Mattiazzi – A New Beginning for Machines and Hands

The dining chair is really reflecting our time right now. It is the most rational genre of furniture, and it activates us humans; it is not a chair you relax much on. It is a social chair, and it is a working chair.

Mattiazzi products speak for themselves, the clarity of their designs, coupled with their team’s unmatched technical expertise and craftsmanship, results in products that are simply sublime.

Mattiazzi has a history with design, craft, industrial processes, and sustainable practices. In the past, when you needed a wood supplier that could do the impossible, you called Mattiazzi. Today, they’ve taken their expertise in wood manufacturing to a new level, partnering with leading designers.

Mattiazzi’s highly specialized craftsmen operate the most sophisticated machinery available to the wood industry. An eight-axis CNC milling machine allows wood to take the complex shapes associated with injection-molded plastic.

Operating such a machine is an art and Mattiazzi disproves the modern myth that mechanized manufacturing is not a craft. The Italian model – that sees design as cultural expression – in this part of the world is still alive. Mattiazzi believes the design must strike the perfect balance between beauty and comfort. Solid wood is warm and feels familiar, the design should communicate this to the senses.

Mattiazzi is a family owned producer of wooden furniture in Udine, Italy. While many producers in that region rely on third party factories and work in diverse materials, Mattiazzi operates with their own machines and hands, and has developed a healthy obsession for woodworking.

Since 1978, when brothers Nevio and Fabiano Mattiazzi founded the company, Mattiazzi has steadily cultivated its local manufacturing culture. Their network of wood shops is diverse enough to support any manufacturing process the brand may need.

For thirty years Mattiazzi worked exclusively as a subcontractor for other brands and built a reputation in the furniture industry for making the most challenging wooden products. They bring their expertise with them as they take their first steps into the role of an independent, holistic brand.

Berlin based graphic designer Florian Lambl is art directing the brand, building from their heritage and helping them to create a new tradition. They hired a young Munich based office, Studio Nitzan Cohen, to design their first pieces. These designs push and exploit the potential of Mattiazzi’s craft. Since this giant first step, they have continued the journey with strong collections by Sam Hecht and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

About Mattiazzi

An hour east of Venice, in the province of Udine, Italy, three small outlying villages make up an area quaintly known as “The Chair Triangle.”

For centuries, the municipalities of Manzano, Corno di Rosazzo, and San Giovani al Natisone have been home to workshops and factories, woodworkers and artisans, tool-makers and sawmills, all devoted to producing the more than 40 million chairs that emerge each year from the region.

The city of Udine itself is no slouch in the manufacturing department — eg Moroso — but the chair triangle is known more for its specialized production and for manufacturers who do anonymous, subcontracted work for the big brands.

Mattiazzi is one of them.

Founded in 1978 by brothers Nevio and Fabbiano, who built by hand the original brick woodworking shop near their home, the brand began by producing small turned parts for traditional, country-style chairs.

It grew over the years, moving eventually to a proper factory where it made whole chairs in wood; the brothers were investing in high-tech equipment even as many of the workshops around them failed to recognize looming competition from China and Eastern Europe, eventually closing.

But while Mattiazzi was becoming more and more known for its craftsmanship, they were always behind the scenes, never recognized by the customers who were using their products.

That all changed in 2008, when the company decided to embark on its first-ever branded collection.

Through a friend, the brothers were introduced to the Munich-based industrial designer Nitzan Cohen, whose 2009 He Said, She Said collection for the company was such a hit that Cohen was asked to become creative director.

Cohen in turn brought in Florian Lambl, the Berlin-based graphic designer responsible for the gorgeous Mattiazzi collateral that first caught our eye at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair.

In addition to a catalog presenting Hecht’s Branca chair, Lambl created one detailing Mattiazzi’s years at the forefront of wood production, filled with gorgeous photographs of the company’s now 54,000-square-foot facility.

2011  Osso ( Bone ) Chair


Contemporary, Comfort and style combine in The Osso Chair designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi.

The Osso Chair is not only comfortable but also unique and astonishing, that give more value for the contemporary chair design. Smart furniture allows to create comfortable living conditions and to save the space at the same time. Such kind of furniture is necessary for those people who have small rooms or simply like functional interior designs with a minimal quantity of furniture objects.

A precisely machined chair that lets “the sensuality of the wood material – from oak to maple to ash – express itself”

Designer Statement

We were particularly interested by the fact that all the equipment is powered by solar energy and that the wood is coming from the surrounding areas to be carefully selected without the use of any chemical treatments.

They came back to the basics and this is precisely what piqued our interest and our fascination for the Mattiazzi family’s endeavor”, the Bouroullec’s explain.

“As designers, we feel involved in supporting such valiant micro-structures that are always on the edge as they try to adjust to a constantly changing market.”

Working with Mattiazzi is comparable to work with an organic farm.

While being a small, family-owned company that has been manufacturing chairs for others since about forty years, Mattiazzi decided to do less yet better.

By using sophisticated CNC set of tools and at the same time a greatly refined manual know-how, Mattiazzi has a hybrid way to consider furniture production.

We were particularly interested by the fact that all the equipment is powered by solar energy and that the wood is coming from the surrounding areas to be carefully selected without the use of any chemical treatments.

They came back to the basics and this is precisely what piqued our interest and our fascination for the Mattiazzi family’s endeavour.

As designers, we feel involved in supporting such valiant microstructures that are always on the edge as they try to adjust to a constantly changing market. That said, the Osso chair had to be the illustration of what Mattiazzi is in its roots.

We designed an object in plain wood but not in regular plain wood, the quality of the wood literally makes the object, like the best piece of meat would make the refinement of a dish.

Our intention was to let the sensuality of the wood material – from oak to maple to ash – express itself. The Osso chair invites to be touched, even caressed as it is extremely sculpted and polished thanks to the use of highly sophisticated digital control equipment.

The high-tech assembling system of geometrical wood panels allows a quite singular strength while preserving a design balance of the object. The Osso collection will include a chair, an armchair, a children chair as well as high and low stools.

“We designed an object in plain wood but not just any plain wood. The quality of the wood literally makes it the centerpiece of the object and draws attention to its materiality. Our intention was to let the sensuality of the wood – from oak to maple to ash – express itself. The Osso chair wants to be touched, even caressed as it is extremely sculpted and polished thanks to the use of highly sophisticated digital control equipment.“

The French design-duo have become the ultimate trend-setters in the furniture world. An unusual sensitivity for materials combined with a fine sense of colour ome together to form a highly expressive language that is as poetic as it is functional. Their recent museum exhibition at Bordeaux’s Arc en Rêve Architecture Centre was well received by the design world as well as the international press.

2010   Branca

Sam Hecht / Industrial Facility

In 2009, Mattiazzi approached Sam Hecht and the office of Industrial Facility with an idea: To imagine a design office not commonly known for wooden furniture immersing themselves into the world of Mattiazzi and producing a furniture family.

This combination of intelligence with all things wood (Mattiazzi) and innocent naivety (Industrial Facility) was to result in a familiar typology produced in an unexpected manner.

It was to be Mattiazzi’s second collection under their own brand, the first having been designed by Nitzan Cohen.

This new trajectory for Mattiazzi asks important designers of the 21st Century what is a new relevance for wood as applied to furniture?

“We understood early on, this design was something special that could not be rushed through a formal process. We took our time in the development with Sam to refine every detail and dimension.”

Designer statement

“For Industrial Facility this was undoubtedly an unusual project”, says Hecht.

“Our studio normally finds itself tackling items of mass-production, where the origins of production are rarely the same place where the project is commissioned”.

Industrial Facility have never lost sight of reality when it comes to the reason for a project; its use; its production and even its marketing. This attitude has set them apart from what design has gradually become, because the studio sees great value in how something is made, its materiality, and its message, rather than succumbing to the proliferation of a rendered reality and an ‘at arms length’ vision of production.

After several trips to Mattiazzi’s factory, along with close discussions with their craftsmen, Industrial Facility wished to push Mattiazzi further into the position of the robotic craftsman.

What is a chair whose ingredients are a combination of highly complex parts (made possible with CNC machinery, most notably their eight Axis Robot which they had become expert at), alongside simple traditional shaping and finishing by hand?

“I observed that the power of the robot, the repetition of the machine and the skills of the craftsmen already have synchronised relationships at Mattiazzi – where each process is as carefully selected as much as the wood blocks that were to be shaped”, says Hecht.

However, instead of being blinded by limitless possibility Mattiazzi revealed to Industrial Facility a production formula that dealt with the relationship between cost, time, and technique. For instance a complete chair made by robots would be too costly, even though making it would be quicker compared to the hand. Too simple a part, and the robot’s use is not justified. But if a certain critical part where made by the robot, in combination with other traditional methods, the formula would allow the project to meet the right criteria – a kind of equilibrium.

Hecht and his team saw this formula as the gestation of the project.

It was in conversations with his partner Kim Colin, and his colleague Ippei Matsumoto that the focus was turned to nature, where complexity thrives with reason. Beauty is simply a result of constant growth. In particular, the branches of a tree were to provide the critical analogy for the project.

Like wooden branches on a tree, Branca is a chair that is familiar to the eye.

We accept that branches support the joints of twigs and leaves at different points that may seem random but are all intentional. With Branca, its back leg supports the critical joints of the armrest, the seat and the back, and is made from a single piece of wood produced robotically. The joints are seen as but a part of the seamless nature of the chair and its simple outline belies the complexity of production.

Comfortable, practical, light and stackable.

Branca is inspired by wooden branches that turn, twist, meet and branch off. The result is comfort to the eye, to the body and to the hand.

Branca holds all of the functional attributes we expect a chair to have in a modern condition – to be comfortable; to have armrests; to fit under a table; to be light enough to carry; and to stack for easy shipping.

Along with his company Industrial Facility, Hecht has established the practice as a leading force in the high-end design world, intelligently combing furniture projects with consumer electronics and household objects. Described by the Financial Times as ‘one of contemporary design’s most quietly effective and thoughtful practices’, Hecht won this year ’s ‘Designs of the Year ’ Award for Furniture by the Design Museum in London for his Mattiazzi Branca chair.

florian lambl and nitzan cohen

2009   He Said / She Said

Nitzan Cohen

She said stool / Mattiazzi

After many years as a project leader and designer at Konstantin Grcic, Cohen has become an award winning designer in his own right and is celebrated as the new shooting star of the German design scene.

Together with his multidisciplinary design studio he has made a name for himself by combining a research oriented attitude towards conceptual design with the ability to translate the results of his experiments into a new visual language.

There are several points of interest in your project for Mattiazzi.

There is a  masculine-feminine variation between HE SAID which has protruding, aggressive armrests, while SHE SAID’s curve down gently.

It’s strange that chairs haven’t always had masculine and feminine variations, when so many other products do. In Freudian analysis, knifes are male and spoons are female. The best sets of cutlery have great tension between the knife and spoon and I can see a similar tension between HE SAID and SHE SAID.

Distinguishing chairs in this way re-imagines their role, introduces a new dynamic between chairs, and a new form of product development for them.

Expanding a product’s range by varying its size and function is an approach common in the tableware industry. Your collection has the continuity of a family of plates and bowls. The proportional adjustments between SHE SAID and SHE SAID lowide, are nicely done, there is a clear and natural relationship between them.

Titling furniture with a phrase is refreshing! It reminds me of something Eames said regarding Saarinen; that he was a concept man and that the name Womb, was outside the vocabulary of a decorator. I’m sure that in the 1940s calling his chair Womb was a radical thing to do. I think it’s important that we renew the kinds of names we give to furniture and HE SAID / SHE SAID is doing just that.

The top half of HE SAID / SHE SAID reveals the sophistication of Mattiazzi’s manufacturing technologies. The smooth geometry that joins the backrest, armrests and legs is the formal language of injection-molded plastic, and it’s surprising to see in wood.

I gather that using an 8-axis CNC machine to carve wood is essentially the reverse process of excavating an aluminum mould for a plastic chair. So industrial wood is not an oxymoron.

The level of handcraft in the joints that run along these contoured surfaces is also impressive. When it came to the legs and seat you kept the manufacturing simple, using straight stock and bent planes. This mixture of high and low-tech processes gives the collection a strong identity.

These pieces are ambitious, push their production technology, update nomenclature, and restructure our concept of how a family of chairs is composed. You’ve brought some liberated and radical notions to furniture, and managed to make some solid products.

Both the He and She said chairs have comfortable ergonomics and one can sit in them happily for extended periods of time, the need for extra cushioning arose to accommodate standards in the restaurant areas.

The she said cushion is more an independent piece of upholstery then just cushioning solution.

I saw this as an opportunity to not necessarily create a cushion, but rather expand what these chairs are by coupling them with upholstery that matches them perfectly, yet forms a completely independent object and almost a piece of furniture by itself.

It simply lays embraced inside the chair, as its perfect fit doesn’t require any additional anchoring. This side project found its direction as a twist and turn exercise, where instead of working on an upholstered chair as asked; I worked on a chair with upholstery

Schirn Kunsthalle’s Project

Seating 280 guests
Floor area(m²): 530m²

Schirn Kunsthalle vs. TABLE? Chef restaurant vs. Museum café? Design vs. art? No. But yes! Beneath this project lie those contradicting and at times conflicting elements, in a what started as a think-tank project in collaboration with Stylepark and was further developed into reality.

Previously known as the Schirn Café, it was the highlight of the Frankfurter restaurant scene of the 80s’. Since then its glory and looks has faded away, until spring 2009, when it was re-opened under the name of TABLE – A museum café come chef restaurant.

Defined as a massive postmodern monument, the Schirn Kunsthalle is true to its time. Stone, glass, cement and steel are the only materials present. All of which led us to understand that whatever we did here, could only work if the dominant surrounding architecture ‘approved’.

Creating a dialogue with the existing materials and at the same time adding a strong accent, we worked with Terrazzo as a main material.

Seeing it as an industrial and economic stone.

By carefully placing custom designed furniture and objects we tried to compliment the architecture as well as cater to the new functions and needs of the space.

The central element in the space is a dark green, three dimensional molded, terrazzo bar which wraps around the main staircase leading to the upper and lower floors. Made of 60 cm wide visible sections, the bar is massive and omnipresent yet conveys relative lightness thanks to the visibility of its sections.

In front of the bar, with the same dark green shade, an extra large round terrazzo table (hosting 16-20 chairs) continues the terrazzo landscape.

Playing with the extreme height of the space and bringing intimacy to the entrance area (the ceiling is 15 meters high), we placed a curtain around the round terrazzo table. Through a motor in the ceiling the curtain sails up or down, creating a closed, semi closed or just a suggested room around the table.

There are also black industrial trolleys disguised as the classical cake trolleys or thick powder coated black pipe structures as wardrobes and an army of highly polished brass tables with varying heights and top surface contours.

Künstlerhaus-Grill Project

Munich, Germany
Capacity: 200 guests
Floor Area: 350M²

The Künstlerhaus-Grill embodies in more than one way the contrast program to the Vegan world below it.

It was not deliberate but eventually it seemed as the contrast ‘game’ took an extra step and almost every elements in the Vegan restaurant found its complimentary contrast partner in the Grill. Metal chairs changed to upholstered wooden ones, diffused lighting into direct spots, white washed wooden floor to an industrial shinny black one and so forth.

Similar to the classic Brasseries the Grill is dominated by extensive elongated sofas confining and defining each of its rooms. The upholstered elements divide and at the same time connect the different spaces, something like office cubicles, just with sofas.

Together with a specialized local wool weaving company we developed for each ‘cubical’ area its own special fabric and colours, giving more depth and providing for soft variations in between the different zones.

Looking at wine not only as something complementary but at times also as the main course, the owners asked us to integrate an extensive wine room. The result is a transparent walk in wine room with three temperature zones, which connects the bar and the kitchen and forms a center to the otherwise slight convoluted space.

A separate room for private dinning with its own small terrace was integrated as well and answered to the owners notion of luxes.

Mattiazzi in Stockholm

The moment when a product meets the public for the first time is always a special one, but when the brand producing the product is also new, this moment becomes especially exciting; which was the case when we first presented Mattiazzi collezione as a brand and the He said, she said chair family as its first product.

It was as well, the beginning of a fruitful collaboration together with graphic designer and art director Florian Lambl, when that moment also signalled the beginning of our art-direction work for Mattiazzi.

As time was limited and all production resources were turned to producing it all for the first time, we decided not to create an extra presentation system for the chair family, but base it on the furniture itself. It was a forest like scenario made out of untreated beech wood table frames of the ‘She said table’.

Each ‘tree’ in our forest was up to 6 meters high and as table top it had a large round mirror facing downwards, multiplying the image and the tree into infinity.

We created lower versions as well and used those as pedestals for the different chair models. Here too, a large round mirror served as table top, only here the mirror was faced up and reflected the underside of each piece; emphasizing the perfect manufacturing and impeccable quality of Mattiazzi’s production.

The launch of both was a success with high interest all around, marking a very positive start and creating an interest for more to come.

With the image of high-end wood working coming from Nordic countries and the fair being in Stockholm, a funny thing kept repeating when almost all visitors and especially fellow Italians found it hard to believe that this was coming from Italy and not from somewhere around the corner

The setting: Milan during the Salone del Mobile, in a narrow, dark alleyway. The gallery building is covered with scaffolding.

The Italian manufacturer Mattiazzi invites visitors to behold its new wooden chairs.

Each of the designers’ chairs has its own space: there are several examples of Nitzan Cohen’s chair “he said/she said” in the basement.

Known for his exceptionally thoughtful approach to design, Grcic was the guest of honor and designer of the year at the recent design/art Miami and is considerd to be one of the most interesting and prolific designers of today.

His work is characterized by careful attention to the history of design and architecture as well as a passion for technology and materials. So much so, that Achille Castiglioni, considered him to be his ‚spiritual heir‘.

Konstantin Grcic and his design – yet to be presented and announced for 2012 – were located at the entrance.

The other two designs, by the Bouroullec brothers and by Sam Hecht, are on the upper floor, each in one half of the room. Each of the four designs is accompanied by a screen showing music videos.

In the run up to the fair, each designer chose ten music videos – or had their assistants pick them out – which are shown on repeat throughout the evening. At times the music plays loudly and at times more quietly. As the videos run we look out for old favourites or new discoveries. Moreover, the videos provide almost infinite talking points: Have you seen that video? I don’t like that song at all. Did you know that Spike Jonze was married to Sofia Coppola?

Our attention wanders away from the chair we are sitting on and is drawn to the screen and the social gathering in which we find ourselves. We become curious, trying out all kinds of combinations: What is it like sitting on a Sam Hecht and what music is playing? And so it goes on. One chair after another.

We watch clips, drink wine, converse or listen to the music. And in passing, great names of the design world become more familiar. For it is not only the chair that conveys a picture of its creator, but the choice of music also tells us something about their preferences and character, as staged as this may be.

Share your thoughts