The quintessential expression of Italian furniture design, the sofa is a product that represents artisan skill and industrial ability. An emblem of upper-class homes, it was – particularly in the second half of the twentieth century – the object of research into materials, modularity and methods of use. In the 1960s, homes became smaller, lifestyles changed, and as a consequence the market demanded multi-functional products that could be configured to remodel spaces. Architects such as Cini Boeri designed sofas by taking the person as the starting point for completely autonomous use. She added wheels to furniture, created elements that could be combined to create living areas that transformed into beds for the night, upholstered in practical, easy-to-clean and easy-to-substitute quilting.
Other designers, such as Vico Magistretti, reflected instead on the forms of seating, no longer in a “conversation” position, but also semi-horizontally, with reclining backrests for relaxing in front of the TV, the “new hearth” of the home. The transformation of elements, as well as the encouragement to experiment with new ways to use and occupy the home, are moments that have affected all of the furnishings from so-called Italian Radical Design, which through companies such as Gufram, Poltronova and the Centro Ricerche C&B (now B&B Italia), generated innovative and long-selling products.
Modularity has been a recurrent theme in the design of sofas since the 1970s, not only because it provides the user with a central and active role in the composition of their personal space, but also because the product can grow and integrate over the years in accordance with the homes and the needs of the people. This marked the birth of large-scale modular systems, offering the possibility to add corner end-pieces, daybeds, tables and multi-purpose arms, and that include as many as fifty elements.