Anna Castelli Ferrieri

19 October 2022
MoDiP has several pieces in the collection by Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1918 – 2006), the leading female industrial designer in Italy throughout the 1960s-1980s. She began as an architect, studying at the Politecnico di Milano and becoming its first female graduate in 1943. Her husband, Giulio Castelli, a chemical engineer, set up his own plastics manufacturing business in 1949 named Kartell, at first making car accessories and domestic products. Expanding into lighting in the 1950s and furniture in the 1960s, together they helped to shape the brand into a design-led, high quality, contemporary furniture company using plastics materials.


Anna Castelli Ferrieri and Guido Castelli with the Round Table 4991.
Image credit: Storace & Holzwarth, 2013, p. 92.

Although Castelli Ferrieri chose to pursue her career in architecture alongside Kartell (working on more than fifty different projects over her lifetime), she began to contribute furniture designs in 1964 starting with the Round Table 4991 which she designed with Ignazio Gardella (refer image above). Three years later she produced one of her most well-known designs: the Componibili stacking storage unit, originally named mobili 4970/84. One of the first products to be made using injection moulded acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), it was modular, colourful, lightweight, multi-purpose and, through mass production, accessible, and completely different to the traditional storage furniture available at that time. Still available to buy today, Componibili celebrated its 55th birthday this year with over 10 million sold across the world. MoDiP’s example (refer image below) dates to 2013.


AIBDC : 006878
Image credit: MoDiP

By the 1980s, Castelli Ferrieri had become Kartell’s art director, and it is during this period that she designed the side table, Style 4583 (refer image below, on the left). Intended as a set of three (below, on the right), each varying in size, the post-modern set was available to buy from 1985-1995. The square tabletop and circular shelf are injection moulded in polypropylene (PP) with ABS attachments that slot into the four metal legs. Also sold in white, the colour of MoDiP’s example and its proportions all remind me of furniture designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh but I can also see a Memphis influence in there too. It is surprisingly tall, standing at one metre in height.


AIBDC : 009337 (left) and the set of three tables (right)
Image credit: Katherine Pell and Storace & Holzwarth, 2013, p. 204.

Two ashtrays in the collection, both compression moulded in melamine formaldehyde (MF), were also completed during this period (refer image below). Style 4637 (on the left) and Style 4640 (on the right) were both designed in 1979 and sold until 1996. The black coloured example consists of two pieces that slot together with the cigarette ash collecting in the bottom tray. The red example is referred to by Kartell as an 'ecological' ashtray because the cigarette is stubbed out in the central section that extinguishes it due to a lack of oxygen, thus eliminating any smells. I think they are both very beautiful and distinctive designs, and luckily the 4637 is unused, complete with its original box.

AIBDC : 009336 and 009335.
Image credit: MoDiP

There are many other examples of Castelli Ferrieri’s work that we would like to acquire such as her 1979 designed stool 4822/4826, her 1982 designed 4300 table, her 1986 designed stacking chair 4870, her 1987 designed Stool-table 4810…. but for now, what we do have is always available to view in the museum, on request.
Katherine Pell
Collections Officer
Fiell, C. and Fiell, C., (2019) Women in Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.
Hall, J., (2021) Woman Made. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.
Katz, S., (2009) Anna Castelli Ferrieri. Plastiquarian. 41, 20.
Storace, E. and Holzwarth, H., (2013) Kartell. The Culture of Plastics. Cologne: Taschen.…