The Chairs of Chiavari
In November I was lucky enough to take a guided tour of the Podesta Sedie chair factory in Chiavari, Italy with Elizabeth Moore, Private Art Advisor extraordinaire and my dearest friend in New York.
We set out to meet Fabio Don and Domenico Rocca who founded Segno Italiano in 2010, along with Alberto Nespoli and Paolo Tarulli. They shared my interest in handcrafted Italian furniture and after collecting Chiavari chairs for most of my life I discovered Fabio and Domenico online.
After months of emails they agreed to meet us and Domenico took us on a wild ride 2 hours south of Milan through the most incredibly treacherous rain they have ever seen in that part of Italy. We arrive in this picturesque seaside town that I had dreamed of visiting for a very long time. Jet lagged and tired from our journey (although Elizabeth managed to sleep in the back seat) Domenico takes us directly to the Podesta Sedie factory to meet Adriano and Stefania Podesta, the father and daughter who still make these magnificent handmade chairs. As we enter the factory the only sun that broke through the clouds the entire time we were there stream in through the windows highlighting hundreds of spindles and chair backs in a variety of wood species. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life to see these chairs that I’ve managed to collect over 16 of and see how they are made.
The “sedie artistiche di Chiavari” began in 1796 when the “Economic Society” (a group of intellectual noblemen) challenged the local craftsmen to find a new style of chair. This first chair was created in 1800 by Gaetano Descalzi and was called Campanino.
A name still today identified as the oldest model of those developed. So were born the chair now famous all over the world for their excellent form and characteristic lightness and robustness.
After our tour of the factory we had the good fortune of meeting Franco and Jacopo Casoni who published an extensive hardcover book last year on the history of these chairs in all of their various forms “Le Sedie leggere di Chiavari”.
Franco is also a renowned wood sculptor and has one of the largest collections of Chiavari chairs. His son Jacopo is a talented architect and they have lived in Chiavari all their lives and treated us to an incredible lunch in the center of town. Afterwards Franco was able to get us into the Villa Rocca, which is now a gallery and houses many of the different Chiavari chair models and chaises.
We then continue for coffee at a nearby cafe and as soon as we enter see another building filled with these chairs.
As I walk further into the building I discover the Rotary Club of Chiavari and am in awe of so many in one room and contemplate moving there so I can enjoy these chairs daily and become a Rotary member myself.
As we end the day Elizabeth and I retire to the hotel and more chairs await us in the lobby and restaurant. Chiavari is a place I will never forget and to be surrounded so many of these delicate yet deceptively sturdy chairs was truly a dream come true!
I share this video narrated by Franco and Jacopo Casoni featuring Adriano and Stefania Podesta and the making of the Chiavari chair produced by Segno Italiano. Segno Italiano will debut a collection of Chiavari chairs at GD Cucine 227 West 17th Street during the ICFF in New York May 19th-22nd. Ciao!
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