Best of Design:Vignelli Furniture

By Vignelli Center for Design Studies

Explore the furniture designs by designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli through their own words, from the lacquered Saratoga sofa in 1964 to the custom stacking chair for NYC restaurant SD26 in 2009.

Casigliani Metafora #1 table Casigliani Metafora #1 table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"We design furniture either because we cannot find in the marketplace what we need for a specific use, or because we are asked by a furniture manufacturer to design something for them. In the first instance, we select the materials; in the second, we articulate the manufacturer’s resources, be they wood, plastic, leather, marble, or others. The manufacturer establishes certain parameters related to his market position and we work within or beyond them, trying to solve the problem at hand according to our interpretation of it."

Poltronova Saratoga furniture by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Poltronova Saratoga Furniture Line, 1964

"This was the first line of lacquered furniture on the market, and it established the “gloss” look of the 1960s. The intent was to design a furniture series that would look built-in. The hard edges of the containing shapes, in black or white lacquer, contrast with the softness of the pillows in warm tan or black leather."

Casigliani Metafora #1 table Casigliani Metafora #1 table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Casigliani Metafora 1 Coffee Table, 1979

"Four basic shapes of Euclidean geometry, in four different marbles. Again, a table is a plane with some support under it. The four pieces are loose; you can place them at your whim."

Sunar Hauserman Rotunda Chair Sunar Hauserman Rotunda Chair by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

SunarHauserman Rotonda Chair, 1979

"This chair’s shape is derived from the natural curve on the fabric stretched between the top and bottom frames. The chair has a tubular steel frame and a molded polyurethane foam cushion covered in fabric."

Knoll Handkerchief Chair Knoll Handkerchief Chair by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Knoll Handkerchief Chair, 1982-1987

"A radical departure in proportions makes this chair quite different from regular stacking chairs. The shell, molded in reinforced plastic, stresses the notion of form and relates to the human body."

Knoll Handkerchief Chair and Paperclip Table Knoll Handkerchief Chair and Paperclip Table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"The frame is minimal and designed for stackability. The main “image” of the chair is its floating shape, like a handkerchief in the air. Design development: David Law."

Casigliani Kono Table Casigliani Kono Table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Casigliani Kono Table, 1984

"The Kono table has a glass top resting on a slab or granite on one side, and the tip of a metal cone on the other. The cone comes in a variety of finishes from rusted steel to gold-leafed steel. This design exploits the relationship between abstract geometrical figures and material finishes."

Casigliani Pisa Table Casigliani Pisa Table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Casigliani Pisa Table, 1985

"Once again a table stressing the notion of identity and diversity. The relationship between the two elements, the column and the slab, could change according to the user wishes, but the table identity remains constant."

Acerbis Serenissimo table Acerbis Serenissimo table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Acerbis Serenissimo Table, 1985

"The Serenissimo table stresses the contrast between heavy, massive legs and a very thin top. The legs are made of steel, the surface of which has been coasted with “Venetian stucco,” a special blend of plaster and oxides which gives them a precious, uneven, handmade finish. The frame is natural steel and the floating top is sandblasted glass."

HBF March Chair HBF March Chair by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

HBF March Chair, 1988

"We wanted to design a basic wooden arm-chair, to be used in a variety of situations, from hospital, offices and restaurants. It has been designed in two variations, stacking and not."

Poltrona Frau Interview (Intervista) Chair Poltrona Frau Interview (Intervista) Chair by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Poltona Frau Interview Chair, 1988

"This chair was designed for the Tg2 television set for a particular seating position. While the chair expresses the easiness of a lounge, in reality it is very much like a side chair, where you can talk and be alert. It is now successfully on the market for a variety of uses - which goes to show you the power of the TV media."

Bernini Forte table by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Bernini Forte Table, 1991

"Usually a dining table stands in the middle of a dining room, alone and naked for the whole day, waiting for dinner time. We wanted to design a table that could stand in a room, and with its own presence dominate the space around, just like a fort. Hence its name."

Bernini Executive Chair by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Bernini Executive Chair, 1993

"This chair was designed as an executive chair for the “grand piano” desk."

Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design (2010) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Bernini Grand Piano, Executive desk, 1993

"This executive desk has two working positions, one for regular work, with a file cabinet on the side, and a larger one for meetings with people."

Bernini Gran Piano desk (1990) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

"A modesty panel becomes the main supporting element connecting the two areas."

Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design (2010) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

Heller Vignelli Chair, 2003

"This chair has been designed for indoor and outdoor use as well. It is made with injection molding nylon in three colors: warm red, warm gray and black. The high gloss finish gives a particular identity to this product."

Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design Design: Vignelli exhibition, Rochester, NY. Furniture Design (2010) by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

SD26 Stacking Chair, 2009

"This stacking chair was designed for the private events rooms at the SD26 Restaurant in New York."

Design: Vignelli exhibition slideshow by Vignelli, LellaVignelli Center for Design Studies

This slideshow, created by Massimo and Lella Vignelli, is included as part of the "Design: Vignelli" exhibition at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. When you enter the 3rd floor furniture gallery, you can view this program on the monitor. The slideshow primarily features examples of their 3D work : interiors, furniture, and products.

Credits: Story

Thank you to Massimo and Lella Vignelli for having the vision to preserve such a rich and complete archive of your design and for giving it to the world for inspiration.


The quoted text and artifacts featured here are part of the "Design: Vignelli" exhibition on view at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. The exhibition was designed, written, and curated by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. It is the last of their exhibition designs still open to the public.


This virtual exhibition was created by Jennifer Whitlock, Archivist at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. Over the course of three years, she digitized nearly every artifact, wrote metadata descriptions, and curated this exhibition.


And to the student Archives Assistants at the Vignelli Center for Design Studies who helped with photographing the galleries, gathering artifacts, transcribing the gallery text, scanning, and moral support. Thank you, Alexandra Serpikov, Emily Sharp, Claire Popoli, Leah Green, and Carmen Lopez.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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