“When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we gave achieved a balanced life.” - Bruno Munari in Design as Art
Everyday objects populate our houses. We pass near them, we live with them, we choose them for enhancing the habitability and beauty of the environment, often without even knowing the backgrounds that led them to us.
Some of those are creations that have shaped our society and improved lives on a daily basis, and they deserve to be celebrated for their silent presence and, sometimes, untold histories.
The affordable wish list column continues its series by gathering on a budget iconic and well-designed objects I have run across in my life as a design geek. The wish list sheds light on small design pieces - with a pinch of history about them - that you can make yours to modeling your spaces into works of art, and I bet you hardly know.
9093 KETTLE, ALESSI
Designed by Michael Graves in 1985, the kettle with the “whistling” little bird is one of the world’s most iconic pieces in Alessi’s catalog. The postmodernist design movement of the ‘80s led Graves to the simplest lines and sober use of materials, but he did not give up on a witty taste concept.
By taking inspiration from Richard Sapper’s 9091 kettle as the starting point, he crossed the boundaries of the Modernists by adding details that would amazed the public for decades, such as the vivid contrast of the colors with metal, and the little bird on top that actually chirps when water starts boiling.
Price: ca. 150$
BERLINGOT GLASS, LAGUNA B
Since Marie Brandolini d’Adda started the company in 1994, Laguna Bhas played an active role in shaping the contemporary glassware scene through its fostering of research and creativity.
The productive heart of the tableware brand resides in the furnaces of Murano while the catalog retraces eccentric redesigns that Marie conceived by taking inspiration to the “everyday glass” that glassmakers blew at the end of the day - the Goto de Fornasa -, a kind of glass made off production leftovers to quench their thirst caused by the strong heat of the owens.
The Berlingot glass, that later became a pillar of Laguna B blown glass production, perfectly embodies the playful inspiration of Marie. The stripped hand-blown glass depicting the homonymous sweets typical of Provence is available in numerous colors.
Price: ca. 150$
MAGAZINE HOLDER, KARTELL
This magazine rack was an important design in the exciting Italian design and manufacturing climate of the early 1970s.
The architect and designer Giotto Stoppino developed the idea of a magazine rack as early as 1970. Made of plastic and available in various bright colors, this object consists of two pocket elements connected by a smaller one that also serves as a handle.
In Italy, Stoppino was one of the few high-profile 'designer consultants’. These Italian design superstars offered advice to established manufacturers such as Kartell, and pushed them throughout the 1960s and early 1970s to move from elite to avant-garde design, in the name of a pop and culturally democratic style.
Today it is still recognizable in its adapted form, a semi-transparent and colorful four-pocket version, introduced in 1994 as a unique variation on the original design.
Price: ca. 200$
G-TYPE SOY SAUCE DISPENSER, HAKUSAN
If proof were needed that grandiose statements are not only reserved for large designs, then the small G-Type soy sauce dispenser would support such a substantial thesis. Designed by the Japanese design legend, Masahiro Mori, since its launch - more than 60 years ago -, the G-Type soy sauce dispenser was immediately considered a classic and adored for its elegant design and superior functionality.
Manufactured in Hasami, a historic city renowned for its ceramics, by legendary company Hakusan, this inconspicuous ceramic dispenser quickly became the Japanese icon of every table thanks to its low price and the promise of being able to pour sauce without dripping.
Price: ca. 30$
THE kickstool, wedo
In general, stools must fulfill two contradictory functions: to provide a secure base and to be mobile. The company Wedo (Werner Dorsch) has solved this problem with its Kickstool and its three small wheels attached to the base that allows to move it freely - to kick indeed - and have hands free to carry objects, in the meantime. The presence of the wheels could have made the stool dangerously unstable, but that was precisely the innovative element of its design: when standing on it, the stool lowers one centimeter, blocking the wheels and bringing the base into contact with the floor. The iconicity of the Kickstool was worth a collaboration with Supreme in 2020. The company customized the stool with a giant logo and the typical red color.
A technical and clever object, a solution designed for precise functionality with an essential shape. A work of technology at an affordable price.
Price: c.a 50$
EM77 VACUUM JUG, STELTON
The EM77 vacuum jug was created by the Danish designer Erik Magnussen and is produced in Denmark since 1977.
The design conveys an instinctive perception of form combined with an austere approach to function.
Magnussen cleverly used an existing coating for glass bottles - immediately reducing production costs - and introduced a unique T-shaped lid with a tilting mechanism that opened and closed automatically when the thermos was tilted, thus enabling one-handed use.
In 1977, the thermos received the Danish Design Centre's ID award and is still one of Stelton's best-selling products today.
Price: ca. 90$
UMBRELLA STAND, KARTELL
It was first conceived for domestic environment, and is among the first designs to have exploited the potential of moulded plastics for mass production. Later, Gino Colombini's Umbrella stand became a ubiquitous design object.
Colombini was head of Kartell's technical department from 1953 to 1960, a period in which he launched several lines of small products for the home, strong in that particular phase of Italian design in which designers projected their optimistic vision of a new society into accessories and everyday objects.
Nowadays, Kartell produces new versions of the Umbrella holder with sustainable materials.
Price: ca. 100$
HEBI LAMP, VALENTI
Hebi, which means 'snake' in Japanese, is a lamp made of a flexible metal tube covered in PVC. Isao Hosoe conceived it after finding a simple flexible tube in a shop in Milan, on sale for just one cent per meter.
"Its story is simple. I discovered that electrical cable tubing was sold in large quantities and at a very low price. I showed it to Valenti and the lamp took shape within a couple of hours”, stated Hosoe about the work with Valenti - the industrial lighting company associated with innovative experimental and technical products in the 1960s.
Today, the lamp represents the futuristic and haptic spirit of that period, and it is still a mood on its own.
Price: ca. 150$
TRIPP TRAPP CHAIR, STOKKE
The Tripp Trapp chair was the first chair in the world created to meet the needs of children.
Peter Opsvik created a model that would allow children to sit at the table together with the family, in 1972, after observing his two-year-old son sitting at the table without being able to rest his arms while having his legs always dangling.
The chair grows with the child until it become a multifunctional seat for adults.
It is a sustainable design in its materials and conscious in its durability, which defeats from the very beginning a programmed obsolescence, typical of a consumerist market.
Price: ca. 260$