In 1956 Italian industrial designer Achille Castiglioni created “COLORI E FORME NELLA CASA D’OGGI”, the installation of a living room at Villa Olmo, a neoclassical villa located in the city of Como, northern Italy. When we saw images of it, we flipped. It is such a far cry from the sterile interiors we see so often today; it’s a thoughtful, reality-based modernist living and working space.
Here’s some of the design thinking behind it, with a few more pictures:
In this setting for a living room, there are pieces of furniture chosen from mass production, some pieces which were produced later, others produced from models that can be considered classics (foldable chairs and armchairs, wicker baskets). Moreover there are pieces made according to certain research criteria and used experimentally: a telephone stool, a metal seat on springs, a foam rubber armchair, a paper dividing screen, a TV set that could be raised or lowered, a lamp with a fluorescent bulb. All the walls were decorated with Giuseppe Ajmone’s stencils.
This proposal for a living room encloses in a sole project all the design features that characterize A. and P.G. Castiglioni’s work: the scenographic attention paid to the room volume and the layout of the walls planned in consideration of the visitors’ movements; the search for existing objects as a kind of design training and self-education; the idea that if objects are valid they may coexist without the necessity of a unifying style; the decoration, an element of expressive emphasis, an integral part of the project rather than something superimposed on it; the curiosity about objects having construction and design peculiarities, and the affection for these objects.
And more, the design research for Sella, the wall telephone stool, and Mezzadro, the metal stool, the playing with formal appearance in the armchair Cubo (apparently rigid but made of soft material), and the shelf bookcase, a simplified object.
This manner of designing, paying attention to absolutely everything that exists, more so during research than during implementation, and reinforced by continual practical assessments, led to the surprising result that after years, for many people, the way this room looks is absolutely contemporary and for many more, a future point of arrival.
We especially love the suspending shelving, the brick floor, the mix of classic and new, the folding beach chair, and those stencils….!!!