December 2020

Like its furniture, Poliform didn’t want to celebrate its 50th anniversary with anything soulless. That’s why the gift of photographer Paolo Roversi’s book captures design that goes beyond fashion.

Time, Light, Space. The title of Paolo Roversi's photographic book celebrating 50 years of Poliform says it all. It evokes the history of the Italian company, founded in 1970 on the initiative of three cousins, Alberto Spinelli, Aldo Spinelli, and Giovanni Anzani, and the timelessness of their products: furnishings that are known all over the world and for which you need to grab a thesaurus for different ways to describe “elegant”. It stands for Roversi’s work and his ability to use the vibrations of light to capture the soul of the subject. It recalls the concept of total space proposed by Poliform: a habitat more than an apartment, a "total house" in which everything is related to the human being and a profound harmony and coherence connects them to their environment.

There’s no other way to say it, but when many companies celebrate a significant birthday the results can be like receiving a present that gets a polite smile and the thought that the giver has absolutely no idea who you are. Poliform didn’t want to rubber stamp their half century. "We gave ourselves a gift for our 50th anniversary," says Giovanni, "we didn't want just another catalogue, we already have those for sale, we wanted something special, first of all for us: a documentation of 30 of our iconic products by a photographer from outside our sector, someone who was able to capture not only the surface, but to go in-depth and understand the soul of these products. The choice of Paolo Roversi was significant. We weren't sure if a photographer used to models would want to try his hand at a static subject. However, he accepted, and the result thrilled us."

For Roversi, it was the first time that he had photographed pieces of furniture, but he faced the challenge with the same attitude he has with other subjects, that is, isolating it from everything around it to sublimate it. A search for purity and artisanal quality unites the research of Roversi and Poliform. “I used a technique that I often use, the torch, which is rather anomalous in photography,” said Roversi. “I adopted particular shots, I made blurred photographs. I allowed myself some liberties and a creativity that I think was appropriate for this exceptional furniture.”

At the root of Poliform's approach is the idea that the objects we surround ourselves with are never neutral – they become an everyday presence. Like travel companions, they reflect who we are, so it is important to surround yourself with beauty.

“Poliform's priorities are quality, doing things well, and responding to the taste and the demand for elegance and functionality of an increasingly sophisticated clientele,” says Giovanni. "We are always doing research on materials, from marble to leather, from wood to fabric, and on the needs of living today. With Covid-19, our way of life has changed. While before we were constantly travelling, now there has been a return to the domestic sphere. In the home, the kitchen plays an increasingly central role; it is central to everyday life as a meeting place with friends and relatives. In the living rooms, the lines have become softer and more rounded, as in the Saint Germain sofa from our 2021 collection, designed by Jean-Marie Massaud. In the wardrobes, transparency and internal equipment of household objects has increased.”

It is certainly not the first revolution that Poliform has witnessed. In its 50-year history the world has changed. "When we started there were not even fax machines," says Giovanni, “communication was only over the phone, orders were collected by post by sending the drawings. From this beginning we have witnessed an extraordinary evolution. Especially in Italy, our way of living has changed.

“Previously, houses were characterized by corridors and closed spaces, such as the kitchenette, separated from the living room and the bedroom. Over time the spaces have opened up and the kitchen has become part of the living room. Taste has changed: the taste for the minimal style completely in white is ubiquitous. Before, even in the city they made the same kitchens as in the countryside. Today, however, timeless elegance prevails. For us it is a source of pride: our products go beyond fashion. They are an investment that lasts over time – for our part too much, because there is no reason to change them (jokes Giovanni) – thanks to their intrinsic quality."

Poliform itself has contributed to changing the concept of living. In 1970, when Alberto Spinelli, Aldo Spinelli and Giovanni were in their early twenties, they took the reins of the family business, the Spinelli-Anzani furniture factory, one of many in Brianza. They understood that the way of conceiving the home was changing, so they changed the company name to Poliform, a name that evokes technique, modernity as well as simplicity, and another look at that thesaurus. They eliminated the manufacture of Chippendale-style furniture, the mainstay of their parents’ era, and began to produce functional, modular, transformable furniture. They understood that they needed architects and designers.

"A milestone in our history was Paolo Piva's Io wardrobe," explains Giovanni. “It helped us understand the world of design; it was a research laboratory for us. The inspiration was the navy trunk, that wardrobe that opens and inside there are drawers and subdivisions for personal items. It allowed us to go beyond the traditional model and project ourselves into a new way of conceiving the wardrobe ".

Starting with the wardrobe, Poliform's vision has expanded 360 degrees to all the rooms of the house. “We faced numerous challenges; one of the biggest was more than 20 years ago when we bought the historic kitchen brand, Varenna, which was then incorporated into our brand. Then we faced the challenge of the contract division. The last challenge was upholstery, but even this is giving us a lot of satisfaction. We only need the outdoors to be self-sufficient in furnishing houses and villas."

Now in their seventies, Giovanni and his cousins have not lost the enthusiasm over time. "Certainly, there have been difficult times, in which the economy has collapsed, but the company has never had to pay (apart from this year with the lockdown) an hour of unemployment benefits. Our employees never went on strike, but always worked overtime. The large Poliform family has always dealt very positively with various challenges. We will continue on the road travelled, without jolts, on our mountain pass – cadenced, but always uphill – which enabled us to get where we are.”

 By Silvia Anna Barrilà

The founders. From left to right: Giovanni Anzani, Alberto Spinelli e Aldo Spinelli Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Senzafine Design R&D Poliform Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Kensington Table Design Jean-Marie Massaud Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Sophie chairs Design Emmanuel Gallina Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Bristol couch Design Jean-Marie Massaud Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Ritratto Roversi, Photo by Paolo Roversi
Bedroom Design R&D Poliform Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
Senzafine Time, Light, Space Publication Photo by Paolo Roversi Courtesy Poliform
This article appeared in DAM77. Order your personal copy.