Mauro Pasquinelli

An exemplar of great 20th-century Italian design made possible by 21st-century manufacturing techniques, the Mauro Chair is a hardworking, irrepressibly stylish, stackable, timber chair by Italian master designer Mauro Pasquinelli.

Tradition, technology and serendipity:
the unusual history of the MAURO CHAIR

The Mauro Chair is a stackable timber chair with plenty of character and a very unusual back story. Created by Italian designer Mauro Pasquinelli in the 1970s it has been rediscovered by Established & Sons and its alluring old-school aesthetic and futurist aspirations given a sculptural 21st-century makeover.

The chair had not previously gone into production due to its challenging geometries and curves, explains Sebastian Wrong, design director for the brand: “When it was originally designed you could never have made a sophisticated chair like this at a competitive price point, simply because the technology for chair-making in volume didn’t exist in factories as it does today. Nowadays you can use CNC routing systems that cut into solid wood and make complicated and compound curves, sections, joints and alignments that could once only be done by a craftsman.”

But the tale of the Mauro Chair is not just about a brand, a designer and the possibilities of technology. It is also about the expertise and know-how of a specific district in Italy, the chair-making triangle located in and around the tiny town of Manzano in the north-eastern province of Udine, in northern Italy. And about chance.

A year ago Wrong and his colleague Federico Gregorutti were visiting a plywood factory in Manzano when they spotted a chair that seemed special. It wasn’t being carved by a machine or in the hands of a craftsperson, “it was just one of many chairs on the factory floor that had been there forever and was used randomly be employees who needed to sit down to do something,” says Wrong. “In their eyes it was just a comfortable chair they used to carry out certain tasks, it had become invisible.” Intrigued, Wrong and his team embarked on a search for the designer of the chair. Eventually, they tracked it back to Mauro Pasquinelli, a once prolific but relatively little-known designer based in Scandicci outside Florence, and discovered that it had been produced by a Manzano-based firm called Malobbia.

Pasquinelli is 87 and in poor health now but still draws and makes things every day from a makeshift studio set up in the basement of his house. Part of a generation of Italian designers that helped shape the way furniture and chairs evolved in the 20th century, he created over 50 chairs and several pieces of furniture for various manufacturers during the course of a career spanning at least half a century. “I still design chairs every day,” he says. “It is greater than me, it’s my passion.”

A self-confessed perfectionist, when Wrong and Gregorutti visited him for the first time, he immediately told them about a prototype in his attic that he considered to be an evolution and improvement on the chair they had seen. The sculptural backrest on this later chair featured sophisticated curves, the seat was lighter, the legs were more defined and there were elegant chamfered edges on the backrest. This is the chair that was to become Established & Sons’ Mauro Chair.