If you want a teak sideboard, you go Danish. If you’re looking for your dream sofa, you go Italian.
Italy commands the global design market with quality materials and a timeless sensibility that lends designs their classic beauty. We’ve covered our fair share of Italian wares: Murano glass, ABS plastic, and that of titans of design, but the crown jewel of Italian design is assuredly the sofa. Italian couches strike the right balance of dramatic and playful, yet are very simple conceptually. Whatever’s in the water (or wine), Italian designers have produced a staggering number of vintage it-sofas.
The Sofa has assumed the role of status symbol in recent years. The two+ years we’ve spent inside has made our living rooms hubs of activity, and the sofa is both the centerpiece and workhorse, accommodating coffee breaks, #wfh, reading, streaming, naps, and more. Couched (you heard me) in these practical needs are the aesthetic demands that come with any major furniture piece in 2022: A sofa must not only fulfill its functions, but add character, comfort, and maybe even fantasy. Italian vintage sofas check every box.
But behind the Sorianas and Camaleondas that delight us is a hefty price tag. An authentic Soriana sofa by Tobia and Afra Scarpa can run comparable to the price of a car. At a resale value of anywhere from $15K—$30K, Mario Bellini’s highly-coveted Camaleonda may be out of reach. While some of these sofas are still in production, only vintage pieces are sure to appreciate in value and were made with the quality and longevity of previous decades. If you’re ready to curl up on your rapidly aging Peggy sofa from West Elm, don’t lose hope: here are the vintage Italian sofas to look out for and add to your watch list:
The story goes that Cesare Cassina was so frustrated by lack of comfort in the initial design that he punched the Maralunga’s headrest, inspiring Vico Magistretti to see the potential for a convertible sofa-cum-chaise using floppy, adjustable headrests. Though Maralunga has been sold by some of the hottest vintage resellers in the game —like Primaried Studio, Reixue Montreal, and Home Union—, the Italian sofa has managed to hover just outside of the status of it-sofa. By the rate at which Maralunga sells, but doesn’t saturate the market, it seems likely she’ll continue to grace the homes of discerning Dwellers.
With its bendable arm and backrests, Alanda looks like a descendent of the Maralunga. The key difference are the stilt-like, metal legs which elevate the couch. Paolo Piva designed Alanda for C&B in the 1970s, though there were later (still vintage) editions released by B&B once Cesare Cassina broke off to start his own design firm. If you come across this Italian sofa, check tags or stamps to confirm its age. Available upholstered in leather and in microsuede, we’ve seen it priced for up to $1.8K.
Arguably another variation in the Maralunga playbook by Magistretti, the Veranda lounge transforms by unfurling the headrests and untucking the seat cushions from its steel legs and foot bar. The second iteration of Veranda is a 3-seater that shares the adjustable headrests, but whose seats can also fan out into more intimate seating, with the two side seats swiveling on a fixed base that, when open, doubles as a small tabletop.
Gae Aulenti is Italian design’s it-girl, so it makes sense she’d be responsible for such a cool, comfortable couch. Stringa boasts a tubular, chrome frame and felt upholstered back upon which the leather cushions rest, attached by leather straps. Sometimes a cool design can verge on coldness, its materials or silhouette too aloof to cohere with the reality of an everyday living space. Stringa sidesteps this pitfall with its visible leather straps and string base, which resemble a dotted morse code from the front.
Honestly holding my breath as I share this, because I will inevitably suffer immense loss and grief when someone snags this checked tweed number before the cool $13K I’m expecting hits my account (sure, Jan). Marcel’s squared, tweed cushions sit low on a chrome-plated metal base. The sofa’s signature arm rests tilt at a 45 degree angle, like a book cracking open. Marcel is available in sectional and sofa format.
Introducing the quintessential B&B Italian sofa, Diesis. Made with an aluminum structure by Antonio Citterio and Paolo Nava, Diesis shines most brightly in loveseat form. The seat and arm cushions commonly come in leather, suede or glossy. B&B Italia is still making Dieses that will run you upwards of $8K, however more affordable secondhand units are out there waiting to be found. Worth noting: though secondhand options may be missing the plush arm rest cushions, this actually seems like a plus for cupholder purposes!
Squiggle hive assemble! You’re going to love Giovanni Offredi’s Wave, which sports a visible, angular steel support that holds up its soft, S-curved cushion of injected polyurethane. In this way, the couch has built-in dynamic tension between sleek and playful energies. Giovanni Offredi spoke of Italian design’s specific alchemy and allure, saying, “Italian design...has always drawn its success from the balance between rationality and fantasy.”
The father of the Camaleonda has entered the chat! Before he made waves (get it?) with Camaleonda, Mario Bellini created Amanta, a rectangular seating module and system. Each Amanta’s frame is made of a single piece of reinforced polyester that sits on four rubber spheres, complete with a slit down the middle back. It’s a notable frame, not hidden by upholstery or meant to be backed against a wall, rather it intentionally contrasts the cotton, leather, or velvet cushions.
You could easily mistake Gianfranco Frattini’s Sesann for a Soriana but take note: Sesann’s chrome steel bands give form to its upper back rest and base sides, forming arm rests which Soriana lacks, all without Soriana’s steel clamps. Ironically, the chrome steel frame consists of three separate pieces, but the impact is a seamless appearance. If you envision the bulbous padding of both sofas as teeth, Soriana has braces, while Sesann has a simple retainer.
As seen in Kaitlin Spring’s living room, Mario Bellini’s Le Bambole is a technical masterpiece that just happens to look like it was made for an adorable cartoon Dracula. Deep within Le Bambole are metal inserts that form the structure of the Italian sofa, which is otherwise encompassed entirely by marshmallow-level padding of different densities of polyurethane, finished with batwing corners. In the words of Mario Bellini, Le Bambole was “not upholstered with fabric, but built in fabric.”
We end on yet another entry for Mario Bellini with a confirmed sibling to Le Bambole, Tentazione. This sofa is taller than Le Bambole, though Tentazione shares its lines and its batwing flair, albeit in a more pared-down fashion with soft contour. Bouncy and pliant with molded stuffing, Tentazione’s extreme comfort doesn’t come without loads of style. Seen here, a Tentazione loveseat is available via Primaried.