A pair of vintage Italian brown leather Korium armchairs with a steel frame on black castors, designed by Tito Agnoli for Matteo Grassi, 1980s – the price is for both chairs.
This pair of chairs date from the 1980s and were part of series of armchairs and sofas designed by Agnoli for Matteo Grassi in 1978. The design bears a close resemblance to the Mario Bellini Cab 413 chair which was released by Cassina in the previous year. Given that both chairs took over a year to prototype it’s difficult to know which took precedence, and although both have a similar look, they feel different: the 413 is softer and more organic and the Korium, firmer and more hard wearing.
In a sense both took inspiration from their respective manufacturer’s with regard to the outcome of the designs. Matteo Grassi had a long history of producing high quality and finely crafted saddlery going as far back as 1880, and this shines through in the quality of the construction and stitching. Like the Bellini chair, the point of identification is that the metal framework is an analogy for the human skeleton with the leather acting as the ‘skin’ that shrouds the frame.
The design of the Korium also shares some aspects of the construction and design of early 20th Century bentwood furniture such as the benches that were created by Jacob and Josef Kohn. Like the wood that was so beautifully embossed in the Kohn’s bench seats and back panels, the leather here is soaked and pressed into a frame to create the soft contours that then hold their shape after they dry.
Korium represented a seed change for the Matteo Grassi family company as it was the first design they produced under their own name as they moved more into mainstream furniture production. This change was based on their increasing involvement in furniture prototyping in the previous 10 years that saw them create and develop bespoke designs for many leading architects and designers. Korium was designed by Tito Agnoli, who created the design working closely in house with the manufacturing team, and was released in 1978 – the range included a small and large armchair as well as a two seater sofa.
The smaller armchair, as here, had a range of options and was offered in a number of configurations. It’s actually a comfortable chair in its own right in its most basic format because of how the sculptured seat and back panels support the sitter; and it is quite often found in this format. But for sitting for longer periods it does benefit from the addition of a seat cushion and this was offered as either a simple padded cushion or a thicker more fully upholstered seat.
Whilst the thicker seat pad suits the sofa and larger armchair the thinner seat pad cushion follows the line and flow of the smaller armchair better. It adds comfort but also maintains the aesthetic, and in my opinion it’s therefore the best combination for the compact version of the chair. The chair was also offered with or without castors, and again, it’s better with. Not only because it makes the chair easier to move around while you’re sitting in it, but because the contoured cut way around the castors adds an additional detail of interest.
Both chairs benefit from having the Matteo Grassi signature imprint in the back support as shown, and are offered in good vintage condition. This is represented by the usual slight denting and small pock marks that thick leather like this picks up over the years; and also with some wear to the tops of the arms as shown in the photos.
All in all though they are a fine pair of chairs with a gentle patina commensurate with age and use. Originally designed as a dining chair the chairs work equally well in a corporate environment as either a desk, reception or meeting room chair.
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Vintage Italian brown leather Korium armchairs by Tito Agnoli for Matteo Grassi
Leather and steel
Vintage, Post Modern
Date of production
H89 x W63 x D60cm
Seat Height: 50cm
Arm Height: 69cm
Number of pieces included in price
Good vintage condition
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