Deep Dive Into Design: Maxalto

by Joseph Lim
19 Jul 2023

We peek into the minds of some of the world's renowned furniture designers, giving us an insight into how they think and work to create the products that were showcased at highly anticipated design fairs, such as Salone del Mobile in Milan and 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen.

From design greats like Antonio Citterio to the husband-and-wife duo behind Dainelli Studio, we dove head first into creative conversations to fully understand how their creative minds tick. In addition, we were offered a glimpse into their creative flow and how they stay inspired on their creative journeys.

Arbiter sofa

Antonio Citterio is highly regarded in the realm of furniture, having designed for some of the biggest brands. A two-time Compasso d’Oro winner (1987 and 1995), Citterio pushes the boundaries of design with his exceptional architectural and industrial works.

Born in 1950 in Meda, Italy, Citterio graduated from the Polytechnic of Milan. The celebrated designer has worked for several leading manufacturers, such as Vitra, Flexform, Flos, and Kartell. He is the art director for both the B&B Italia and Maxalto brands, and is also the architect behind the group's retail showrooms around the world. In 1999, together with Patricia Viel, he founded Antonio Citterio and Partners, a multidisciplinary practice for architectural design, industrial design, and graphics.

The firm quickly gained prominence with a series of renowned projects, such as the luxury hotel chain, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts  –  first for the inaugural Bulgari Hotel in Milan in 2004, followed by the Bulgari Resort in 2006, and later, the Bulgari Restaurant and Cafe in Tokyo in 2007. In that same year, Citterio received the Royal Designer for Industry award from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London.

Caratos dining chair

For close to five decades, Maxalto's DNA has always been about timeless elegance. Since 1995, Citterio has been at the helm as the brand's Art Director. Citterio is regarded as a perfectionist when it comes to product details, such as the exact technicality of the upholstery of sofas and chairs. He insists that seats should always be plush, but soft. He also prescribes that Maxalto is about bringing personality into the hands of its owners by giving them myriad options for customization through combinations based on color, texture, material, size, and finish.

For Maxalto’s 2023 collection, there are a handful of standout pieces. There is the "Arbiter" sofa, designed by Citterio, with extra-large dimensions like its oversized back cushions that seem to wrap around the shoulders of those sitting. The sofa's dimensions span 270cm with a depth of 105cm and can be fitted in either leather or fabric upholstery. Then there’s the "Lilium" sofa, which sports organic-inspired lines with sinuous edges, perfect for convivial or intimate situations. Then there’s the “Caratos” dining chair, which gets an update for 2023, sporting a bulbous, enveloping backrest akin to the original design, but sporting a taller form.

(Related: A trip back to the fabulous '70s with Acerbis)

Tell us more about the essence of Maxalto as a furniture brand.
I design each Maxalto product based on the rituals of our lives – when we have our coffee in the morning, when we watch TV, when we read a book, etc. I design products to serve these quiet pursuits we often take for granted. For example, when you receive guests in the living room and you drink a cup of tea, you need a certain position when you're seated on the chair or sofa. I design based on solutions, focusing on lifestyle choices that are right for us. Maxalto is all about rituality – daily regimes we often don't think about. More importantly, I want to show the feeling of quality through a Maxalto product.

How do you view trends?
It is really about the role of the architect, the designer, and their creative ideas. Often, it’s not about what you follow or do. Rather, it may be about looking at different viewpoints of society's needs. It might be a vision of change or your creativity, or it might be about anticipating what’s going to happen in the market.

“I design products to serve these quiet pursuits we often take for granted.”

What has been your most edifying moment working for Maxalto?
The beginning was very important for me because in 1995, I worked with Giorgio Busnelli and we decided to relaunch the Maxalto brand. Maxalto was born at the end of the 1970s. Back then, it was a collection designed by Tobia Scarpa. After a transition period for the brand, we thought about creating a collection that offered a different design narrative from B&B Italia’s.

What are your thoughts about the furniture trade and sustainability?
For me, there are several ways to approach sustainability. One way is thinking in terms of materials that can be recycled after the product has reached the end of its life. For Maxalto, it is about the idea of offering designs that are timeless; products that can be owned later by your children, or your grandchildren. It’s all about products that stand the test of time. 

For more information on Maxalto, click here