Born by chance and a little mischief in 1954, Italian furniture group Zanotta came to the fore in the heady days of the late 1960s, blasting onto the scene with the Sacco bean bag, a piece of design that changed a generation and shaped Zanotta into the likeable protagonist we know today.

The early years of Zanotta were all about well-made, traditionally fashioned sofas and armchairs. It wasn't until 1966, when the company decided to extend the collection and work with the best designers in Italy, that the public started to sit up and take notice.

Achille Castiglioni, Marco Zanuso, Gae Aulenti and the architecture partnership of Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D'Urbino and Jonathan De Pas, became the fresh faces of Zanotta.

The influence of a new era

The formative years between 1966 and 1968 sparked a wave of new ideas and new products. In 1966 the Throw-away sofa was revolutionary as the first sofa formed in foam, made possible by technology employed by the Fiat car company and the vision of founder Aurilio Zanotta who engaged Willy Landels, the then editor of Harpers and Queen magazine, to design it.

Then in 1967 Zanotta launched Blow, the first inflatable chair ever created and the first Zanotta product to reach a mass market. Designed by Lomazzi, D'Urbino and De Pas, Blow was inspired by pneumatic 'Pop' architecture and the 'poor' technology of inflatable dinghies. It became an acquirable symbol of being 'modern' in the 60s.

However it was the Sacco bean bag launched in 1968 that became a design icon. Now familiar to millions of people world-wide, Sacco is a piece of design without a fixed shape that says everything about a company that has always worked outside the norm. At the time it sold more pieces than any other in the Zanotta range and 40 years later continues to be one of its biggest sellers.

Zanotta today - a family affair

When Aurilio Zanotta died in 1992, the family maintained control and now his children, Elenora and Francesca are running the business. Both are architects and Elenora art directs each collection, while Francesca designs furniture and objects. Together they continue the strict philosophy for innovation and research established by their father.

Zanotta's awards for design span six decades – for Sacco, Blow, Throw-away, Quaderna, Mezzadro, Sciangai – and the Soft chaise designed by German designer Werner Aisslinger. At the heart of the group is the unfaltering belief that each and every product has to be approached individually.

Zanotta builds collections of pieces that can stand alone. The somewhat quirky and unique quality of each piece underpins the reasons why items like the 1957 Mezzadro stool still feel as fresh and exciting today as they did the day they were launched, while recent releases, like the Club Sofa by Prospero Rasulo and the Lama garden seat by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, all fit clearly within the collection.

Browse the Zanotta collection on the Space Furniture Australia website.