80s Massimo and Lella Vignelli ‘Calice’ dining table for Poltrona Frau
Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan in 1931. While still a student, he designed lighting for renowned Murano glassmaker Venini. Having married Lella Vignelli in 1957, the pair established the Lella and Massimo Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan in 1960, focusing on office accessories, home products, graphics, and furniture. The studio’s clients included Pirelli and Olivetti, among other. In 1965, the Vignellis moved to Chicago.
The Vignellis can be credited with helping to bring contemporary Italian design to the US. Their shared aesthetic celebrates balance, elegance, and simplicity, and embraces the notion that a designer should be able to design anything and everything. Notable projects include, among others, the stackable Knoll Handkerchief Chair (1982–87); colorful, molded melamine Heller Stacking Dishes (1964); and the 1972 New York City subway map. In addition to their design work, both have taught, lectured, written, and served on a variety of juries and boards throughout their careers. Their work has been exhibited internationally in a variety of exhibitions, including, in 1980, a retrospective at New York’s Parsons School of Design. In 1982, the Vignellis were awarded the AIGA Gold Medal. In 2008, the couple donated their complete design archive to the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York; the archive is now housed in a 2010-erected building of their own design, the Vignelli Center for Design Studies.
Renzo Frau founded Poltrona Frau in Turin in 1912. In the 30’s it was already a status symbol. From 1926 it was appointed supplier of the Italian Royal Family, the Savoia dynasty. From then on, it will furnish all the most important houses, grand hotels, the interiors for Expo Turin 1928, and the lavish transatlantic Rex, pride of the Italian Navy.
In 2004, Poltrona Frau acquired noted Italian furniture company Cappellini. and the Poltrona Frau Group now includes brands Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, Cassina, Alias, Nemo Lighting, Ceramica Flaminia and Fish Design. In 2014, United States-based Haworth Group purchased a controlling interest in Poltrona Frau.