Annibale Colombo: A Tale of Craftsmanship and Style
The Italian province of Monza and Brianza has long been a source of luxurious merchandise – its close proximity to Milan has made its artisan craftsmen constantly busy with orders from noble families. Workshops popped up in the 19th century like mushrooms after a good rain. In fact, the great passion for woodwork that is such a crucial characteristic of Annibale Colombo today started back in 1812 with Filippo Colombo – the founder of a small workshop that specialized in crafting furniture for the Milanese upper-class echelon of that time.
Over the years, the skill and sheer artistry of Colombo’s woodwork of classical furniture lead to expanded markets, and in 1972, the production moved from the historical buildings of Meda (where the showroom lives on) to Novedrate. The family tradition was passed on from father to sons – Giuseppe, the eldest of Filippo’s boys took over and further cemented the Colombo reputation, and later on Annibale Colombo took the helm and established himself as one of the first Italian furniture makers who began exporting their products.
Annibale Colombo served in the military under Gen. Reverberi and was proficient in the German language. After the Second World War, Annibale set up deliveries to Germany, thus expanding the family business even more. In the 1970s, Luciano Colombo, son of Annibale and current owner of the company joined the business. At the time, he was in the middle of his Architecture studies at the Polytechnic Institute, but his father’s increasing eyesight problems brought Luciano closer into the family trade sooner than expected.
Of course, that only benefitted the Colombo name in the furniture industry, as Luciano implemented his immaculate work ethic into the design and production process along with his name – ‘the need to get to the very core,’ he said.
The factory workshop looks like a wonderland of naked woodwork and furniture elements that are destined for greatness. Luciano pays a lot of attention to the initial stages of the production and carefully selects the wood suppliers – he prefers those who are able to tell him the history of each trunk. If a tree grew on the river banks, for example, it will offer a softer structure as opposed to one from the top of a hill. Luciano needs to know that before the trunk is handed over to his master craftsmen.
‘The tree is an excellent material,’ says Luciano. ‘But if you hurry or skip any steps, it will sooner or later have negative effects. Thus, for example, the drying process cannot be neglected, and afterward, the wood has to be given time to stabilize, as its core is always wetter than its exterior.’
The wood boards are then carefully selected and studied before they go into production. For example, knots and ‘eyes’ are not allowed in detail elements such as the legs, for it will make them fragile and less durable. And one of the key statements of the Annibale Colombo brand ethos, aside from craftsmanship, is durability – all of these stunning pieces of furniture are meant to be with you for a lifetime, and then some.
The furniture is often beautifully decorated with intricate inlays and on the basis of a colour palette that corresponds to different types of wood: green matches tulip tree, while red and black go hand in hand with Paducah and ebony. For a small drawing, an artisan will spend up to half an hour to design – the factory has evolved to a technology that can perform simple designs in 10 seconds. In addition to this cutting-edge machinery, the Annibale Colombo factory is also proud of its sustainable approach to its production process, seeking to leave minimal to no footprints on the environment. It is self-sufficient in electricity consumption and uses wood chips for heating during the winter period.
To add more charm to this wonderful and intimate story of the Italian furniture brand, Luciano and both his sons are not only the designers behind the interior collections, they also dabble in the restoration of antique pieces.
The 8,000sqm factory is responsible for the production of both classic and contemporary designs by the Annibale Colombo family. The contemporary lines are hugely successful on the international market, and the Colombo style is recognized for its artistry and craftsmanship as it graces the interiors of high-end residences, hotels and superyachts all over the world. The contemporary lines feature great versatility and elegance, while still loyal to the construction techniques that are typical of artisan production.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the Annibale Colombo brand, the New Quadro modular system is by far one of the greatest things to come out of their factory. The beauty of it all is in the fact that it can be customized at will, in order to provide the complete experience of the client. Over the years, Annibale Colombo has created all kinds of ‘New Quadro’ solutions, by which the appearance was never the only thing that could be made bespoke – from size to functionality, every aspect of the line can now be tailored to fit specific needs. By that philosophy, the brand has built entire revolving libraries, added a single moving panel to a TV cabinet, devised a file cabinet for Japanese state bonds, and inserted paintings in cabinet shutter doors – to name but a few of the feats that were accomplished using the revolutionary ‘New Quadro’ design.
To take things even further, even their elements with drawers can be subjected to the customization process, giving clients to either go for the standard metal guides for total extraction and soft closing or, on specific request, keep the traditional system on wooden guides. Annibale Colombo has even created an online configurator, giving clients the opportunity and pleasure of basically designing their own bookcase systems, by changing the size, type, and modules within it – once the design is ready, the company will the provide the final sketch and quotation. If that isn’t a bespoke experience, we don’t know what is.