Ico Parisi, a master influencer

Looking at the work of this designer and architect

Ico Parisi was an Italian architect and designer who was born 23 September 1916, Palermo, Italy and died 19 December 1996, Como, Italy.

Parisi did not want to be pigeon-holed as either an architect, designer or artist as he was interested in all mediums. This was borne out by his additional activities as industrial designer, painter and photographer.

Remaining most of his life in Como, Italy worked on architectural and design projects sometimes with his wife Luisa with whom he had a design studio, La Ruota. Ico married Luisa in 1947 and their studio was founded in 1948. Luisa had been a student of Gio Ponti who famously admired Ico ‘s work and, overwhelmed by Parisi’s genius, declared that all he could do in response was to go and live in oblivion.

One of the Parisi’s famous design pieces was the Model 813 Uovo (Egg) Chair for Cassina (1951).

Pieces for the home

Model 813 Uovo (Egg) Chair for Cassina (1951) By Ico and Luisa Parisa, Studio Ruota, Como, Italy. Photo 1st Dibs. This piece in its original upholstery was sold by 1st Dibs

Model 813 Uovo (Egg) Chair for Cassina (1951) By Ico and Luisa Parisa, Studio Ruota, Como, Italy. Photo 1st Dibs. This piece in its original upholstery was sold by 1st Dibs

The Egg chair is a space-age looking piece with its “escape hole” in its upholstery allowing the legs to protrude. It is quite animalistic in its design with a very challenging little character but also supremely elegant in its dumpy but supremely shapely little way.

The Parisis were trail-blazers for design in Italy in the 1950’s and nothing seems to have dimmed their influence. Their pieces are perhaps more recognisable than their name these days outside of Italy but any internet search using the term “midcentury” will bring up interiors with pieces that all seem to be imbued with the Parisi spirit.

Their relationship with their client Cassini produced several, now iconic, pieces including the Model 691 chair.

Set of four chairs Model 691, 1955. Photo by 1st Dibs who are selling these original pieces for £8,152.36 per item

Set of four chairs Model 691, 1955. Photo by 1st Dibs who are selling these original pieces for £8,152.36 per item

Pieces for business

I particularly like Parisi’s desks – weighty and large they give an impression of lightness and and swing with their underslung, barely attached drawer-unit and sweeping frames. Many of their sideboards contained all these design elements – and looked like their desks..

Direction desk designed by Ico Parisi for MIM (Mobili Italiani Moderni) Roma in 1962. - Steel and aluminium frame with rosewood top and three drawers. - Photo by DesignAddict who are selling this piece for €3800

Direction desk designed by Ico Parisi for MIM (Mobili Italiani Moderni) Roma in 1962.
Steel and aluminium frame with rosewood top and three drawers.
Photo by DesignAddict who are selling this piece for €3800

Mahogany sideboard

However one sideboard does not look like a desk and that is their elegant mahogany sideboard. If anyone makes a Wall-E type film using furniture as characters then this piece surely qualifies. Dhow could so many design elements be put together to achieve this lightness and presence? Dipping draswers, chamfered stretcher and strange extra side leaf bringing out the thrusting angled front legs which aren’t at the front at all. In the sales blurb the legs are described as like a “stiletto-clad leg seductively extended from beneath a skirt” but I think this puts the piece on a Betty Boop / cartoonish level and, however engaging, it does seem to need to be taken seriously.

Ico Parisi (Italian, 1916–1996) and Luisa Parisi (Italian, 1914–1990), Sideboard. Mahogany with lacquered brass mounts, about 1955. 36 by 81 ½ inches. Held in the Toledo Museum of Art, Gallery 18 if you would like to go and see it.

Ico Parisi (Italian, 1916–1996) and Luisa Parisi (Italian, 1914–1990), Sideboard. Mahogany with lacquered brass mounts, about 1955. 36 by 81 ½ inches. Held in the Toledo Museum of Art, Gallery 18 if you would like to go and see it.

Reinterpreting Parisi’s work today

The work of Ico Parisi was one of the inspirations for the recent design of The Devonshire Club Hotel where his style was re-interpreted through the work of March and White interior designers.

The Devonshire Club Hotel Champagne Bar - Interior Design: March & White - PVD coloured stainless steel: John Desmond Ltd

The Devonshire Club Hotel Champagne Bar
Interior Design: March & White
PVD coloured stainless steel: John Desmond Ltd