Gianfranco Frattini is one of the names who launched Italian design on the international stage after World War II. Before, the country was famous for artisanal furniture and objects, full of patterns and completely handmade. The decades of mass production changed this traditional way of working and creating. The industrial style became more and more popular for both furniture and everyday objects.
This style included the discovery of shapes and forms, the research of balance between creativity and functionality. Italian creators like Frattini focused on the concept of space and, with their pieces, they wanted people to think. In the era of consumerism, Frattini and other designers like Afra and Tobia Scarpa reinvented the modern world of design and furniture with pieces like the 849 Armchair.
The Specs of Agnese
This is one of Frattini’s first creations for the Italian company Cassina. He graduated in 1953 and, only three years later, he produced the 849 Armchair, also called Agnese. Linear and without any dazzling patterns or fantasies, this armchair is the perfect example of industrial and innovative design.
A strong ash wood structure supports that upholstered seat and the backrest. Gianfranco Frattini went back to traditional and warm materials in the decade of plastic, especially wood. And, in the case of the 849 Armchair, he combined strong wood with an internal frame of birch plywood and a base of solid ash wood. The steel creates contrast in feelings, giving Agnese a cold yet elegant vibe.
It’s also comfortable, thanks to the padding used. In fact, the Italian designer adopted an innovative technology for the 50s: polyurethane foam. Cozy and ergonomic, this armchair was both functional and alternative. The original design of 1956 also included a matching upholstered ottoman, the final touch to a creative furniture set.
When it came out to the public, Agnese broke every traditional design rule, and it even received an honorable mention at the 3rd Compasso d’Oro.
The 849 Armchair was so iconic that the Italian design company Tacchini repurposed it in 2014. This reissue includes the original hand-sewn stitching on the armrest. And the ottoman, of course.
The Story Behind the 849 Armchair
Frattini created this piece for Cassina, an Italian company that wasn’t afraid to be an alternative. But this wasn’t his first time collaborating with them. In fact, before the 849 Armchair, Frattini created two armchairs for Cassina.
- The 830 (1954) represents a breakthrough in Italian design. It’s made of foam rubber, new material in the 50s. It also features painted iron cod legs, solid and functional.
- The 831 (1955), also called Lina. This armchair features a solid wood frame and plywood elements that support the backrest. The padding features the latest technology: polyurethane foam.
After the Agnese armchair, he designed for Cassina two dining chairs:
- The 101 (1959), design at its most simple. With a structure in walnut or plywood, this chair was perfect for both the office and the dining table. The seat and frame are independent from the upholstery, ideal for assembling quickly. Meanwhile, the padding can be made of leather or fabric.
- The 107 (1960), this chair by Frattini features similar materials to the 101, but it differentiates in the cylindrical legs and the crossbars with rounded edges.
Without a doubt, Frattini’s collaboration with Cassina was fruitful since he kept creating furniture for them, even in the 1980s. After all, Cassina was known to partner up with the top and most alternative designers of the decades, including Gio Ponti.
So the story behind the 849 Armchair is the story of a new Italian design, the design that leaves the national boundaries to find space in the international market. Case in point is the Agnese by Gianfranco Frattini.