The Pioneer of Plastic Elegance in Modern Design

October 1, 2023

Anna Castelli Ferrieri: The Pioneer of Plastic Elegance in Modern Design

Anna Castelli Ferrieri, a pioneer in Italian modern design, challenged conventions by weaving beauty into the very fabric of functionality. As the first woman to graduate from the Milan Polytechnic School and a pivotal figure at Kartell, her unique philosophy reshaped the design landscape, proving that what is truly beautiful is undeniably useful.

“It is not true that what is useful is beautiful. It is what is beautiful that is useful.”

This reversed Bauhaus quote comes from Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1918–2006) and simply describes her design philosophy in the sense that beauty can improve people’s way of life and thinking.    

In 1943 Castelli Ferrieri was the first woman to graduate from the prestigious architecture- and design college Milan Polytechnic School, where she worked closely with architect Franco Albini and became influenced by his neo-rationalist ideas of reduction, function and rigorous beauty. The ideas of simplicity and functionality of the German Bauhaus school was also a basic foundation for Ferrieri’s work at that time.

Later Castelli Ferrieri became a member of the young generation of Italian designers who transformed the interior world with new technologies and materials. Castelli Ferrieri preferred to work with plastics, where her intuitive elegance became a signature of the Italian modern style.

In 1946-1947 Castelli Ferrieri worked as an editor for the Milan based architecture magazine Costruzioni. Two years later she joined her husband Giulio Castelli who founded the manufacturing company Kartell, which became, and still is a leading actor in plastic designs and furniture. With the success of Kartell, the couple lead the way in Italian modern design throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. 

In 1976, Anna Castelli Ferrieri became the Art Director of the company Kartell while still experimenting and designing in her own prolific way. In 1968 she designed one of the first chairs produced from a single plastic mould. 


Anna Castelli Ferrieri’s storage modules Componibili, lounged in 1969 is one of Kartell’s oldest products and is even today a best-seller which still meets various functional needs in people’s homes. The Componibili range was exhibited in “Italy: The new domestic landscape” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1972 and attracted a lot of attention. This exhibition marked the significant influence of Italian design in the 1960s and beyond.

Anna Castelli Ferrieri was later the recipient of a plethora of design awards and also published two books; “From project to product: plastic design” 1984 and “The interface of material” in 1991. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 87, but her design legacy remains.

Read more about Anna Castelli Ferrieri here.

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Mats Theselius

Mats Theselius has designed iconic, limited edition armchairs for a.o. Källemo since the mid 1980’s. His designs are sought after on the vintage market and are represented at a.o. the Museum of Furniture Studies in Stockholm.

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