Collection by Sam Grawe

Fantastic Plastics

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While in Italy for a large press event regarding the 50th Salone Del Mobile, I took the opportunity to visit Kartell's headquarters in Noviglio, just outside of Milan. In a rambling campus of orange steel and glazed brick buildings designed by Ignazio Gardella and Anna Castelli Ferrieri, the company opened a corporate museum in 1999 to mark their 50th anniversary. Led by Claudio Luti since 1988, Kartell is best known for realizing a wide range of designs from an international roster of superstar designers. Less well known today is the company's history of innovation during the postwar years, and the role a select group of Italian designers and engineers would play in the 20th century's plastic revolution. What follows is a look at some of the company's outstanding vintage designs.

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The Kartell museum is located in Noviglio, just outside Milan.
1950's K 101 Ski Rack by Carlo Barassi and Roberto Menghi, a rubberized set of straps that easily clipped onto a car…
Having produced an array of lab ware, in 1955 Kartell was among the first companies to introduce plastic products to…
The delicate looking KS 1475 carpet beater was made with polyethylene surrounding a metal core.
Gino Colombini's KS 1068 dustpan with handle came in an array of progressive colors enjoyed tremendous success upon its…
A young Milanese architect named Joe Colombo realized the 4801 armchair in 1964. An anomaly in the catalog, the chair…
Initially developed for Fiat dealerships, Musée D'Orsay architect Gae Aulenti's 1974 collection, including the 4894…
By the early 1960s the company's design aesthetic had become more refined, and in a way prefigured the space age look…
Colombo's 4029 table lamp features indentations to house desktop items.
Functional, friendly and colorful—to the point of appearing almost cartoonish—a stack of nesting 4906/07 tables by…
Gerd Lange's space age 4064/65 suspension lamps prefigure today's popular FL/Y lamp by Kartell art director Ferruccio…
The 4545 "centipede" bed by Antonio Locatelli and Pietro Salmoiraghi from 1972 was one of company's least successful…
The intensely postmodern 4814 lounge chair with two wheels was among Anna Castelli Ferrieri's last designs for the…
The museum's bathroom is kitted out with Castelli Ferrieri's 5021/64 Outline System, the 1978 modular wall organizer…
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