Formafantasma furniture interrogates “gendered nature” of modernism

Design duo Formafantasma paired harsh steel rods with delicate glass flowers in its La Casa Dentro furniture collection, comparing modernism’s sobriety with the “femininity” of more decorative motifs.

Creative and life partners Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin made the furniture to “address the canons of modernism” – an early 20th-century movement favouring functional, pared-back design over 19th-century ornamentation.

Chaise lounge by Formafantasma Chaise lounge by Formafantasma
A blue-stained chaise is part of the La Casa Dentro collection by Formafantasma

For the collection, unveiled at the Fondazione ICA during Milan design week, Formafantasma created pieces that combine utilitarian materials such as bent metal tubes with decorative elements like floral embellishments.

One design is a blue-stained chaise lounge with a rigid composition of wooden planks that is supported by a tubular metal frame and painted with a single dainty flower.

Steel and Murano glass lamp by FormafantasmaSteel and Murano glass lamp by Formafantasma
The duo also created a steel and Murano glass lamp

Another pendant lamp combines geometric steel rods and strip lighting with delicate Murano glass flowers that seem to grow from the rods.

Formafantasma is traditionally known for its research-heavy approach, delving into subjects from the global impact of the timber industry to the history and future of wool production.

Furniture by FormafantasmaFurniture by Formafantasma
La Casa Dentro was created to “address the canons of modernism”

La Casa Dentro – or “the home within” – is the first of Trimarchi and Farresin’s more “personal” projects, created to explore the duo’s perception of domesticity following health-related issues among their respective parents.

The events prompted the pair to confront the legacy of modernist design and create pieces that examine their childhood memories of home, which include floral motifs and hand embroideries.

Lighting wrapped in yellow fabricLighting wrapped in yellow fabric
Metallic frames were wrapped with pastel-coloured textiles to form other lighting

“Modernism more or less voluntarily erased from the living space all those features, mostly decorative, that contribute to the feeling of domesticity,” reflected the designers.

The central theme of La Casa Dentro is the attempt to “queer the codes of modernist design”, according to Trimarchi and Farresin.

Cabinet by FormafantasmaCabinet by Formafantasma
The project brings into question the difficulty of “unlearning” formal design training

“The works highlight modernism’s gendered nature and rootedness in a conservative understanding of masculinity,” they said.

“Our project isn’t a postmodern pastiche or an ode to campness or kitsch. It is an aromantic attempt to dignify personal memories and what is often culturally vilified – the decorative, the cute, and, by extension of meaning, the feminine.”

Floral-print table with metal tubular legsFloral-print table with metal tubular legs
Tubular metal and contrasting floral motifs feature throughout the collection

A mint-green wooden backrest was paired with a softer, subtly frilled seat to create another chair defined by contrasting components.

Other distinctive lighting designs feature harsh, metallic frames wrapped with pastel-coloured textiles.

Trimarchi and Farresin stressed that the project also brings into question the difficulty of “unlearning” formal design training when creating objects and furniture.

“There is almost a moral dimension to education,” said the designers. “Knowledge is often passed on as dogmatic, a set of principles to discern what is right or wrong.”

Chair by FormafantasmaChair by Formafantasma
La Casa Dentro was presented at Milan’s Fondazione ICA

“Modernism inevitably did this,” they added. “It taught how to be modern, how to be rational, how to live and in part how masculinity is an extension of rationality.”

“La Casa Dentro examines the tension between the lived experience of domesticity – one made of humble handmade objects and decorative items – and the intellectual understanding of modernist ideologies of architecture and design.”

The photography is by Andrea Rossetti and Marco Cappelletti.

Milan design week took place from 15 to 21 April 2024. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.


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