Mario Bellini Sofas – Vintage Italian Couches

The largest—quite literally—marker of style now isn’t so much about what you wear, but rather what you’re sitting on. Expensive Italian furniture, especially those pieces designed by the melodic names for sale on 1stdibs are not new, but the cult of the It sofa is. Which particular lounger you choose (for those lucky few who have access to such things) speaks volumes. And it better, because these babies cost about as much as a car. To be fair, the furniture seems to actually appreciate in value.

It should come as no surprise that interiors have taken the stylish lead in a year spent at home—where the sofa has become the coffee spot, work desk, and Netflix perch all in one leather- or fabric-covered mass. People simply care more about their spaces the more time they spend in them—and spend looking at other spaces on their phones in them, according to Maggie Holladay, founder of Claude Home. “There’s a huge influx in interest in interior design and furniture right now, it’s what our Instagram feeds are being filled with, mainly, I believe because we’re all at home all the time,” explains Holladay. “Many people are now discovering amazing designs and designers, and becoming more aware of how a statement sofa can really change the entire feel of a space.”

athena hamptons

Athena Calderone’s Bellini sofa in her Amagansett home

Athena Calderone

For Athena Calderone, the designer and influencer behind the massively popular EyeSwoon, it comes down to a classic pairing of art meets commerce. “They can be both practical and decorative at once,” she explains. “You can have them forever. You can always reupholster if you want to make a change. And if you invest in something timeless and of quality, it will hold its value.”

“For me, some pieces of furniture are art pieces. They are limited in number and can embody an important culture shift or period while also being aesthetically appealing,” says Gabriella Khalil, the creative director and founder of boutique hotel Palm Heights in Grand Cayman. “You can therefore represent culture, mood, and aesthetic with certain pieces, and the research process is exciting in itself. Sofas are particularly important, as they are often centerpieces in a room due to their size, shape, and function.”

palm heights

A Bellini Bambole at Palm Heights in Grand Cayman

Gabriella Khalil

So what are the sofas causing such a stir—and (harmless?) addictions to sites like 1stdibs, Chairish, Pamono, Etsy, and smaller indie dealers like Friends of Form in New York and Los Angeles, the newly launched Studio Arva in London, Home Union in Brooklyn, Timothy Doyle Design in L.A., and Claude Home? The Mario Bellini Camaleonda for B&B Italia is the clear Birkin of this race—if we were to make casual fashion references. It’s the ultimate status symbol, so popular in the resale market that B&B Italia reissued it last year, after originally producing it for only a few years in the 1970s. A classic with pedigree, favored by ladies known for their innate style including Pernille Teisbaek, Aimee Song, Eva Chen (who’s Connecticut home is currently being designed by Heide Hendricks), and, of course, Calderone, who owns two.

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“I am smitten by the sexy curves and low-slung sofa with roots in the ’70s. There is also something about the bulbous and sensuous nature of the Camaleonda sofa, particularly when paired with more angular lines, that I find most interesting. I wholeheartedly believe that it takes on a completely arresting quality when you engage a level of contrast and friction,” the EyeSwoon founder explains. “The Camaleonda was the very first piece I purchased for my Brooklyn townhouse, and from there, a design dialogue was born. I attribute the sofa to initiating the design of my home. I love to trace the first points of inspiration on a design journey, and this was it for me.”

While the Bellini is a big one, it’s certainly not alone. It’s joined by the Ligne Roset Togo Sofa, de Sede Terrazza Sofa and DS 600 Non-Stop, Maralunga Sofa by Vico Magistretti, and Tobia Scarpa Soriana Sofa. Calderone isn’t afraid to pick favorites. “Well, I suppose I am an Italian lover at heart because my other trigger sofa is the Soriano by Tobia Scarpa for Cassina.” The Togo and Terrazza in particular have become Insta-staples. Alyssa Coscarelli often photographs her looks on her Togo, and Teisbaek has a Terrazza in addition to that Bellini in her new Denmark home.

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A virtual mecca of It sofas is on display at Palm Heights in Grand Cayman, which has quickly become an oft-photographed destination for jet-setters and interiors junkies because of its unique design—and proximity to the turquoise sea, of course. “The vision for the hotel was to create a space that felt like a chic residential beach house, rather than a traditional hotel setting. The ’70s were the height of Caribbean glamour and also the era that put the Caribbean and Cayman on the map as a travel destination,” Khalil says. “The fabric of the architecture evoked a sense of that era, and we wanted to carry that through the property. And so, the design team heavily referenced homes, interiors, fashion, and people from the decade.” A decade which happens to overlap with the heyday of many of the most buzzed-about sofas now. “We were especially drawn to sofas by Mario Bellini from the ’70s. His Bambole and Camaleonda sofas are iconic statement pieces from that era and are used in different spaces in the hotel as well as my home. In general, though, I am very drawn to sculptural sofas. Recently, I have my eye on a curved sofa from Pierre Augustin Rose and the Marenco sofa from Arflex,” she says.

claude home

From Claude Home’s collection

Courtesy

There’s a reason the ladies in this article have design experience. More often than not, your new-to-you vintage sofa will require a little legwork. “Most of the time, I will reupholster a vintage sofa unless the condition is excellent. Choosing a fabric really depends on the palette of the space and the climate of where the sofa is going,” Khalil says. “Lately, I tend to use a lot of bouclé fabrics, because I am so drawn to the soft texture and neutral tones. Depending on where the sofa is going, I also love a classic linen for warmer climates or mohair for more seasonal locations. Pierre Frey and Dedar have beautiful options, and are typically my go-to for fabrics.”

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Holladay, the eye behind the beloved-by-Insta sofa that lives in both Elsa Hosk’s New York and Los Angeles homes, explains its origins. “It’s a vintage sofa we had reupholstered in a bouclé fabric. To me, it’s the perfect sofa. It’s a timeless statement piece, an investment that’s extremely comfortable.” That fabric, bouclé, comes up a lot, “I think everybody loves bouclé because it’s timeless and just makes every piece look a bit more elevated. I think fluffy polar mohair will be the next It fabric, as it’s similar to short-haired shearling but a bit more subtle in a room. I’m currently obsessed with the fabric Teddy by Pierre Frey,” Holladay says.

“Bouclés have always been popular. Historically, they were used for a statement piece in a sitting room or a hotel reception. I would say that over the last year, they have become incredibly mainstream, and we see them being applied throughout residential and commercial projects,” explains Chelsea Colman, senior sales and marketing manager for Bute Fabrics Limited. “Our clients are looking for a much wider range in textured fabrics for upholstery, drapery, and soft accessories. … I don’t think the demand for a good bouclé is going anywhere anytime soon.”

So if you’re down to pony up for a status sofa, source some bouclé, a great upholsterer, and want to deal in couch futures, the only question that remains is what is the next It sofa on the rise? “I would say the Italian Lara Modular Sofa by Pamio, Massari & Toso for Stilwood, 1960s, and Corbi Modular Seating System designed by Klaus Uredat, 1972—[they’re] sculptural, interesting, and inviting,” Holladay says. “Designers like Vladimir Kagan and Milo Baughman have incredible curved sofa designs from the ’70s and ’90s, and I am seeing these more and more,” Khalil says. “The Pierre Augustin curvy sofa is most certainly having a moment,” Calderone says.

There also seems to be a drive toward the less-flashy French- and Belgian-influenced linen sofas designed by Oliver Gustav and new brand Sixpenny, whose chief of design, Robert Natale, explains, “Spiritually, the [brand was founded in the] South of France, 1958. But in reality, we launched our digital home in 2017.” Whatever you choose, even from home, Insta or it didn’t happen.

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