The living room: the heart of the home
The living room as we know it is a product of the 20th century. The heavily ornamented parlours and drawings rooms that it evolved from were the site of formalised social ritual, places where guests would be received at appointed times, where debates would take place and entertainment enjoyed after dinner. This was the public face of the household, displaying wealth and status; a socially acceptable performance of life – real life, hidden in more private, intimate spaces, occurred elsewhere.
When, at the turn of the century, social practices began to relax, so too did the use of communal spaces in the home. Function coalesced and shifted – places to entertain and welcome guests, these rooms also became used by the family, where they congregated to celebrate holidays and birthdays; to relax, play games, read or, as technology developed, listen to the radio and watch television.
And, as the focus of designers shifted from grand houses and established families to the newly enfranchised, rising middle class, so too did the concept of the living room become more democratic. Unlike the bathroom or kitchen, where furniture and fittings had to accommodate certain appliances or utilities, the living room is a domestic oasis of possibility, and throughout the 20th century architects and designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass used it as a blank canvas.
The living room is a space that is continually reinvented, whether as part of the ever-growing trend for open plan living or just in reconfiguring a room, installing a new armchair, vase or artwork. No other room is so much a personal expression of taste and interest; something we took as a guiding principle for our home collection. Working with some of the most important contemporary designers, such as John Pawson, Vincent Van Duysen and Piero Lissoni, the range of tables, benches, bookcases and accessories are both timeless and expressions of cutting edge design, complementing considered and distinctly individual interiors.
Elisa Ossino’s Urano lamp, for example – a hollow sphere carved from a cube of Bianco Carrara marble – provides a dynamic sculptural motif that animates the room, while her Omaggio a Morandi stone bottles, reinterpreting the shapes of Giorgio Morandi’s iconic still lifes into idiosyncratic marble forms, give an erudite ornamental flair. On a different scale, Franz Siccardi’s Ta_Volo monolithic coffee table, a vast square marble block that appears to hover just above the ground, anchors the room, and Lissoni’s Colonnata bookcase, using twelve different natural stones, complements the active and convivial space through a playful and coherent use of colour.
The living room is today the heart of the home, a witness to the aggregation of people and objects that pass through the house, reflecting its use by family, friends and guests. More than any other domestic space, the living room is defined by the collective experience of the home, coming, over time, to express its own, particular identity. As personal relationships are increasingly articulated digitally, the living room represents an ever more vital place to come together, to enjoy company and connect in person – a function which, ultimately, is at the core of good design.