Furniture designed for the rhythms of life

Furniture designed for the rhythms of life

Carlo de Carli’s ‘architectural’ furniture had a profound impact on design in the 20th century. Here, we look at a complete interior by the Italian pioneer, offered in our Design sale on 26 October

Carlo de Carli was 24 when he graduated from the Polytechnic University of Milan in 1934, having trained during a period of political upheaval that had shaken the country. He worked with the legendary architect and designer Giò Ponti before setting up a studio of his own, embarking upon a long career that would help shape 20th-century Italian design.

De Carli’s designs quickly became widely admired and were reproduced by major Italian manufacturers including Cassina and Tecno. A respected academic and writer, his philosophy centred on the rhythms and continuities in the relationships between space, material and the human body.

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), An important settee, 1949. Original velvet upholstery, laminated birch, brass. 30½ in (77.5 cm) high; 54¼ in (138 cm) wide; 24⅜ in (62 cm) deep. Estimate £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), An important settee, 1949. Original velvet upholstery, laminated birch, brass. 30½ in (77.5 cm) high; 54¼ in (138 cm) wide; 24⅜ in (62 cm) deep. Estimate: £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999),  a unique bureau, c.  1960. Walnut and walnut veneer, brass, painted metal, the cabinet door with a panel by Agenore Fabbri, ‘Personaggio I’, 1961, together with the original chair. 80½ in (204 cm) high; 105½ in (268 cm) wide; 14¼ in (36 cm) deep. Estimate £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), a unique bureau, c. 1960. Walnut and walnut veneer, brass, painted metal, the cabinet door with a panel by Agenore Fabbri, ‘Personaggio I’, 1961, together with the original chair. 80½ in (204 cm) high; 105½ in (268 cm) wide; 14¼ in (36 cm) deep. Estimate: £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

De Carli’s ethos was articulated most eloquently in the complete interior he created for Casa Galli in Milan. Offered in its entirety in the Design sale on 26 October, its furnishings were designed to fit around the lives of the home’s inhabitants — their structure influenced by nature, which de Carli viewed as the greatest designer of all.

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A desk and a pair of armchairs, 1949. Stained walnut, brass, glass, leather, painted steel, upholstery desk. Desk 30¼ in (77 cm) high; 47 in (119.5 cm) wide; 27½ in (70 cm) deep; each chair 33¾ in (85.5 cm) high; 22½ in (57 cm) wide; 20¾ in (52.5 cm) deep. Estimate £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A desk and a pair of armchairs, 1949. Stained walnut, brass, glass, leather, painted steel, upholstery desk. Desk: 30¼ in (77 cm) high; 47 in (119.5 cm) wide; 27½ in (70 cm) deep; each chair: 33¾ in (85.5 cm) high; 22½ in (57 cm) wide; 20¾ in (52.5 cm) deep. Estimate: £6,000-9,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

De Carli had outlined his vision for a ‘new architecture’ in the year before he created Casa Galli. He argued that ‘a chair, an armchair or a table must be elements in which one can feel an individual presence’, and set out to design furniture that responded not to built structures, but to human lives — or, as he wrote, ‘the thinking and the actions of the people who live in that environment’.

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A unique bed, 1949. Stained walnut, laminated birch. 39 in (99 cm) high; 70 in (178 cm) wide; 80⅛ in (203.5 cm) deep. Estimate £2,000-4,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A unique bed, 1949. Stained walnut, laminated birch. 39 in (99 cm) high; 70 in (178 cm) wide; 80⅛ in (203.5 cm) deep. Estimate: £2,000-4,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

The relationship between human form and design is particularly evident in de Carli’s chairs and beds, which, to some extent, dictate the pose of their user. Here again, he strived to create designs that incorporated the body’s movements and posture. 

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), an important armchair, 1949. Original velvet upholstery, laminated birch, brass. 30½ in (78 cm) high; 22¾ in (57.5 cm) wide; 27¾ in (70 cm) deep. Estimate £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), an important armchair, 1949. Original velvet upholstery, laminated birch, brass. 30½ in (78 cm) high; 22¾ in (57.5 cm) wide; 27¾ in (70 cm) deep. Estimate: £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Writer Gianni Ottolini later described De Carli’s chairs as ‘body pods’ designed to receive ‘human gestures’, citing as an example the 1964 Model 914, which was shaped to allow the user to sit ‘informally with legs akimbo’. 

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), An important dining suite, 1949. Original upholstery, walnut, mahogany, fruitwood, ash, macassar ebony, comprising eight chairs and a dining table.  Dining table 30 in (76 cm) high; 83 in (211 cm) long; 35¾ in (91 cm) wide, chairs 33½ in (85 cm) high; 18 in (46 cm) wide; 21½ in (55 cm) deep. Estimate £10,000-15,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), An important dining suite, 1949. Original upholstery, walnut, mahogany, fruitwood, ash, macassar ebony, comprising eight chairs and a dining table. Dining table: 30 in (76 cm) high; 83 in (211 cm) long; 35¾ in (91 cm) wide, chairs: 33½ in (85 cm) high; 18 in (46 cm) wide; 21½ in (55 cm) deep. Estimate: £10,000-15,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

The furniture De Carli created for Casa Galli spanned three rooms — spaces that were intended for eating, working and rest. De Carli was an advocate of space that ‘flowed’, and many of his designs incorporated details that suggested movement — from the curved edge of a table to the sloping line of a chair. 

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A pair of bedside tables, 1949. Walnut, birch veneer, brass, glass, acrylic. 19½ in (49.5 cm) high; 16¾ in (42.5 cm) wide; 17¾ in (45 cm) deep. Estimate £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), A pair of bedside tables, 1949. Walnut, birch veneer, brass, glass, acrylic. 19½ in (49.5 cm) high; 16¾ in (42.5 cm) wide; 17¾ in (45 cm) deep. Estimate: £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

For de Carli, this sense of movement — or speed — was the ‘new rhythm of architecture’, and ‘the wonderful poetics of life in movement’ was something he continued to believe in passionately.
 

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999),  a cabinet, 1949. Walnut, glass, brass, acrylic. 80¾ in (205 cm) high; 75 in (190.5 cm) wide; 15 in (38 cm) deep. Estimate £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street

Carlo de Carli (1910-1999), a cabinet, 1949. Walnut, glass, brass, acrylic. 80¾ in (205 cm) high; 75 in (190.5 cm) wide; 15 in (38 cm) deep. Estimate: £4,000-6,000. This lot is offered in Design on 26 October 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street