If you were in Milan for Salone del Mobile a few weeks ago, you likely found yourself popping into the showrooms along Via Solferino in the Brera design district—named the city’s most picturesque neighbourhood by Wallpaper magazine. Among them, taps specialist Fantini transformed its showroom into a hall of mirrors designed by Piero Lissoni to celebrate the AboutWater collaboration with Boffi. Collections by Marcel Wanders, Studiocharlie and Lissoni himself were on show. It was one of two events Fantini held with ties to Lissoni during the fair. The other saw guests transported to their idyllic factory on the shores of Lake Orta in northern Italy, which Lissoni renovated to much applause back in 2018. Collaborating with visionary designers is nothing new for the family-owned company, which was launched by brothers Giovanni and Ersilio in 1947. Today, it’s helmed by Giovanni’s daughter, Daniela, who used to ride her bike through the factory halls as a child and joined the company officially in 1982—a time when their I Balocchi series was all the rage. Designed in 1978 by architects Davide Mercatali and Paolo Pedrizzetti, it was the first collection of coloured taps to hit the market. The name, which translates to “the toys” in English, comes from a comic strip and speaks to the range’s playful bulbous shapes and pop art inspired colours that were popular at the time: fire engine red, sunflower yellow, emerald green, etc. Those eye-catching hallmarks transformed I Balocchi from being purely a functional piece in the bathroom, as most taps up to that point were, to a defining point of the room’s design. You can just imagine the stir it caused when they were debuted at the Mostra Convegno—a biennial exhibition also held in Milan that covers all things heating, cooling and plumbing. (Just like Salone but totally different, as they say!)
Following I Balocchi, Mercatelli and Pedrizzetti designed another colourful line of taps called Calibro. With its oversized silhouette, ring handle, and primary colour palette accented with black, it was an industrial precursor to the Memphis design movement, which originated in Italy in the early 1980s. To point, Calibro was inducted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1983. While Calibro is no longer in production, I Balocchi is still available in its signature red, white and black colourways, plus any RAL colour on request. You’ll find it in recent projects by architects and designers like António Falcão Costa Lopes, Noz Nozawa, and Osmose.
If you fancy doing a deeper dive, visit the Fantini factory and stay at the Lissoni designed hotel, Casa Fantini Lake Time, also on Lake Orta. The bathrooms are naturally fit with Fantini taps and the region is steeped in artisan history sure to get you inspired. Piedmont, as it turns out, has been a center for metal work dating back to the 14th century, when artisans there were crafting bells for Italy’s many churches.
Photos © Fantini