As the biggest design event of the year gets closer to opening its doors, we decided to get in the right mood for receiving Milan Design Week 2009 with a few highlights from last year's edition. Among the hundreds of inspiring details presented last year I noticed the return of an old classic: capitonné.

This traditional upholstery technique is characterized by the use of large buttons and tidily organized wrinkles that create an elegant patterned surface. First introduced in the famous Chester sofa, because of its high costs of fabrication, capitonné was reserved for a select elite and considered an exclusive thing to have in ones possession. 
The new products reinterpret capitonné and give it refreshing and diverse meanings; playing with the arrangement of the buttons, replacing the fabric folds with stitches, removing either the buttons or the wrinkles. The resulting products have totally different expressions yet they all reflect that subtle, elegant look of the traditional capitonné. 


Patricia Urquiola presented Bohemian (up top), a lounge chair with a delicate retro flavour manufactured by Moroso. The Spanish designer assigns the main role in the object to the aesthetic and tactile qualities of capitonné; the somehow undefined shape of the chair seems to be specifically thought to support and enhance the beauty of the buttoned surface. 

One of my favourite pieces was the Caprice chair by his majesty Philippe Starck; his interpretation of capitonné balances his natural ability for creating stylized organic shapes and highly communicative products. The wrapping shaped shell of the chair dresses up with a neatly quilted cover characterized by two lines of leather covered buttons organized in a strict grid pattern, the result is a formal and sophisticated looking chair that fits wonderfully both contract and domestic environments. 

Capitonne Capitonne

The Nubola sofa (below) designed by Gaetano Pesce for Meritalia presents a completely unstructured and random distribution of the buttons, which provides it with a fresh and irreverent look. Made with extremely soft fabric and padding imprinted by the use of bold contrasting buttons, capitonné goes beyond being a superficial treatment in the Nubola sofa and becomes the main protagonist of the product as it defines and molds it's final shape.

Capitonne Capitonne

Italian brand Bonaldo presented Glam Glam (below), a simple and versatile object that can be either a pouf or a low table. The rather basic form gains quality and refinement thanks to the use of a simplified capitonné effect made with fine lines of stitches and a subtle padding characterised by the complete absence of the buttons; the missing buttons drive the attention to the geometry of the diagonal pattern that gives a modern dynamic energy to the piece. 

Capitonne Capitonne


Design Shows


  • Interview: Eugeni Quitllet
    When we first saw his name close to that of Philippe Starck we googled, with no luck. There was no human trace of Eugeni Quitllet and we thought, for a brief moment, that he could be an invention, some sort of imaginary alter ego created by his famously provocative partner. But shortly after all this revealed to be a product of our unquiet imagination: he is for real, thank goodness.

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