The canon of modern couches already has a pair of Eameses, but it took a small clutch of Italian furniture mavens to create the Charles.
Antonio Citterio’s 1997 design for B&B Italia is now well into its second decade of popularity, with a pair of successful updates—2003’s deeper Charles Large and 2010’s polypropylene Charles Outdoor—already on the books. “I try not to copy but to perceive and assimilate aspects specific to the work of great masters,” says Citterio of the Charles’s nod to the Eameses, but he notes that the similarities between his sofa and the couple’s mid-century designs “are more in spirit than in fact.”
Charles Sofa (1997) by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia bebitalia.it
Citterio has designed scads of sofas at this point, not only for B&B Italia but for storied brands like Vitra and Flexform as well. Though he was already decades into a glittering career of sofa design, Citterio confirmed his mastery of the form with the Charles’s slim, strong frame, long seat cushion, aluminum corner supports, and suite of free pillows.
Diesis (1979) by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia
Today, the Charles remains one of B&B Italia’s best-selling pieces—so much so that its inevitable mate, the Ray, arrived in 2012. “Like Charles, the Ray is a modular system, which starts with a linear element that can be extended to include chaises longues, end pieces, and ottomans,” Citterio reports.
Suita sofa (2010) by Antonio Citterio for Vitra vitra.com
Portrait of the great Antonio Citterio.