An original touch is the key to successful interior design. And in a world where everyone swears by noble materials, something made of plastic is definitely a head-turner. Italian design firm, Kartell, has been exploring this niche ever since the company’s founding in 1949, by chemist, Giulio Castelli. With the help of his wife, Anna, Castelli continued to push the envelope and develop manufacturing know-how until he finally produced the first chair made entirely of plastic: the Universale, by Joe Colombo, in the early 1960s. Towards the end of the last century, Castelli’s son-in-law, Claudio Luti, took control and breathed new life into the company. More recently, Luti’s daughter, Lorenza, has taken the reins, and is working to ensure the brand’s continued success.
The year 1998 marked the start of a new era of respect for plastic furniture: remember the Philippe Starckdesigned Marie chair, formed of a single polycarbonate mould? Tough, transparent polycarbonate (clear or tinted) can be curved, bent and moulded into some surprising and beautiful shapes. The technology has become so sophisticated that the material is even occasionally mistaken for crystal! The Bouroullec brothers, Patricia Urquiola and Marcel Wanders are among the top designers inspired by plastic. Today, Kartell sells everything from tableware to lamps, from decorative items to handbags, even fragrances (where the container is as important as its contents!). There appears to be no limit to the company’s mastery of plastic: its catalogue includes items made of polycarbonate, ABS, polyethylene and thermoplastic technopolymer. And its manufacturing methods—injection or rotation moulding—produce remarkably sturdy, stunning results.
Photo: Tommaso Gesuato