From its creation, B&B Italia has cultivated an image of being a modern Italian luxury brand that is based on innovative industrial models. The company uses high-tech production techniques and materials such as plastic and polyurethane foams. B&B quickly established itself as one of the leading companies in the furniture market during the second half of the 20th century.
Alchemy is built up between creativity, innovation, and industrial capacity. From this alchemy emerges modern, exclusive furnishing elements that are characterized by high quality and timeless elegance. Adventure, challenge, and innovation are the key words to describe B & B furniture.
The B & B Italia furniture collection was created to represent contemporary culture. B&B responds quickly to the evolution of the home environment. The modern furnishing elements are both distinctive and uniquely beautiful as a result.
Continuous research and collaboration with international designers have been key factors in the company's strategic development. It is an approach that has allowed the Italian B&B to distinguish itself from all others over the years. B&B has received many honors and awards over the years, including four Golden Compasses--the most prestigious award for industrial design in Italy.
Diversity of B & B Italian designs
Among the wide range of products you can find:
B&B’s extraordinary design and quality of workmanship has always delighted people over the years. The brand's designs decorate the interiors of exclusive apartments, hotels and buildings. The variety of designs offered allows you to choose furniture that will fit harmoniously into both minimalist and modern interiors, as well as those decorated in a classic style.
The first steps of Piero Ambrogio Busnelli
The identity of this famous brand owes everything to its founder, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli - nicknamed "il Leone" (the lion). He was born in 1926 to poor parents in la Brianza. This is both a fertile breeding ground in terms of entrepreneurship and the historical cradle of design in the province of Como in Lombardy.
Busnelli was a talent spotter and invented a revolutionary process for mass production: polyurethane foam padding. In order to build the image of the brand on which he would build his empire, he relied on unknown geniuses in architecture and photography. He then teamed up with some of the leading names in design.
B & B Busnelli & Piano
Busnelli trusted a young architect who had not yet proven himself: Renzo Piano. Busnelli commissioned him to design the headquarters of his company in Novedrate. Even if it was not visible from the city skyline, he wanted it to be unique.
In 1971, the young architect imagined a sort of sketch of the future Pompidou Centre, which made him famous a few years later. The concept was that of a box suspended inside a tubular metal structure with--on the outside--visible and colored pipes.
Risk taking and poker moves for B & B
In the 1960s, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli's main concern was not to follow in the footsteps of the artisanal businesses that flourished in the region. The design pioneer preferred to take risks, which paid off as he managed to revolutionize the production process. From improbable poker shots to brilliant intuitions, his goal was to win the market with a managerial approach.
The origin of the name B & B Italia Designer
B&B was initially called C&B, following a partnership with the artisan chair maker Cesare Cassina. However, Busnelli was looking at the rapidly developing plastic materials sector, and as a result, he left Cassina to his artisanal production, and borrowed his network of designers such as:
- Afra and Tobia Scarpa
- Vico Magistretti
- Gaetano Pesce
B&B Italia 'Diesis' Leather Sofa
He was always looking for ways to industrialize his own production. Forced to find the funds for this purpose because he no longer had a partner, Busnelli turned to the banks. In a grateful stroke of humor, he named his company B&B for "Bank & Busnelli".
The discovery of Piero Ambrogio Busnelli for B & B
Torn by the need to stay ahead of progress, Piero Ambrogio Busnelli found himself strolling around London at the plastic materials fair in the mid-60s. He saw a stand with perfectly round ducks, made in one piece thanks to a special mold casting. He then had the idea of adapting this process to produce a seat.
The entrepreneur returned to Italy with the recipe for the polyurethane that gave life to the famous ducks. It's a mixture of two milky liquids that--when fused together--produce a chemical reaction that creates a voluminous paste that perfectly fits the shape of any container.
New innovative Design Technology
After his London trip, a new way of designing furniture was born. It allowed Busnelli to drastically reduce production costs and to experiment with infinite forms and shapes of furniture. An organic sofa such as Zaha Hadid's Moon System marketed in 2007 could not have been conceived without such structural simplicity.
For each of them a specially designed mold was made. It's a sort of monumental waffle iron from which the entire piece of furniture is extracted. The density of the upholstery is calculated beforehand in the same way as you would make cake dough. And by combining technological discoveries such as the use of metal instead of wood, it became possible to increase the dimensions of the seat.
This entrepreneurial breakthrough in the 1960s led to the creation of the Italian furniture including one-piece sofas, which became so iconic and shaped the history of the company.
The Coronado model, dating from 1966, represented a first revolution as its elements were assembled using only six screws, thus allowing delivery in kit form. Other inventions then followed one after the other.
In 1969, Gaetano Pesce designed a round armchair shaped like a woman's body, which he named « Up ». It is sold under vacuum and once out of its packaging, it is spontaneously inflated with freon gas to take its final shape. It is a technique that is forbidden today. This was a kind of artistic performance to which a political message was added. The chair was tied by a rope to a large ball that was believed to symbolize the condition of women in prison.
B&B Italia 'George' Armchairs
Mario Bellini's Bambole (1972) was presented at the Milan Fair that same year. It made its way into the spotlight thanks to a suggestive advertising campaign by a young unknown photographer, Oliviero Toscani. He was the controversial author of the Benetton ads. The poster, displayed in front of the stand, showed the top model of the time, Donna Jordan, half-naked on the couch. It stirred up the censorship committee. The scandal prompted unexpected success for B&B Italia.
Like the materials, shapes also have a story at B&B Italia. In order to get the line of his Papilio chair accepted, Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa had to revise his model several times before it was approved by the Research and Development Center. He had to lighten the prototype with his originally planned metal legs, which were considered too vintage. The result was a hollowed-out cone with a wing-shaped backrest. It was anchored to the ground, with a streamlined yet enveloping design.
As for the Crinoline armchair designed for an outdoor collection, Patricia Urquiola was inspired by the rattan of a basket brought back from a trip. She uses polyethylene fibers for this project.
The trademark would perhaps not have the world-wide reputation it enjoys without its more consensual line: Maxalto. The brand was founded by B&B Italia in 1975, with a focus on the reinterpretation of classic design forms.
The brand name refers to the term "Massa Alto", which means “highest” in Italian. This is precisely what we can expect from this company's products--top quality design that never disappoints.
The artistic direction of Maxalto was first entrusted to Afra and Tobia Scarpa, then to Antonio Citterio in 1993. In 2002, Antonio Citterio was entrusted with the construction of a third building. It houses:
- The research and development center
- The underground mold storage room
- A professional showroom
The B&B Italia woodworking plant uses more traditional techniques, from precious wood veneers to shellac varnishing techniques. The aim is to design furniture whose luxury is ingrained in the smallest details.
B&B Italia : the expert
At B&B Italia, the technologies and materials used to manufacture the products are an integral part of advanced research. Moreover, quality control is carried out at every phase of production. These manufacturing processes ensure that each product has its own identity and meets the requirements of the international market.
B&B Italia 'Husk' Sofa
B&B Italia has a network of over 700 businesses who use its products located in some 50 countries. Among its customers are:
- Luxurious hotels
- Gourmet restaurants
- Dreamy yachts and holidays cruise ships
- Multi-function stores and showrooms
- Huge banks
- Renowned theaters
- High-quality museums
- International airports
Is there any secret to such a wide range of activities? Yes, there is. Not only does B&B Italia offer a very rich selection of furniture, but its expertise also enables the manufacturer to provide tailor-made answers to each customer. This is made possible with an innovative industrial tool that features four production units and a center dedicated to research and development.
B & B Collaboration with famous international designers
B&B Italia has collaborated with the most important international designers and architects, including:
- Afra and Tobia Scarpa
- Antonio Citterio
- Atelier Oi
- Chris Howker
- David Chipperfield
- Ettore Sottsass
- Gaetano Pesce
- Jakob Wahner
- Jean-Marie Massaud
- Jeffrey Bernett
- Marcel Wanders
- Mario Bellini
- Naoto Fukasawa
- Paolo Piva
- Patricia Urquiola
- Richard Sapper
- Richard Schultz
- Studio Kairos
- Vico Magistretti
- Zaha Hadid
B&B Italia in figures
- Year of creation : 1966
- Factory : 28 000 m2
- Workforce: 500 people, including 250 in the 3 plants
- Presence: in 80 countries
- Flagship-stores: 8
- Monobrand stores: 40
- Resellers: approximately 800
- Turnover: €170 M (of which 78% comes from exports)
The term that best sums up B&B Italia is quality. Since its creation, the research center has allowed it to become an industrial company at the service of design. Busnelli has devoted 3% of the company's revenue to it. As a result, thousands of innovative projects have been created and spread on a global scale.
B&B Italia is a world-famous brand because it exported its products very early on. The policy of opening flagship-stores, initiated in 2001 in France, has had an impact on its great notoriety.
The first flagship in Paris
A new space entirely dedicated to the Italian brand B&B Italia has opened up in the historic district of Paris. It was natural for B&B Italia to partner with the leading distributor Silvera for its first Parisian flagship store.
The prestigious Italian publisher is located in a former customs listed building. The layout was entrusted to the architect and designer Jean-Marie Massaud, who transformed the 8,000 square feet location to reflect the image of B&B: creative and modern.
The showroom’s layout
The three levels of the building are connected by a smoked glass staircase that is more than 100 feet high. The home, outdoor and project collections of B&B Italia are displayed on each platform.
B&B Italia 'Eucalipto' Console
Collections for the interior, exterior and public spaces with sofas and outdoor furniture fill the ground floor and the basement. Offices, large meeting tables and rest areas for the tertiary sector are located on the 1st floor.
Iconic furniture collections
The setting is immaculate, fluid and luminous. It fades away to highlight the lines and curves of the furniture, so that you can discover the brand's best-sellers such as:
- The Up collection signed by Gaetano Pesce
- The Moon System by Zaha Hadid
- The Crinoline armchair designed by Patricia Urquiola
- Jean-Marie Massaud's sublime daybed
- The Luis sofa by Antonio Citterio
- And much more
B&B Italia's contract business
B&B Italia's contract business is now responsible for a big part of its overall revenue. Sales Director Roberto Barbazza says that this is a very good time for the contract business, especially in Europe.
He also mentions the Olympic Games in London, which brought B&B some prestigious projects. These include the luxurious Bulgari Hotel and the Café Royal Hotel.
B&B designer Piero Lissoni worked on the beautiful Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam. The brand has also signed with the Clarion Hotel Post in Gothenburg in Sweden, and the Clarion in Norway.
Discover the durability secret of this emblematic brand
To look at the duration is to evoke that of the products themselves. It would not be wrong to say that a B&B Italia sofa or armchair is indestructible. To understand why, you have to drop the cover and dive into the soul of the product, both in the literal and figurative sense.
After Piero Ambrogio Busnelli discovered polyurethane foam at the event in London, he developed it into an extraordinary product for the manufacture of armchairs and sofas with original shapes.
By combining this cold-molded material with a metal frame, it becomes possible to obtain a comfortable and resistant seat, and to do so without the traditional wooden structure. As a result, the shapes given by a metal mold are freed up and can adopt any fantasy in terms of dimensions and design.
Behind the scenes of furniture production
At the factory, production is divided into two lines:
- Armchairs and footstools
A carousel is used to hold the molds that rotate for about 20 minutes. The polyurethane foam is cold injected, swells to 40 times its initial volume and solidifies.
The workers then simply have to remove the sofa or armchair from the mold and remove the remaining residue. The garment department then takes over, preparing the leathers and fabrics that have been checked one by one and then assembled. The last step is to cover the foam with a protective layer of Dacron, a synthetic textile, which gives it more flexibility before the final dressing.
B&B Italia 'Dado' Nightstands
B&B Italia is able to create custom-made products for both individuals and contracts. The company uses both the products of the collection, but can modify the size or the finishes as well. B&B can also create tailor-made products with architects, or even manage an entire project, like a hotel for example.
The fabrics used are the result of rigorous research. They are a mixture of natural and synthetic yarns, tested for their resistance to all types of use. Some fabrics are also subjected to treatments to increase their performance tenfold and meet customer expectations.
Whether it is the Diesis sofa or the Mart armchair, the beauty and suppleness of the leather used is amazing. And this is not surprising, because the brand pays particular attention to the origin of its skins.
The selected leathers come from animals bred within the European Union. All demonstrate a guarantee of care and attention to the animal's well-being.
To preserve the excellence of this raw material, treatments and finishes ensure optimal conservation of the natural characteristics of the leather.
The wood on furniture
As far as wood is concerned, the Italian designer is banking on American white oak rift. It’s easily recognizable by its straight and irregular fiber, with a texture that is sometimes a little coarse.
Rosewood comes from controlled cultivation in Latin America. Its veins with chromatic reflections make this wood an inimitable and unique species.
The teak used for outdoor collections is one of the most prestigious tropical woods. Its exceptional qualities against bad weather and its natural fatty resin increase its impermeability and make it extremely resistant.
The different marbles offered by B&B Italia have two types of finishes, depending on the customer's expectations: matte or varnished. An anti-stain treatment slows down the absorption of liquids. The polyester varnish enhances the marked veining and chromatic reflections of the marbles.
There’s a big selection, which includes:
- Emperador marble
- White Calacatta marble
- Marquinia black marble
With all these options, you are sure to find the perfect marble look.
Family business in the hands of global investors
B&B Italia has always been run by its founder, who was very intuitive and visionary. When he became sick, his son made the decision to bring in investors.
In 2011, he bought B&B from the private financial company Opera, which obtained a majority stake in 2002. He has been running the company with his brother since the death of their father in 2014.
Investindustrial has been alongside B&B Italia since 2015. It provides a vision for the future and motivates the development of the company's communication. A year later, the company bought out his fellow businesses Arclinea and Azucena. Arclinea is a high-end chef and Azucena owns the archives and the rights to the designer's creations, Luigi Caccia Dominioni.
Photo Credit: B&B Italia Website
In 2016, B&B Italia celebrated its 50th anniversary by presenting limited edition pieces at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.
International Design Group
As part of the International Design Group, B&B Italia joins two small and medium-sized lighting specialists--the Danish Louis Poulsen and the Italian Flos. For its part, Flos acquired the outdoor lighting manufacturer Ariès.
All of these companies carry out most of their business outside Italy. Exports account for 80% of B&B Italia's sales--40% of which are in the United States and China--and 65% at Arclinea. The chef has just launched his first showroom in Paris in Beaupassage, the small luxury mall.
These brands enjoy a strong image with architects and decorators and are generating a growing share of their business through contracts to fit out:
- Concert halls
- And other luxury boutiques
Within the same entity, it will be easier for them to create large showrooms to highlight their offerings. The first of its kind has already opened in Paris, bringing together the Boffi, De Padova and MA/U Studio brands.
The visionary spirit of Piero Ambrogio Busnelli always seems to hover in the corridors, taking the company to other territories.
Awarded four Compasso d'Oro awards--one of which was given to the company itself in 1989--B&B Italia can boast of having earned a special place in the furniture industry. The company is supported by prestigious collaborations.
Tips for choosing furniture colors
We can increase the aesthetic value of the living room by making appropriate color adjustments. For example, the fashionable and timeless combination of white and black requires using appropriate proportions with a clear advantage of one color. Grey is also popular in interior design, but it is good to break through it with a flashy color. A bit of turquoise, yellow or red in decorative elements is all it takes.
Tips to arrange your interior with taste
Healthy moderation should also be maintained when choosing forms of furniture. A coffee table inspired by a shell shape is enough to emphasize the modern character of the living room. Therefore, there is no need to duplicate this pattern of design, as you do not want it to become desperately kitschy.
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