up and throwing it, and seeing where it comes to rest, with this leading to possible furnishing solutions. This is likely how this piece was created, as it was only thanks to constant verification and experimentation by those who know how to handle this material that a project like this could be designed. The holes punched in the aluminium make the seat practical for all kinds of weather, and most importantly of all, make the chair light both visually and physically.

Ode to Le Corbusier, 2008

Stefan Zwicky, Concrete LC2, Grand Confort, sans confort, dommage à Corbu, Switzerland, 2008

Is it a sculpture? A chair? A replica? It is certainly an ode to Le Corbusier. Stefan Zwicky’s armchair perfectly fits the spirit of Le Corbusier, who used iron and reinforced concrete for his architecture, perfectly reflecting modern values of research and experimentation.

That is how the iconic LC2 is portrayed: a meaningful architectural structure that honours that design path.

Suspended Hammock

Marcel Wanders, Knotted Chair, Droog Design–Cappellini, Netherlands/Italy, 1996

In Amsterdam in 1996, at Droog Design’s annual exhibition, a project by young visionary designer Marcel Wanders attracted the public’s attention. The same exhibition could be found at the Salone del Mobile in Milan that same year.

Wanders presented a chair with a structure made of carbon covered with aramid fibre cord and then coated with epoxy resin. This was a process that thus revisited the macramé technique using latest-generation materials, resulting in a seat that combined technology and craftsmanship in a single product.

Visionary architect Giulio Cappellini was also at the same exhibition, and he decided to buy the chair. It was a decisively innovative project, both thanks to the knotted structure that is reminiscent of a hammock as well as to the material used.

Die-Cast Aluminium, Italy, 2003

Kostantin Grcic, Chair One, Magis, Italy, 2003

This piece represents the desire by the client to create something totally new: a chair with a three-dimensional essence. German designer Konstantin Grcic was chosen and was initially asked to design a plastic chair. The project soon took a different twist, as often happens when one works with designers with strong personalities and who have a constant, insatiable approach to experimenting with new materials and innovative techniques.

Magis and Grcic wanted to harness the potential of the aluminium die-casting technique, which had never before been used to make a chair. Aluminium is a ductile metal that is considerably soft and its lightness and resistance to oxidation make it ideal for various uses. It is also a material that requires special welding techniques that do not always make it suitable for use on small, impeccable pieces. Yet the die casting technique is often the solution: in this case, aluminium is injected into a metal mould at high pressure.

The predecessor of this piece is undoubtedly the Victorian cast iron garden chair. Grcic’s design thus harnesses a timeless process for a modern chair.

Lightness and Practicality, 2019

Studio Irvine, Donna, Baleri Italia, Italy, 2019

This chair is all about a light but solid metal structure and a shell made from a single sheet of metal that hooks onto the frame on the back: a nod to past chairs in wrought iron, with seats and backs often made with perforated, flexible sheets of metal. They were chairs that were similar in shape to the Thonet chairs which, due to their modern silhouette, were valued by Le Corbusier who often used them in his projects as garden or patio chairs. They were light, easy to clean, weather resistant, and low maintenance.

“The approach in designing a chair for a historic company like Baleri Italia focused on the research for lightness and the creation of a system. The result is Donna, an agile chair with many configurations for indoor and outdoor use. And as a tradition of Baleri chairs, even our chair has the name…Donna”. (Marialaura Rossiello, Studio Irvine).