Mattia Bonetti: Designs More Expensive than the Original

Mattia Bonetti's sketch for Abyss
Mattia Bonetti's sketch for Abyss

In late 2004, I was working with Mattia Bonetti on designing some furniture for my house. He is as warm and friendly as they get, especially for a superstar designer. When I first met him I expected an air of importance, or stiff European formality. But that’s not Mattia. He is a lovely, soft-spoken family man. His atelier does not have the requisite walls of celebrity pictures. There are no shelves replete with design and art awards. Rather, upon meeting Mattia in his own environment, I was in the presence of a hard working, regular guy—until he started to sketch his fantastical drawings. Then I was reminded that this was no normal man, rather a design genius.

Mattia starts his creative process with simple color drawings (he keeps all of them). If a client is interested in pricing one of the concepts, Mattia goes to work with his various design partners and figures out how to make the object and how much it will cost. Some of the drawings he created for me were only concepts. He came back to me months later and apologized because he couldn’t build what his mind had imagined. Most of the time the objects can be built, and whether for me or another client, they are usually realized and amazingly successful. Commissioning a piece from scratch is very rewarding, but often very complicated.

Bonetti's Abyss table and Louis XVI chairs for Lindemann Jr.'s home.

So, when Mattia suggested that my dining room table would be number two from an edition of eight, I balked. I wanted something unique. Mattia convinced me otherwise and my dining room table for the last 15 years has existed in homes other than mine, sort of.

Mattia was right (as geniuses often are). I didn’t need unique. The Abyss table is so extraordinary, as is the case with masterpieces; it is a (multiple) gift that keeps on giving.

Last month I noticed a flurry of activity on my social media accounts. Architectural Digest had posted a story about my (and seven other people’s) Abyss table. What a treat for me to see my table in other people’s homes. The other tables are structurally the same as mine—but to me, mine is unique. That’s how good the work is.

Bonetti's plans for the reimagination of Louis XVI chairs.

When I agreed to order edition number two of Abyss, Mattia decided to make unique chairs to go with the table. They are reproduction Louis XVI chairs. (Who knew that reproductions were more expensive then originals?) The needlepoint cushions are Mattia-designed and Aubusson-made. When they arrived I was blown away. Then I panicked. What would happen when my two-year-old boy spilled tomato sauce on the Aubusson needlework? I called Mattia in an agitated state. He told me not to worry, that he would get back to me with a solution. A few weeks later the phone rang and the solution arrived. Mattia decided to have the design of the chairs include plastic cover with gold edges. My Aubusson-Mattia Bonetti-Louis XVI reproduction chairs were to be covered in transparent plastic. Ta-da! No tomato sauce problem.

Mattia informed me that he had often seen chairs in Florida covered in plastic, and with a sweet mischievous smile, he said “and why can’t we cover yours with plastic?”

To this day, my chairs are covered in plastic—and there are no tomato sauce stains.