Camaleonda Sofa by Mario Bellini, 1970
This one is often nicknamed the “Bellini Sofa,” after its Italian creator, Mario Bellini. However, it’s worth committing this piece’s proper name to memory (after all, Bellini designed other sofas). In an interview with
he revealed that to come up with Camaleonda he “Crossed two words: AD last year, Camaleonte, or chameleon, an extraordinary animal capable of adapting to its environment, and onda, or wave.” The invented word captured the endlessly adaptable nature of the sofa system he designed for B&B Italia in 1970, in which bulbous modules of fabric-covered polyurethane hook together using simple, integrated carabiners to create endless configurations, from sectionals and armchairs to ottomans and daybeds. Production stopped in 1979, but as the couch steadily climbed to superstar status in recent years (vintage ones appeared in homes of Beastie Boy Mike D, Athena Calderone, and Chrissy Teigen) B&B Italia decided to put it back into production using only recycled or recyclable materials. These days it’s become a sort of poster child for the Blob Sofa trend.
Terrazza Sofa by Ubald Klug, 1973
When Swiss designer
Ubald Klug designed a sofa called Terrazza in 1973 that was loosely inspired by a terraced landscape, The New Yorker called it “a monstrous thing.” Produced by de Sede, the modular sofa pieces were each composed of seven graduated leather-wrapped cushions set on a rectangular base, which—as Kelly Wearstler points out—can be expanded ad infinitum: “You can have a 50- or 60-foot-long sofa if you want.” She’s one of many contemporary designers who have embraced the monster. Others include Adam Charlap Hyman, Yves Behar, and, seemingly, Mick Jagger, who was famously photographed lounging atop a Terrazza. Get one from $12,170 through de Sede.
Wilkes Modular Sofa Group by Ray Wilkes, 1976
You know that sofa that looks like a few pieces of chewing gum? What is now dubbed by most
“the Chiclet sofa” was designed in 1976 by Herman Miller’s in-house designer Ray Wilkes, as the Wilkes Modular Sofa Group. Wilkes used a new machine that injected foam into molds to create the rounded forms which could be upholstered in Herman Miller’s two-way-stretch fabric and used, in modular fashion, to create an armchair or a three-seat sofa. After the design experienced a recent resurgence, Herman Miller reintroduced the designs, from $2,295, updating them with a USB charging port and new upholstery options from Maharam.
Mah Jong Sofa by Hans Hopfer, 1971
It was exactly 50 years ago
that Hans Hopfer created the Lounge Sofa for Roche Bobois, an endlessly modular seating system in which three simple cushion elements could be combined or stacked into endless compositions: An armchair, a sofa, a bed, even, and—should you fancy it—an entire living room. As a simple collection of rectangular units, the sofa soon earned the catchier “Mah Jong Sofa” nickname, a reference to the Chinese tile game. Over the years the design, which is still sold by Roche Bobois, has appeared in countless homes (we recently spotted one in Bretman Rock’s Open Door), and the cushions have been reupholstered in fabrics by Kenzo, Missoni Home, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Florence Knoll Sofa, 1954
Florence Knoll often said that she designed furniture only when she “needed the piece of furniture for a job and it wasn’t there.” They were, “The fill-in pieces that no one else wants to do.” Such was the case with this 1954-designed sofa, which became an instant icon and hallmark of her
oeuvre for its exposed steel frame and legs and super-tailored upright cushions, a bit of an homage to her mentor, Mies van der Rohe. Though it has been knocked off countless times, few even approach the perfect proportions and craftsmanship of the original. It is available from $9,723 at dwr.com
Soriana Sofa by Tobia and Afra Scarpa, 1969
Iconic designs often emerge out of a challenge. That was what happened when Tobia and Afra Scarpa received an urgent call from furniture maestro Cesare Cassina in November 1969: Could the Italian architect—son of a famous architect father, Carlo—and his wife come up with a radical new sofa in time for the Cologne trade show in January?
The Scarpas came up with Soriana, a hunk of expanding polyurethane wrapped in leather and cinched in the middle with a shiny metal belt. “The leather covering was not supposed to be taut,” Scarpa later explained. “But to appear like a soft, creased fabric curled around this soft mass and held together by a sort of giant metal spring.” Production stopped in 1982, but since designers and tastemakers like Kelly Wearstler (she loves them all!) and Rodman Primack began clamoring for vintage models, Cassina decided to re-introduce the design earlier this year.
Serpentine Sofa by Vladimir Kagan, 1950s
Imagine designing your sofa around your art collection. That was precisely what led Vladimir Kagan to what is, perhaps, his most famous design:
The Serpentine sofa. It was the 1950s and his clients were acquiring Abstract Expressionist paintings, revealing what the Manhattan furniture designer saw as a gap in the market: Sofas for viewing art. “We don’t all have to sit like birds on a telephone wire,” he said. To meet the need he created an undulating solution that sat on casters, making it easy to move. These days, a standard 11-footer is available via Holly Hunt, but most Kagan clients (much like the Manhattan glitterati that inspired the design) prefer to place custom orders.
Lips Sofa by Studio 65, 1970
Okay, this one is a little complicated. It
starts with a 1935 watercolor by Salvador Dalí in which the surrealist artist portrayed the actress Mae West with a sofa for a mouth—a furnishing so provocative that British arts patron Edward James requested one. As Dalí worked on a few for James, across the channel, Paris decorator Jean-Michel Frank was making his own riff—a lips-shaped sofa for the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Several iterations of this idea were made in the 1930s, all with slight variations, and all served as inspiration, decades later in 1970, to Italian designer Franco Audrito of Studio 65 who had just been commissioned to design a fitness center in Milan. Working with Gufram, the foam furniture innovator du jour, Audrito realized the now-iconic cartoonish sofa called Marilyn (it now goes by Bocca), as an homage to both the crimson-mouthed starlet and the gym’s lipstick-loving owner, Marilyn Garosci. Still in production, Gufram now offers the perch in a range of colors, including one variation with a lip ring!