It has been more than 90 years since Antonio Calligaris produced his first wooden chair with a woven seat in his little studio. In the intervening decades, the family-owned company has modernized and evolved into an industry leader in Italy’s “Chair District” in Friuli. From the installation of the first automatic straw weaver to its current role as a global furniture leader, Calligaris has successfully merged the art of handcrafted furniture with industrialization and a worldwide reach. We asked the company at iSaloni 2016 about their process, philosophy and strategy for the more than 800 furniture products it distributes across the globe.
The company’s Annie chairs and are paired with the Volo table, lit by the Sextans suspension lamp. The large fabric shade has a minimalist design and is perfect over the dining table.
The Orbital table has an automated extension, controlled by metal arms. Two extension leaves slide out from underneath and maintain the elliptical shape. The base is made from rigid polyurethane. Here it is paired with Igloo chairs.
With such amazing growth in your global reach, how do you maintain the hand-crafted aspects of furniture design?
The Calligaris brand, which developed naturally over the years thanks to consumers’ growing loyalty to the products offered in the company’s catalogue, today reflects the synthesis of design, excellent workmanship and the right quality-price ratio: the company’s three “musts” which, in turn, express the best of “made in Italy.” We think that there should be a balanced combination of desire for innovation and deep sense of heritage at the root of the Italian design, with which we proudly identify. Each Calligaris product is developed through a process that includes an in-depth knowledge of the market and the right combination of know-how and innovation. Calligaris offers design that results from analysis of form and function, experimentation, the combination of materials and ongoing innovation. Our approach is based on continuous investments in order to offer its clients an extensive product range with a distinctive and unique content.
What process do you follow for developing and launching new designs and discovering new designers?
Every Calligaris product is the best result of a perfect combination of materials involved and design. We cannot say exactly which one comes first, as both of them are essential. Our R&D department is very much in tune with our style. It is made up by both internal and external resources, collaborating on all elements from research to design and finally implementation of all activities related to the creation of a new product. We communicate and bounce ideas around with designers; we look at what the objectives of the business are and the actions needed to create successful products. Of course we must have a good grounded knowledge of the market and be able to interpret current trends, but most importantly future ones. Every year we oversee hundreds of projects born out of our briefs or from impromptu proposals, but only ten or so will ever become Calligaris products.
With some brands, quality has started to take a backseat to innovation. Calligaris is known for quality, so how do you maintain that while being so design-forward?
The products that we present in the market are the result of a long process of study and prototyping with the aim of creating contemporary furnishing solutions able to solve everyday problems and to meet the aesthetic taste of those who choose them. The starting point in the design of these products is to consider new situations of the user (limited space, nomadic, small residential and renovation of homes). Calligaris meets these needs by offering a range of products, individually or combined with each other, decorates with new items in every setting, in a functional, innovative way, with a simple design that makes sense of the naturalness of the materials used. The selection of materials and their quality are the key aspects in the product operability study and that’s why every year we make innovations and investments like the introduction of ceramics in the top of our tables, obtained by coupling a ceramic plate (porcelain) to a hardened glass float. Thus we obtained a surface with excellent aesthetic characteristics and high strength characteristics for daily use.
We were drawn to a number of chairs from Calligaris, all perfect for your dining table.
Calligaris’ Igloo chair, designed by Edi and Paolo Ciani, is a stylish dining chair that’s so comfortable, you’ll want to use it in other locations in your home. The lightweight upholstered seat sits atop four tapered wooden legs. Covering choices include upholstery fabrics as well as leather and the legs come in various shades of ash wood and lacquered beech.
Because it’s so comfortable, the Igloo chair is great for extra guests in your living room, as extra seating in your home office, or as chairs in a conversation grouping.
Also designed by the Cianis, the Annie dining chair is part of a collection that includes a armchair and stool as well. Calligaris says the chair epitomizes the company’s mission “to create stylish furniture that makes contemporary living easier and more enjoyable.”
Upholstered in any of five shades of leather or eight colors of fabric, the seat has four conical legs. A variety of finishes of ash or beech wood are available for the legs.
The stunning wood top of the Calligaris Volo table makes for a beautiful centerpiece to your dining room. The substantial top — which comes in two sizes — looks as if it is floating on air thanks to the nearly invisible base, composed of two glass pieces. Here it is paired with the Annie and Igloo chairs, which are great for mixing and matching. The table was designed by Roberto Paoli.
The simpler — yet no less stylish — design of the Stockholm chair have a Scandinavian feel. The padded, upholstered seat and backrest are available in six fabric colors. Made of wood, the elegant frame is available in Smoke, Natural oak, Walnut, or Optic white lacquered beech
The elements in the wood frame of the Stockholm chair, designed by the Cianis, join elegantly with the upholstered pieces, presenting as one, comprehensive form. The subtle geometric Apotema rug contrasts the rounded lines of the table and chairs. The warm color palette and modern design of the chenille and cotton Jacquard-woven rug include yellow, orange and rust hues on a neutral grey background.
On the wall behind the sofa, the Fractal shelves provide storage as well as wall decor. The shelf is made of two curved, colored units that come together in one fluid shape. They can be arranged in multiples in any configuration you desire. Made of melamine and painted steel, Fractal is perfect in any room and is especially great for living areas or smaller spaces.
The Sweet sofa has an iconic, upholstered shape that has great presence. It’s soft and pleasant to touch, elegant yet informal, and envelops you like a cozy embrace. Designed by Enrico Cesana, it is constructed of plywood solid wood and polyurethane.
The Tweet coffee tables are right on trend, a collection of various shapes and finishes to serve as a central coffee table area. Designed for mixing and matching, the 50’s-inspired Tweet coffee tables come in three sizes with a lacquered, ceramic, or marble ceramic top. Designed by Gino Carollo, the tops come in a variety of colors and veneered finishes.
The Bahia is a bright, comfortable, wraparound chair. It has four tapered wooden legs, with a metal support painted to match the body of the chair. The shell is formed from Restilon®, an eco-friendly thermoplastic composite made from 35% recycled materials. The makes for a seat that is flexible but has a rigid, glossy and scratch-resistant finish. Bahia is also available in the outdoor version, with satin finish steel structure treated for the exterior.
Calligari’s Duca extending dining table makes the hard work of adding separate leaves to the table a thing of the past. The extension system has guides mounted on the frame: When you pull out the frame, two legs slide to one side allowing the extension leaf to lift and twist into position all in one simple movement. Both the metal frame and the top are available in differ finishes and colors, including laminate, melamine-face, toughened glass or ceramic tops.
This gorgeous wood, metal and glass table is the Levante. The special combination of a glass top with the pale wood base and colored hardware makes for an appealing and interesting table. It has two side extension leaves that extends easily to accommodate more guests. All three elements are available in different finishes and colors to suit your decor as well as match several chairs produced by Calligaris.