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Makers: B&B Italia

Posted by George Sims on

B&B Italia founder Busnelli

There are few Italian furniture makers that can rival the strength of the B&B archive.

There is only a handful of furniture makers in the world that could come close.

A flick through the company annals will have you drowning in design.

Hardly surprising when they have enlisted the likes Bellini, Sottsass, Starck and Hadid to lead that effort. 

The continued success of B&B is not, however, built exclusively upon the vitality of the creative energies involved.

The company has always been at the forefront of innovation in materials and production.

Put these two elements together and you get some potent results.

B&B italia Gaetano Pesce

Where to Buy B&B Furniture

B&B Italia is still very much alive and kicking with flagship stores in London, Paris, New York, Milan and more. 

There is also a ton of authorised resellers throughout the world.

This news is relevant to anyone who loves its iconic designs from the twentieth century as a lot of the best shapes can still be purchased.

If you really want vintage, then check in with the usual suspects like eBay, Pamono, Vinterior, 1st Dibs and Kairos.

Of course, we’d like it if you checked our vintage furniture collection, too.

There is a string of vintage furniture stores in London that may also be able to help.

B&B Italia premises

Where is B&B From?

B&B, formerly C&B Italia, was founded in Novedrate, Como in 1966 by Piero Ambrogio Busnelli and Cesare Cassina.

Note, Cassina remains a notable name in Italian furniture production today.

B&B's premises, partly designed by the legendary Richard Rogers and Lorenzo Piano, is still located at the same site.

What’s even more interesting is that the architects were appointed prior to their work on the Pompidou Centre and that the B&B offices bear many of its defining features.

This gives you an insight into the sort of visionaries that were leading the company in those early days.

What did B&B do?

Simply put, they made some of the most iconic furniture of a generation.

There is, however, unquestionably more to the story.

B&B’s masterstroke seems to have been enlisting some of Italy’s finest architects to head the design output.

The list includes Mario Bellini, Vico Magistretti, Tobia Scarpa and Gaetano Pesce.

Busnelli is also famed for pioneering some truly revolutionary production techniques but more of that in a second.

B&B Italia

Where was B&B Furniture Made?

B&B Italia furniture was, and still is, made at their production facilities in Como.

What is B&B Furniture Made From?

Busnelli is credited with adopting a radical approach to furniture making.

He rejected the established tropes of working with wood in favour of using new materials.

“My idea is to replace the traditional wooden frame with an iron one, and to insert this inside a mould. Once closed, the mould is then filled with cold foam. After 30 minutes, you have a fully-fledged product ready to be extracted”.

It’s not the only way they made furniture, but this development was certainly critical to their success.

How to Identify B&B Furniture

There is a good chance that you’ll find a stamp somewhere.

The plastic base of the Amanta armchairs, for example, has the logo and designer embossed so there can be little argument about provenance.

If you can’t see any markings, it’s a good idea to cross reference the dimensions against what you will find on the B&B website as they still sell a number of their most recognisable designs.

You might also check the measurements against other reputable vintage sellers like Pamono and 1st Dibs as well.

B&B Le Bambole Mario Bellini

What is B&B Most Famous For?

B&B probably achieved a large chunk of its reputation by association.

The list of creatives and architects who have worked with the company down the years reads like a who’s who of twentieth century designers.

They have also been no slouches when it comes to self-promotion either.

There is an argument to suggest that it was a racy advert for Bellini’s Le Bambole featuring Donna Jordan (Andy Warhol’s muse) that attracted more attention than their products.

It also helps when the range was so good it won the Compasso d’Oro award in 1979.

B&B Pesce Big Mama

What’s B&B’s Most Famous Design?

Bellini’s modular Camaleonda seating arrangement is very hard to overlook (pictured below).

It’s also very, very cool.

However, we’re inclined to say Gaetano Pesce’s UP5_6 armchair. (Also known as “Big Mama” and “Blow Up”).

This is an outrageously good shape and it comes in some equally outlandish colourways that seem to improve with every viewing.

We also find it difficult to forget because of what its designer said about the piece:

At that time, I was telling a personal story about my concept of women: I believe that women have always been unwilling prisoners of themselves. This is why I decided to give this armchair the shape of a woman with a ball and chain, a traditional image of a prisoner.

Okay, Gaetano. We’ll take your word for it.

Bellini B&B Camaleonda

Is B&B Furniture Valuable?

Absolutely. 

A decent vintage Camaleonda living room set would probably fetch in the region of £35-40,000.

Smaller pieces can be sourced for less but you’re unlikely to find anything worth having for less than £1,500 when shopping through the usual channels.

Bear in mind that re-upholstery costs on some of the more complex shapes could set you back about the same as what you paid.

But it’s highly unlikely that you’d ever regret your purchase.


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