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Designer Spotlight: Joe Colombo

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Joe Colombo (1930­—1971) was one of Italy’s most innovative product designers of the 20th century. Born in Milan in 1930 into a family that had both an artistic (his mother) and industrious (his father) bent to it, young Cesare (his birth name) was encouraged to spend hours constructing elaborate erector sets. He studied painting at Milan’s Accademia di Belle Arti experimenting with futuristic abstracts.

Not long after graduating he became interested in product design, and continued on with the same bold, curvaceous lines that had characterized his paintings. He soon became one of the pioneers in the flexibility and multifunctional industrial design field and began to focus on a new material, ‘plastic’. His Stackable Chair 4860, which he designed for Kartell, was the first seat for adults made out of injection-molded ABS plastic. Also a classic now produced by B-Line is the Boby plastic roll container— also called “Joe Colombo’s Trolley”

In 1963, he started to invent what he called “a new habitat”, using new production processes and new products like fiberglass, ABS, PVC and polyethylene. His three-year experimentation became the ‘Total Furnishings Unit’ with kitchen, bed, bath and storage all in a single unit — this debuted in 1972 at MOMA’s Italy: The New Domestic Landscape. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to enjoy the acclaim — he died unexpectedly of a heart attack on his 41st birthday, July 30th 1971.

Even though his life was short, Joe was admired by his colleagues. He designed an extraordinary body of work that continues to be relevant today and his hard work earned him many prestigious awards — the Golden Compass and a Design International award to mention a couple.

In Milan in April we partnered with a company that is rereleasing one of his iconic designs, called Cart, from the 1960s. We’re sure our customers will find it as exciting as we do — come see for yourself in the Sklar showroom this fall!

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Sklar Furnishings