Form And Fun-ction - The Design Of Achille Castiglioni


In our Flos sale tomorrow, we’re selling some of the world’s most iconic lights. Tiffany Jow explores the mind of the man behind them.  



Castiglioni with the chandelier Taraxacum 88, designed 1988 for Flos.

“There has to be irony in both design and in the objects,” industrial designer Achille Castiglioni once said. “I see around me a professional disease of taking everything too seriously. One of my secrets is to joke all the time.” The witty Milan-born talent, who is often deemed one of the most important designers of the 20th century, expressed his sense of the absurd by using familiar objects in unexpected contexts, such as placing a tractor seat atop a stool or use a car reflector as a light. The result was stunning minimalist creations that exhibit an ironic sense of humor, technical skill, and thoughtful, practical forms.


Mezzadro, designed 1957 for Zanotti.

Though he passed away in 2002, his distinctive work lives on. Today, we celebrate Castiglioni’s purist yet playful style with a collection of pieces he’s best known for: the pendants and lamps for famed Italian lighting outfit FLOS. There’s his curious Aoy lamp, a hand-blown glass vessel with a foot-wide opening at its bottom for a cat to crawl inside, and the skinny, streetlight-inspired Arco floor lamp. He modeled his Brera S pendant after an ostrich egg, made his Frisbi pendant look like a flying saucer, and took note from George Nelson’s wire-framed, resin-covered lights to make his Gatto table lamp, where a cocoon-like membrane serves as its diffuser.


Brera, designed 1962 for FLOS by Achille Castiglioni.

Many of these lights were designed with Castiglioni’s elder brother, Pier Giacomo, with whom he worked (alongside his other sibling, Livio) after graduating from Politecnico di Milano in 1944. Three years later, he joined the organizing committee of the Milan Triennale, and helped establish the esteemed Compasso d’Oro award (he was honored with eight himself) and the Italian Association of Industrial Design.


Taraxacum, designed 1960 for FLOS by Achille Castiglioni.

Near the end of his long career, as a professor at his alma mater, one of his students was Paola Antonelli, who’s now MoMA’s senior design curator. She fondly remembers him arriving to class each day with what she describes as “a large Mary Poppins-like black bag from which he would extract and line up on the table that day’s chosen pieces from his stupendous collection of found objects: toys made from beer cans, odd eyeglasses, wooden stools from Aspen, small suction cups strong enough to lift a table. These were the most effective tools of design instruction.” Castiglioni’s genius stemmed from his focus on things that so many designers are quick to overlook: the everyday things right in front of us. And his sense of humor made these objects live forever. 

Tiffany Jow

If you want to see more stunning Castiglioni lamps, check out our Flos sale. 

All images courtesy Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni. 

Fab In Real Life - Jeff Jordan Edition


We love to see design objects from Fab out and about in the world. (Plus, we’re also snoopy and like to check out other people’s spaces.)  So imagine our delight this morning when we came across this LinkedIn article about our friend and investor Jeff Jordan’s office. Jeff says: “As you can see, I love light and color. Almost all of the artwork and interesting knickknacks in my office came from”

Mr. Jordan will always have a special place in the hearts of Fab employees, because on the day that Andreessen Horowitz’s investment was announced, he bought the whole office an amazing barbecue lunch. And cake! Clearly, this man has great taste. 

Fab 101: (Re)designing On A Budget

If you’re anything like most of us here at, you’ve made it through the holidays richer in memories (hopefully good ones!) rather than in funds. And while it’s tempting to spend your leftover dollars on a gym memberships or a BluePrint juice cleanse, your brand-new 2012 life makeover won’t be complete updating your living space, too. It’s the perfect time to spruce up your digs—even on a limited budget. And who better to ask than our buyers? Here are some of their simple but important tips on how to give your pad an easy facelift.

Stop being scared of color.
Is your life a little too beige? Buyer Devin Guinn says, “Don’t be afraid of color! Be bold—and think about which ones excite your senses.” And if your limited means (or limited energy level) prevent a total home makeover, start by painting a single wall in a color that pops. (Then get fancy and describe it as your “accent wall.”) Get even more budget badass by using stencils, wall decals or even colored tape to create a dynamic pattern.

Show your walls some love.
Gabrielle Zola, our art buyer, is all about putting up pieces that show off your personality. “Are you whimsical? Thoughtful? Edgy?” she asks. “There’s wall art that speaks to every taste and every budget.” You don’t have to spend hundreds on framing—thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales can be great places to find funky frames. Remember that your favorite textiles can be framed as well. 

Get acquainted with accents.
If buying new furniture would force creditors to occupy your street—or if, like some of us, you have a fear of commitment—try recreating your room’s look with accent pieces. Pillows, throws, vases and the like are a good place to start, but think outside the box and gather some of your favorite trinkets and arrange them on a bookshelf or credenza. As one of our furniture buyers, Cat Birch, points out, “It breaks up a room without breaking your bank account.”

Get some plants.
Plants breathe life into your space—literally. They add color, clean your air and give an always-changing element to a room that’s hard to get any other way. There’s no formula for changing a black thumb to a green one, but may we suggest air plants? They’re eye-catching and especially easy to care for. Otherwise, water your plants while you wait for your tea or coffee to brew.

Clean your windows.
Chad Phillips, our Senior Director of Specialty Shops, suggests you get up there and clean your windows thoroughly to give your room a subtle but crucial update. If you’re a city dweller like most of us here, you might find that cloudy days are less dreary once you’ve removed some of that grime from your windows. Remember: light can dramatically alter a room—make sure you’re letting as much in as possible. And try to get rid of any clutter draining away the style energy from the space. More isn’t always better—sometimes, it’s just more.

If you’re on a budget, do like Tim Gunn and make it work. Get creative! Just because you can’t do a full renovation or refurnish your entire house doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy where you live. Small changes—and pieces with small price tags—can transform your space in a big way. Lucky for you, that’s what is all about.