Baxter: A Way with Leather

April 2022

The combined skills of the experienced artisans at family-owned Italian brand Baxter and some of the biggest names in design transform the timeless and simple raw material that is leather into beautiful and sophisticated furniture pieces.

We generally don't like the marks left by time. Things that bear the imprints of the past are considered old and to be replaced with something new and fresh. This is not the case for Italian furniture company Baxter, which reads traces of history in the signs left by time, the stories of those who lived with those objects and inhabited those places. The materials Baxter uses – starting with leather, the material from which the company was born – acquire an allure over time that makes them even more fascinating. They gain in value.

The company was born in 1990 in the Italian province of Como out of a passion for leather and saddlery. Founder Luigi Bestetti had already created Living Divani, an upholstery company that has become famous for understated luxury and minimalistic lines, in 1969. After showing a new collection in Paris, Bestetti immediately understood that the pieces – with their sensual, tactile elegance and their traditional English charm – could not be part of Living Divani but had to become a brand of their own. Baxter was therefore born and enjoyed immediate success. The company grew quickly, and Luigi was soon joined by nephew Paolo, who became the soul and creative director of the company.

From the beginning, leather and research into this natural material has been at the heart of what the company is about. In 2002, however, there was a turning point when Baxter began collaborating with Paola Navone. As a result of her contribution, the leather of the sofas has become very soft and inching ever closer to the world of fashion and fabric. The traditional English lines have given way to the search for comfort. In recent times, the furniture forms have become more sculptural and artsy, but have never renounced comfort.

Over the years the family-run company’s R&D department has focused not only on leather but also on other materials for its objects beyond the couch, from marble to stone, and from metal to resin. However, the philosophy of creating unique bespoke pieces has always remained key to the brand. The particularity of the materials and of the manufacturing processes evolved however ensure that the outcome is always different and the piece of furniture unique.

The aspiration to create timeless pieces of furniture doesn’t mean ignoring trends in the world of home interiors and the world of fashion. In recent years Baxter has introduced bright colours such as pistachio green, purple and orange seen on the catwalks of global fashion capitals into its range of sofas. The search for new colours also characterizes the latest addition to the Baxter fold: an outdoor collection born out of a remarkable collaboration between several designers: Studiopepe, Roberto Lazzeroni, Antonino Sciortino and Paola Navone.

“We showed a few select pieces from our new outdoor collection in March and will present the whole range at the official launch in June,” explains Paolo Bestetti, Baxter’s CEO. “For this new collection we decided to group the outdoor leathers into two categories according to who was going to use them. The first we called ‘nature’ and includes leathers that require some maintenance and love while the second is composed of more ‘technical’ leathers. For the second category, which is more resistant to light, humidity, and water, we have been able to use different colours, while the more natural leathers that need to be maintained and treated acquire certain hues and tones over time the way all natural materials do.”

This collection also includes outdoor carpets that are made of recycled PET – a move by the company towards the use of more sustainable materials. It’s well-known that the tanneries sector is not zero impact. Nonetheless Baxter is committed to reducing its ecological footprint. In 2005 it voluntarily signed up to meet UNI EN ISO 14001 environmental certification standards and its HQ was the first so-called “Climate House” for public use in Europe to be certified class A in 2011. The company is now also installing a new packing machine that scans each product and cuts the packaging material to the form and outline of the piece of furniture to avoid any waste.

Despite lockdowns and more Baxter opened a showroom in a fittingly Palladian 18th century building in east London in 2021 and this April Baxter it opened another in a restored villa in Como (see our online story for more details). Next year the company will transform it into a hotel so that people can immerse themselves in the Baxter universe and philosophy.

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

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Baxter leather, a noble material that is unique and impossible to reproduce.
Baxter leather, a noble material that is unique and impossible to reproduce.
Baxter leather, a noble material that is unique and impossible to reproduce.
The FANY Table (2021) by Christophe Delcourt has legs covered in Nubuck leather and a top made of bronze-coloured fused glass. The KEREN chairs and pouf (2021) pictured are also by Delcourt.
The Ronchamp Table was designed by Baxter in 2020 and is inspired by the curves of the Le Corbusier chapel of the same name. The legs are covered in leather while the top is in marble.
The Chester Moon sofa designed by Paola Navone in 2009 is a re- interpretation of a classical model that sums up the importance of shape and balance. It has a simplicity despite the complexity of the techniques used to produce it.
Luigi & Paolo Bestetti
This article appeared in DAM81. Order your personal copy.