I was fortunate to be able to make a third visit to the International Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) in Milan last week, and as ever it was both amazing and overwhelming. At this year’s fair there were more than 2,500 exhibitors, and more than 324,000 visitors from 160 countries. After days and days of walking and many hours of flying, it’s good to be back in the showroom with some time to reflect on it all.
It’s always difficult to discern simple trends or threads that can weave together more than 2,500 exhibits — and a multiple of that in terms of new lines/collections. But one thing that did stand out is that the look of natural/light wood finishes definitely seems to be on the rise — especially when paired with solid colored wool felt. Among the photos below you can see this look from several different suppliers.
Beyond that, one of the other big observable trends was a return of visitors and a general optimism about better days ahead. Each of the suppliers that I spoke to felt that the market was improving and that 2013 would finally put the “the crisis” behind us.
Leading edge design, quality craftsmanship, attention to detail — all these hallmarks of Italian furniture were well represented at the fair. Among the photos above, in no particular order, are some of the other things that caught my attention at the fair.
If you’d like more information on any of these items, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.
On our sister site, Paris Nook French Furniture, we had an opportunity this week to converse with Toma Haines, the Antiques Diva. Her enthusiasm regarding French, Italian, and other European furniture is so infectious that we wanted to share the conversation with your in its entirety…
It was only last month that I wrote about the beautiful inlaid dining table to seat 20 that we had recently produced for a client. Well, in the past week it seems like the most popular request I’ve had from clients has been for more information on extra long dining tables, so I thought it worth revisiting the subject.
The short answer to the question, “Can you make a dining table to seat ___,” is “Yes, we can definitely do that”. First, there are several tables on our site that are already shown in configurations that go beyond 13′ long . Second, because everything we sell is made to order Italy, almost any table (even the already long tables) can be made longer to suit the needs of a client’s space.
The general rule of thumb is 24″ (60cm) per chair, so for example, a table to seat 20 will be around 18′ long. If you’ve got that kind of space in your dining room, we can make a table to fit it. And any of the special inlaid wood tops of the tables can generally be adapted and extended to the larger sizes.
Here are a few examples that we’ve pulled together for clients recently to show larger dining tables.
If you’ve got a large dining room, and are looking for a formal dining table to fit the space, we’re up to the challenge…
In response to the question “How long should a man’s legs be in proportion to his body?” Abraham Lincoln famously replied that “…on first blush I should judge they ought to be long enough to reach from his body to the ground.”
We often get asked questions about appropriate proportions for a given piece of furniture. The answer, like Lincoln’s response, often boils down to the appropriateness to a client’s particular situation. The beauty of furniture that’s hand-crafted to order in Italy is the ability to make clients’ desired changes — to fit their specific home’s needs, or their specific sense of style.
As an example, this Tosato glass display case comes standard at a height of roughly 30″. Our client had a desire for the piece to stand roughly 5-6″ taller when completed. So we worked with Tosato to redesign the cabinet with new, longer legs.
Revised design - Tosato display cabinet
And with the custom inlaid wood sideboard shown below, the original design of the piece called for an overall height that was about 10cm (4″) shorter than what would best fit the client’s dining room. So we worked with our Italian supplier to modify the proportions of the legs and body together to get to the client’s perfect height.
Italian inlaid wood buffet - custom height
Custom Italian furniture: the freedom to go “just long enough”.
One of the benefits of making things to order in Italy is the ability to customize tables to quite large sizes. And while it’s not the largest table we’ve done, this recently completed custom table for a client in New Jersey — 18′2″ when fully extended, to seat 20 — was sufficiently striking that I thought it was worth sharing.
It’s an adaptation of our largest-selling boat shaped Italian dining table, with special Botini inlaid wood top. Artfully combining a variety of woods, including Etimoé, Rosewood, burled Olive wood, and Maple, this striking geometric inlay sits atop three carved solid wood pedestals.
(Our Italian supplier was sufficiently proud of their work that they snapped several pictures before packing it for shipment overseas.)
I know that not everyone has a dining room large enough for an 18′ table (mine certainly doesn’t). But if you’re looking for something custom-sized, or just custom-styled to fit your space, let us know how we can help.
I’ve mentioned before how clients and their requests come in all shapes and sizes. Well, the photo below is a great visual (and recent reminder) of how working on client questions/issues/concerns is both a test of how well a brand can live up to its promises, and a testament to how varied these issues can be.
The photo above shows a few ball bearings that have mysteriously fallen out of one of our client’s rolling Italian desk chairs. If I were to guess, I’d say that this particular Italian supplier got a faulty batch of wheels at some point along the way. The important thing for our client to know is that it doesn’t really matter why this happened, only that we will take care of it for him.
On our next container from Italy — expected to arrive once Hurricane Sandy is safely out of the way of our New Jersey warehouse — is a replacement part for the table of another client. In her case, part of the table’s extending mechanism had prematurely developed a crack. This was the first time we’d had this kind of problem, and again considered it completely unacceptable for a quality Italian dining table. We will be bringing her cracked part back for further investigation, but — because we stand behind what we sell — it’s another case where the client needn’t worry.
On a lot of websites you’ll see symbols like those shown at right. I can’t tell you what they mean on every site, but I can tell you that at ItalyByWeb these symbols mean we take our relationships with our customers seriously. Our “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau — and a history of zero customer complaints there — is a perfect example of this; the story of the ball bearings is yet another.
Buying Italian furniture online may seem like a leap of faith; doing it with a brand you can trust makes that leap an easy step.
Well, the Italian craftsmen and -women have finally finished this special project, and the new, custom Italian dining set is currently on its way across the ocean to its new home in America. While it’s en route, I wanted to share some photos of the finished products, and some of the pride the Italians took in their work: in their own words,
“I hope client will appreciate, for me is very beautiful.”
While it’s generally easiest (read: least expensive) to start with personalization through the creative use of finish color/style, swapping inlays, special fabric selection, etc., it’s also always possible to have our Italian craftsmen produce something completely custom. As an illustration, here are three special proposals we made for clients just this week.
1. take a beautiful Italian dining chair, and modify it for a contract seating project — in this case to make it easier to use in a senior living facility by increasing the arm height and seat depth, and adding a handle on the back for ease of movement by the cleaning staff
2. take a formal Italian dining table that was introduced at the Milan furniture fair, and produce it 30% smaller to fit the special size of a client’s dining room
3. use the model of this 36′ long dining table to propose a table for a client needing to seat 20 people (an easy task when the table you’re starting with can accommodate seating for more than 38)
These are just the few examples that cropped up this week; and in the hands of skilled Italian furniture makers, these examples only scratch the surface of what’s possible. From special hand-cut wood inlays, to completely custom shaped tables, we’ve can produce — and have produced — many other beautiful pieces for clients.
One of the great things about importing Italian furniture for clients all over the country (and world) is that you just never know what sort of interesting challenge clients will put to you. Recently I got a call from a client who told me she loved the Italian chairs at the Nashville airport Starbucks, and wondered if we might be able to get 50 of them for her for a cafe she was opening. She had only the supplier’s name and a rough description of chairs.
Tracking down the Italian supplier was straightforward enough. But finding an image of a stool at an airport cafe located more than 800 miles away was a bit trickier. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, however, I was able to track down the “Mayor” of the Nashville Airport Starbucks on Foursquare (to ask her if she had a photo), and later to find a dozen photos of the very cafe!
With that information in hand, we were almost ready to see what the Italian supplier could do to for our client’s project. One small problem though: with Italy effectively closed for their August holidays, we could only wait patiently until they reopened after Labor Day. By the time they did, the chair that we’d identified from the airport Starbucks had become an international celebrity: the Sergio Mian designed Baba stool was the very same one that Clint Eastwood had famously addressed at the Republican National Convention.
Clint Eastwood addresses the Baba Italian stool at Republican National Convention
If you like the stool, we can easily get them customized for you in wood, leather, or COM. And if you want someone to track down the perfect Italian furniture for your next project, call us with your challenge.
While this quote reads like a testimonial, it’s actually just a snippet of an email I received last week from a client. I share it here because it nicely encapsulates a few simple — but important — ideas that guide our efforts at ItalyByWeb.
First, there is the obvious and essential starting point of beautiful product. I hope even a casual tour of our site makes it readily apparent that we really work hard to find and customize beautiful Italian furniture for our clients.
Second, third and fourth are the intertwined ideas of trust, integrity, and follow through which I think are becoming increasingly rare these days. In this client’s case, the initial delivery of her table was not perfect; the grain pattern in the wood gave the appearance that the top had been produced incorrectly. While the supplier was right in pointing out the natural variations in wood grain were behind this illusion, it was also clear that the client would not be happy with this table.
Client's note on original delivery document
We accepted full responsibility for making things right for the client, and arranged for an entirely new top to be produced and delivered. It took several weeks of additional production time, communication with the client, and arranging an additional pickup and delivery. This is — as you might image — not the least expensive way to do business. As you can see from the quote at the top of this post, however, it’s what we work toward every day.
We feel it’s important for clients not only to have access to unique, hand-crafted Italian furniture, but also the security of knowing it will meet and exceed their expectations.