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Five Furniture Brands That Defy Conventional Design

Going the maverick way… we look at five furniture brands that follow the beat of their own drum and no one else.

May 31, 2022 | By Joe Lim

Who are the Maverick brands in the furniture industry when it comes to independent designs? We look at five of the most prominent furniture brands that never follow trends but create them. Their approach to design is unorthodox as their furniture pieces seem to have a mind of their own. Backed by a raft of preeminent design greats, some of these pieces are sure to blow your mind and even defy logic when you first lay your eyes on them.

Meritalia — An ’80s Aesthetic Punch

Meritalia Montanara sofa

Meritalia Montanara designed by Gaetano Pesce. Image: Meritalia.

Meritalia’s roots go back to 1987 when it was founded by Giulio Enrico Meroni. His passion for upholstered furniture and interior accessories for homes has led the brand to court renowned designers such as Mario Bellini, Alexander Mendini, Fabio Novembre, Gaetano Pesce, and the Castiglioni brothers. Meritalia furniture has often been regarded as playful, whimsical, cheery, iconic, and irresistibly collectible, too. Many of these design greats are not afraid to design the most challenging furniture pieces. Their innovative ideas do not throw functionality out of the window.

Meritalia LaMichetta

Meritalia LaMichetta designed by Gaetano Pesce offers a unique button-tufted look. Image: Meritalia.

Iconic pieces include the “La michetta” sofa where the dimpled upholstery is made from plush cotton fabric while the filler foam is derived from polyurethane. This modular piece is both arresting to look at and highly flexible to adapt to any room size. The “Montanara” sofa developed by Gaetano Pesce takes its inspiration from the grandeur of mountain scenery, complete with a cascading waterfall.

Edra — Tuscany’s Design Wunderkind

Edra Pack sofa

Edra Pack sofa designed by Francesco Binfare. Image: Edra.

Edra may not be a household name but in the furniture industry, it’s always bent on pushing boundaries with design and aesthetics without jettisoning universal comfort. Some of their iconic pieces are timeless and elegant, backed by artistic tradition to make them. The brand delves into technological research for materials, sustainability, and expertise in furniture crafting. They adopt a philosophy that every furniture piece is treated like making jewellery. Their founders Valerio and Monica Mazzei are both second-generation furniture makers. Their belief in working with some of the best furniture designers in the world to create some of the most unconventional designs to surprise and delight the senses.

Edra Pack Sofa

Edra Pack sofa offers a sleeping polar bear as a backrest. Image: Edra.

The “Pack” island sofa system designed by Francesco Binfare is a tongue-in-cheek sofa that sports a sleeping polar bear. The base of the sofa is dubbed the “icepack” while the bear lying on its side serves as a backrest. Unique to the upholstery is a supremely comfortable Gellyfoam and feather-covered with special fabric where the texture resembles ice layers! The backrest is made from ecological fur padded by plush polyester. This striking sofa snagged the Salone del Mobile Milano award 2017 for “Best Product of the Year”.

Edra Rose chair

Edra Rose chair designed by Masanori Umeda. Image: Edra.

Care to sit on a rose? It may seem highly unthinkable but in the mind of Masanori Umeda, her “Rose chair” is made up of undulating petals formed from sumptuous padding. The welcoming seat is meticulously assembled where each petal is made by hand and stitched together. The frame is molded in metal with smaller parts shaped from wood. Velvet upholstery ensures you get the richest experience from sitting on it.

Seletti — Pop Art Furniture

Seletti Colossux side table

Seletti Colossux side table designed by Studio Job. Image: Seletti.

Since its inception in 1964 in Cicognara, Mantova, Italy, the design philosophy of Seletti has always been about innovation and originality with a dose of whimsicality. While the brand pursues Italian excellence, it always pushes boundaries with its intriguing designs helmed by some of the most imaginative design minds in the furniture and home decor industry. Blending artful aesthetics into daily icons such as tables, lamps, and plates without losing functionality, Seletti has become a unique, personal and fun lifestyle furniture/home decor brand to own. Some of the unique, awe-inspiring pieces include the “Colossux” side table which takes inspiration from the feet of mysterious gods. Designed by Studio Job, the powerful foot is actually a glass-resin side table, radiating a mythical and divine aura if placed in an interior.

Seletti Kintsugi hybrid plates

Italian designer Marcantonio’s Kintsugi plates for Seletti, fusing European design with Japanese technique. Image: Seletti.

Secondly, Seletti’s “Kintsugi” series of hybrid home decor objects such as tableware is all about embracing the Japanese technique of mending broken pottery through “golden joinery”. Italian designer Marcantonio is re-interpreting Kintsugi through the Seletti + Marcantonio collaboration. He has created an intriguing and contemporary take on European-stye flatware getting a Kintsugi makeover. These pieces are destined to make your guests bowled over.

Moooi — Daring Dutch Design

Moooi Charleston armchair

Moooi Charleston armchair by Marcel Wanders studio. Image: Moooi.

Helmed by Marcel Wanders who hails from the land of windmills, canals, and wooden shoes, Moooi furniture is all about “A life extraordinary’. Formed in 2001, Wanders together with Casper Vissers promised to create a legendary furniture brand where breathtaking designs of ordinary objects such as chandeliers, chairs, and sofas would materialise. the extra “o” in Moooi is to convey something extra in terms of beauty and uniqueness. Fast forward 20 years, Moooi is nothing short of high drama.

Moooi Charleston armchair.

Have a seat on this armchair or sofa? You decide. Moooi’s Charleston sofa by Marcel Wanders studio. Image: Moooi.

Today, its raft of renowned designers is expanding. This includes amazing design talents such as Front, Bertjan Pot, Jaime Hayon, Maarten Baas, Nika Zupanc, and Ron Gilad, to name a few. Some of Moooi’s iconic pieces include the Charleston sofa designed by Marcel Wanders. Is it a sofa or armchair? The gravity-defying piece really messes with your mind. Here is a classic Charleston sofa upended on its side to become an armchair.

Moooi Blow Away vase

Moooi “Blow Away vase” by Front. Image: Moooi

Also, the “Blow Away” vase designed by the trio of gals called Front, sought collaboration with Royal Blue Delft to make this spectacular porcelain vase appear like suspended animation. The vase lays flat but seems like it is blown aside by a powerful gush of wind. The Royal Delft is the original ceramicist since 1653 and it’s only through their expertise that this bizarre but functional vase could be created.

Established & Sons — Edgy British Design

Established & Sons "Stack drawer"

“Stack drawer” system by Raw Edges/Shay Alkalay for Established & Sons defy logic. Image: Established & Sons.

Established & Sons might be a mouthful to pronounce but this British furniture brand represents all things innovative and contemporary in design. Founded in 2005 by Angad Paul, Sebastian Wrong, Mark Holmes, former Wallpaper magazine Alasdhair Willis and marketing specialist Tamara Caspersz, the brand was focused on marrying British design with cutting-edge manufacturing. Paul’s extensive knowledge in the steel industry was the feather on the cap, however, he passed on in 2015 from a fall. Today, it still remains a furniture brand with the penchant to shock and challenge our human parameters of logic and sensibility. Many of its designs push the boundaries of materiality and even the laws of physics. Backed by skilled craftsmen and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, the Established & Sons brand has several pieces that are showstoppers.

Established & Sons' "Stack drawers"

Stack drawers can be opened both ways. Image: Established & Sons.

Here are some of them: “Stack drawer” system by Raw Edges/Shay Alkalay takes an unconventional approach to drawer design. This arresting piece is multicoloured and each drawer appears to be suspended above one other while allowing one to open them in both directions. The irregular form together with cheery hues makes Stack an iconic product from Established & Sons.

Established & Sons "Jumper chair"

Established & Sons “Jumper chair” by Sebastian Wrong. Image: Established & Sons.

The “Jumper chair” by Bertjan Pot is a whimsical take on stretching a jumper across the body of an armchair. The iconic jumper striped colour upholstery wraps this armchair through a meticulous process. The final result is a comical-looking armchair that is not devoid of comfort and functionality.

Established & Sons' "Quilt sofa"

Established & Sons’ “Quilt sofa” by Bouroullec brothers. Image: Established & Sons.

Not forgetting, the “Quilt” sofa and armchair seating system designed by the Bouroullec brothers. Here, a honeycomb-like upholstery is stretched across the plump cushioning architecture.

Don’t forget to check out furniture brands that focus on a single material here.

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