Some furnishing objects are much more than their appearance: the most iconic design items often have a long past and occupy an important place in the history of modern design. In this article, we have collected 10 decorative objects that true design enthusiasts can recognise at a glance and that should definitely not be missing from a contemporary home. Adding one of these legendary design pieces to your interior design project will not only add character to the room, it will create a cultural connection, a concrete way to anchor your décor to the era and the big names that inspired it. Some of these objects represent real investments that will retain their value for a lifetime.
1. Nessino Lamp, Artemide
The Nessino table lamp by Artemide is characterised by a highly iconic design. Originally created by Giancarlo Mattioli in the 1960s, it has become synonymous with modern Italian design over the following decades. The unique mushroom shape and vivid orange or white tones make this object instantly recognisable, and it remains as popular today as it was when it was first introduced to the market.
2. Radio Cube by Brionvega
Re-edition of the classic TS 502 transistor radio designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper in 1963. Brionvega’s Radio Cubo 50 updates such an iconic design that it was part of David Bowie’s personal sound system. Named for its simple shape, both when open and closed (cube-shaped), this update of the original design incorporates a digital screen, FM radio and Bluetooth speaker, as well as an alarm clock.
3. Bellhop Lamp, Flos
Originally designed as a table lamp for the new London Design Museum, the Bellhop rechargeable LED table lamp by FLOS offers modern functionality in a stylish, contemporary design. Its classic bell-shaped silhouette is composed of a polished polycarbonate exterior, the head of which curves into a photo-etched injection-moulded opal diffuser. In addition to a long 24-hour battery life, this device offers 4-step dimming via a simple button on the unit, as well as a plug-in charger and USB cable. Once in use, a soft, glare-free light radiates downwards, illuminating tables and ceilings, creating an informal and sociable atmosphere.
4. Nemo Armchair, Driade
We all wear a mask from time to time. No matter how we appear on the outside, our inner world is often hidden. This is probably the philosophy behind this design by Fabio Novembre. The NEMO mask chair is reminiscent of a sculpture of a woman’s face and has enough space to completely and comfortably accommodate a person, behind the mask. Such an object gives a sense of mystery and beauty to your interior and magically transforms your home into a theatre scene. The chair is designed to be used both outdoors and indoors: the polyethylene from which it is made is extremely weather-resistant.
5. Print Two, La Pera, Danese Milan
La Pera is part of ‘La Serie della Natura’, designed in the 1960s by Enzo Mari for Danese. Mari was a non-conformist and, in his own way, a revolutionary in the field of design. Mari’s idea was to make art and beautiful things within everyone’s reach and therefore reproducible: so silk-screen printing came to the aid of this process of ‘democratisation’ of design. The beautiful ‘Nature Series’ consists of 17 subjects, all with a nature theme and, above all, born from the quest to transform an image into an eternal and immutable symbol. Enzo Mari’s ‘Pear’ is not just any pear, but through the elimination of everything superfluous it becomes ‘The Pear’ for excellence: the only possible and imaginable one, in Mari’s view.
6. Eclisse Lamp, Artemide
Eclisse, disegnata da Vico Magistretti nel 1965, vince il Premio Compasso d’Oro nel 1967 e diventa ambasciatrice del design italiano nel mondo. Una lampada che rappresenta l’equilibrio all’avanguardia tra forma e funzione, design e utilità. Il fondamento del concetto alla base di questo oggetto risiede nella sua capacità di regolare l’intensità della luce attraverso il paralume interno rotante, che “eclissa” la sorgente luminosa. Infatti, con un guscio esterno fisso e un guscio interno mobile la lampada può fornire luce diretta o diffusa.
7. Timor Calendar, Danese Milano
This desk calendar is designed to be modular, flexible and infinitely usable. Its clever tabs for dates, months and day numbers are attached to a central pivot, hide discreetly in the calendar arm and can be fanned out to display the correct date. The Italian designer Enzo Mari is known for his appreciation of improbable forms and for encouraging public participation and interaction with his works. He created this calendar in 1967 for Danese and it has since been included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
8. Deco Vase, Venini
Venini’s hand-blown opaline glass Deco vases feature repeated geometric shapes, aiming to create the Art Deco style with glass. Each Venini piece is an extraordinary example of the highest level of Italian craftsmanship in Murano blown glass, and each is unique. The design of the ‘Deco’ vases is by Napoleone Martinuzzi, who was Venini’s art director for many years in the early 20th century. In 1930, inspired by the Art Deco movement, he designed these ‘Deco’ vases. His design combines geometric shapes with feminine curves: these objects have become collectors’ items, desirable among true glass experts.
9. Erba Vase, Internoitaliano
A standard terracotta vase inspired by the archetypal forms of classic garden vases. Its clean lines, the playful geometric intersection of conical and cylindrical volumes reinvent the very concept of these vases. The names of all the objects in Internoitaliano are a tribute to Italian villages, even those that are minor and little celebrated, but just as real and representative of a suffused and authentic national identity. Erba (formerly Erba-Incino, as it is formed by the union of these two locations, together with some smaller hamlets) is a municipality of about 16,000 inhabitants in the province of Como.
10. Tottori Chair, Driade
Tottori is a collection of chairs and tables with timeless shapes, a seductive silhouette and a bold character. Inspired by the Japanese animated film “My Neighbour Totoro”, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the Tottori furniture collection lends an intimate and warm atmosphere to the home environment thanks to the cosy and soft appearance of its components. It is recommended to use this object only indoors and not outdoors.