Where Design Diversity and Italian Craftmanship Intersect

  • Unlike many Italian brands founded in the 1940s and ’50s and who boast of heritage and pedigree, Baxter is a creation of recent times. It is, by comparison, something of a rebellious teenager. Founded in 1990 by Luigi Bestetti and his nephew Paolo, the brand was started out of devotion to the principles of Made in Italy, the desire to re-ignite the flame of modern Italian design and an obsession with leather.

    From the outset the brand offered a distinct sensibility by pursuing an aesthetic that had, paradoxically, a strong Anglo influence. The brand’s early products subverted classic British sofa styles like the Roll Arm and Chesterfield sofas, giving these standards a contemporary edge. Pieces like the Alfred by Marco Milisich (1997) and Charlotte by Giuseppe Manzoni (1999) were impeccably crafted with subtle reinventions. While the current designs invariably push new ground, the obsession with the creative use of leather has never waned.

    Produced in partnership with Space Furniture

    Age-old techniques to manipulate leather with masterful dying techniques, folds and buttoning are a constant feature in Baxter’s collection as seen by landmark designs such as the Chester Moon sofa by Paola Navone from 2009. More recently the brand received critical acclaim for the Tactile sofa by architect, artist and designer Vincenzo De Cotiis. The sofa totally subverts sofa norms in terms of shape and proportion while exhibiting the extraordinary talent Baxter brings to constructing furniture in leather.

    Proudly based in the city of Lurago D’erba, just 37 kilometres north of Milan, Baxter has recently acquired Casa Sul Lago, an early twentieth-century villa overlooking Lake Como. The brand has reinvented this residence as ‘Casa Baxter’ – where customers and their global dealer network can discover Baxter furniture in an extraordinary setting, presented in evocative and inspiring combinations, textures and colours.

    Baxter doesn’t rely on a house style as most large brands do. Instead, they engage with unique concepts that their roster of designers brings to the table. These exciting and often unconventional concepts are given full expression and allowed to develop into products that are brought together in inspiring and unpredictable ways. Baxter is, without doubt, a melting pot of ideas, providing interior designers with the ability to push their creativity in the choice of leather types and colours while encouraging them to be playful in how they juxtapose shape and material.

    A good example of Baxter’s creative approach can be seen in the Selene sideboard by Tel Aviv-born designer Hagit Pincovici which combines precious marble with brushed brass and gloss lacquer. The shape breaks away from the convention of sideboards as a rectangular storage box with doors, with the shape formed by a circle of marble at one end and a rectangle at the other. According to Baxter the tactile response to an object should be on par with the visual interest and material connections of the sort found in Selene and a host of other Baxter products appropriately display this complex balance.

    Baxter emphasises the dialogue between the various pieces that inhabit a space and the sense of dynamism and emotion that the furniture can create. Their portfolio of designers includes Milanese duo, Studiopepe, who are equally famous for their styling as they are designers; an ex-dancer, Antonio Sciortino, and set designer, architect and designer Pietro Russo who is obsessed with spatial divisions and scenography as much as he is product design. Draga & Aurel, the talented Serbian/ German duo are another of Baxter’s designers whose career path differs from that of the majority of product designers, having come from fashion and textile backgrounds. All of these creatives add to Baxter’s multi-disciplinary gene pool and bring a refined artistic response to objects and their relationship to space.

    Beyond this interest in collaborating with a diverse range of design talent is a strong belief in Italian artisans and the value of traditional techniques. Industrial processes take a back seat as Baxter embraces experimental approaches that lead to new ways of treating age-old materials like stone, glass, metal and leather. This artisan approach allows craftspeople once again to play a meaningful part in the design world they were so instrumental in creating rather than playing second fiddle to modern global manufacturing methods. Origins matter, experience and expertise matter and genuine creativity can bring all these elements together.

    Baxter CEO Paolo Bestetti says Made in Italy has become, over time, its own brand. “Our job today is to continue cultivating this idea, disconnecting from purely commercial ideas and remembering that all around the world, there’s a market that wants this type of product, which isn’t just a product but the beauty created within a product,” Paolo Bestetti says.

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