Book review: The Furniture of Carlo Mollino

Carlo Mollino (1905-73), the maverick Italian designer, created site specific and commissioned pieces that are considered works of art – a 1948 table sold for around $4m at an auction recently setting a world record for a piece of twentieth-century furniture.

The son of a prominent Turin engineer, Mollino joined his father’s firm after graduating from Turin’s Royal School of Architecture in 1931, leaving soon after to pursue his own career as a designer and architect.

He was involved with the avant-garde futurist and the surrealist movements of the time – evident in his highly expressive and sculptural work that contains an almost surreal narrative.

Mollino worked in numerous creative areas including furniture design, architecture, automobile design, theatre, photography, even town planning.

He based his furniture on organic shapes such as animal bones, tree branches and the human body – the female body is very much a dominant theme. Mollino was also keen on researching new materials and technology to create these complex structures.

For instance he developed a construction technique so that the structure seems liberated by the weight of the material as seen on the glass and bentwood Arabesque table (1949), still in production by Italian industrial design firm Zanotta.

Amongst his most notable architectural work is the Società Ippica Torinese headquarters (1935-9) and the Teatro Regio Torinese (1966) both in Turin. He also designed interiors. Experimenting with fabric and lighting, sometimes even creating his own murals, they were often quite theatrical.

The Furniture of Carlo Mollino presents his complete furniture and interior design. A collaborative effort with the Turin’s Museo Casa Mollino, and written by the museum’s curators Napoleone Ferrari and Fulvio Ferrari, this extensive monograph emphasises the contemporary significance of Mollino’s pioneering work.

Leafing through the pages of this informative and beautifully illustrated book, you can’t help being overwhelmed by how much pure original thought and artistic expression has gone into his every design and every creation. The result is that his furniture pieces are not just well executed but sensual, evocative and completely timeless.

The Furniture of Carlo Mollino by Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari is published by Phaidon. You can purchase this book and a comprehensive selection of design books on our new on-line bookstore opening on Design Talks soon.

Purchase this book here on the DT Bookstore.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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