If you want a teak sideboard, you go Danish. If youâ€™re looking for your dream sofa, you go Italian.
Italy commands the global design market with quality materials and a timeless sensibility that lends designs their classic beauty. Weâ€™ve covered our fair share of Italian wares: Murano glass, ABS plastic, and that of titans of design, but the crown jewel of Italian design is assuredly the sofa. Italian couches strike the right balance of dramatic and playful, yet are very simple conceptually. Whateverâ€™s in the water (or wine), Italian designers have produced a staggering number of vintage it-sofas.
The Sofa has assumed the role of status symbol in recent years. The two+ years weâ€™ve spent inside has made our living rooms hubs of activity, and the sofa is both the centerpiece and workhorse, accommodating coffee breaks, #wfh, reading, streaming, naps, and more. Couched (you heard me) in these practical needs are the aesthetic demands that come with any major furniture piece in 2022: A sofa must not only fulfill its functions, but add character, comfort, and maybe even fantasy. Italian vintage sofas check every box.
But behind the Sorianas and Camaleondas that delight us is a hefty price tag. An authentic Soriana sofa by Tobia and Afra Scarpa can run comparable to the price of a car. At a resale value of anywhere from $15Kâ€”$30K, Mario Belliniâ€™s highly-coveted Camaleonda may be out of reach. While some of these sofas are still in production, only vintage pieces are sure to appreciate in value and were made with the quality and longevity of previous decades. If youâ€™re ready to curl up on your rapidly aging Peggy sofa from West Elm, donâ€™t lose hope: here are the vintage Italian sofas to look out for and add to your watch list:
Maralunga – Vico Magistretti for Cassina c. 1970s
The story goes that Cesare Cassina was so frustrated by lack of comfort in the initial design that he punched the Maralungaâ€™s headrest, inspiring Vico Magistretti to see the potential for a convertible sofa-cum-chaise using floppy, adjustable headrests. Though Maralunga has been sold by some of the hottest vintage resellers in the game â€”like Primaried Studio, Reixue Montreal, and Home Unionâ€”, the Italian sofa has managed to hover just outside of the status of it-sofa. By the rate at which Maralunga sells, but doesnâ€™t saturate the market, it seems likely sheâ€™ll continue to grace the homes of discerning Dwellers.
Alanda – Paolo Piva for C&B Italia c. 1970s
With its bendable arm and backrests, Alanda looks like a descendent of the Maralunga. The key difference are the stilt-like, metal legs which elevate the couch. Paolo Piva designed Alanda for C&B in the 1970s, though there were later (still vintage) editions released by B&B once Cesare Cassina broke off to start his own design firm. If you come across this Italian sofa, check tags or stamps to confirm its age. Available upholstered in leather and in microsuede, weâ€™ve seen it priced for up to $1.8K.
Veranda by Vico Magistretti for Cassina c. 1980s
Arguably another variation in the Maralunga playbook by Magistretti, the Veranda lounge transforms by unfurling the headrests and untucking the seat cushions from its steel legs and foot bar. The second iteration of Veranda is a 3-seater that shares the adjustable headrests, but whose seats can also fan out into more intimate seating, with the two side seats swiveling on a fixed base that, when open, doubles as a small tabletop.
Stringa by Gae Aulenti for Poltronova, c. 1962
Gae Aulenti is Italian designâ€™s it-girl, so it makes sense sheâ€™d be responsible for such a cool, comfortable couch. Stringa boasts a tubular, chrome frame and felt upholstered back upon which the leather cushions rest, attached by leather straps. Sometimes a cool design can verge on coldness, its materials or silhouette too aloof to cohere with the reality of an everyday living space. Stringa sidesteps this pitfall with its visible leather straps and string base, which resemble a dotted morse code from the front.
Marcel by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia c. 1990s
Honestly holding my breath as I share this, because I will inevitably suffer immense loss and grief when someone snags this checked tweed number before the cool $13K Iâ€™m expecting hits my account (sure, Jan). Marcelâ€™s squared, tweed cushions sit low on a chrome-plated metal base. The sofaâ€™s signature arm rests tilt at a 45 degree angle, like a book cracking open. Marcel is available in sectional and sofa format.
Diesis by Antonio Citterio and Paolo Nava for B&B Italia, c. 1979
Introducing the quintessential B&B Italian sofa, Diesis. Made with an aluminum structure by Antonio Citterio and Paolo Nava, Diesis shines most brightly in loveseat form. The seat and arm cushions commonly come in leather, suede or glossy. B&B Italia is still making Dieses that will run you upwards of $8K, however more affordable secondhand units are out there waiting to be found. Worth noting: though secondhand options may be missing the plush arm rest cushions, this actually seems like a plus for cupholder purposes!
Wave by Giovanni Offredi for Saporiti Italia, c. 1974
Squiggle hive assemble! Youâ€™re going to love Giovanni Offrediâ€™s Wave, which sports a visible, angular steel support that holds up its soft, S-curved cushion of injected polyurethane. In this way, the couch has built-in dynamic tension between sleek and playful energies. Giovanni Offredi spoke of Italian designâ€™s specific alchemy and allure, saying, â€œItalian design…has always drawn its success from the balance between rationality and fantasy.â€
Amanta by Mario Bellini for C&B Italia, c. 1966
â€The father of the Camaleonda has entered the chat! Before he made waves (get it?) with Camaleonda, Mario Bellini created Amanta, a rectangular seating module and system. Each Amantaâ€™s frame is made of a single piece of reinforced polyester that sits on four rubber spheres, complete with a slit down the middle back. Itâ€™s a notable frame, not hidden by upholstery or meant to be backed against a wall, rather it intentionally contrasts the cotton, leather, or velvet cushions.
Sesann by Gianfranco Frattini for Tacchini, c. 1970
You could easily mistake Gianfranco Frattiniâ€™s Sesann for a Soriana but take note: Sesannâ€™s chrome steel bands give form to its upper back rest and base sides, forming arm rests which Soriana lacks, all without Sorianaâ€™s steel clamps. Ironically, the chrome steel frame consists of three separate pieces, but the impact is a seamless appearance. If you envision the bulbous padding of both sofas as teeth, Soriana has braces, while Sesann has a simple retainer.
Le Bambole by Mario Bellini for Cassina, c. 1972
As seen in Kaitlin Springâ€™s living room, Mario Belliniâ€™s Le Bambole is a technical masterpiece that just happens to look like it was made for an adorable cartoon Dracula. Deep within Le Bambole are metal inserts that form the structure of the Italian sofa, which is otherwise encompassed entirely by marshmallow-level padding of different densities of polyurethane, finished with batwing corners. In the words of Mario Bellini, Le Bambole was â€œnot upholstered with fabric, but built in fabric.â€
Tentazione by Mario Bellini for Cassina, c. 1973
We end on yet another entry for Mario Bellini with a confirmed sibling to Le Bambole, Tentazione. This sofa is taller than Le Bambole, though Tentazione shares its lines and its batwing flair, albeit in a more pared-down fashion with soft contour. Bouncy and pliant with molded stuffing, Tentazioneâ€™s extreme comfort doesnâ€™t come without loads of style. Seen here, a Tentazione loveseat is available via Primaried.