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Chat in a Chair: Daniel Barbera


Earlier this year Arent&Pyke were working on a very special house in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. A very special house requires very special furnishings – and one of our favourite inclusions was a bespoke coffee table crafted by industrial designer Daniel Barbera. It was a magnificent piece, fashioned lovingly and artfully out of marble and bronze. Originally designed as a dining table, it was actually customised to be a coffee table for the first time just for us, which was exciting.

So, on our recent trip to Melbourne, it was pretty much essential we meet this man, and see his creative space. It is safe to say we were charmed from the get-go. A lovely man, so humble and generous – with both his time, and his thoughts. After shooting and chatting, he sliced up oranges for us all to eat together.

Each Barbera piece is bespoke, and made by hand – he is an artisan of truly masculine yet elegant materials. Daniel fulfills orders of his trademark pieces for residential spaces, but is also very busy working on bespoke commissions for bars and restaurants.

His workshop is a reflection of the man – ordered, meticulous and complete with some boy toys!

His favourite chair is a Cassina ‘Cab’ chair designed by Mario Bellini in 1977 – a quietly confident and manly chair made of leather upholstery zippered over a steel frame. It’s a chair which speaks of the traditional techniques of slung leather on a steel frame of other iconic chairs such as the Knoll Spoleto chair (the favourite of florist Simone Gooch, our first Chat in a Chair). It is this particular technique that Daniel is employing in a chair he is current developing. The ‘Cab’ has a honest tactility, a legible sense of assembly, and a beautiful sense of flexure in both of its materials. The zippered legs ask you to unzip them to investigate the chair’s primary structure. It softens over time and develops that natural shine of leather where the hand touches it. It’s a piece to treasure and we agree with Daniel, it’s a perfect choice.

For the very first time on In/Out, we are so thrilled to share with you all a one minute short film of our Chat in a Chair with Daniel. It is an extra special insight and we hope you enjoy it (if the video is being a little sleepy please refresh your browser).













What is your favourite chair & why?
I actually don’t have ‘a’ favourite, too many variables.. I could have a favourite if I knew how I was to use it.. As a pragmatist I would have to choose a chair that is useful and not just good looking, actually I would never choose a great looking chair if it didn’t work for me. But getting back to the point, if I were to choose a chair, I would choose a chair I can live with everyday, so it would maybe be a CAB chair. Why I love it is the simplicity of two main materials, steel and leather, both used very effectively, and I love how the leather changes over time and just gets better with age.

Order or chaos?
I think I like orderly chaos, which seems very dichotic, but essentially I don’t think it’s ever black or white, and I like constraints with freedom in between.

Chairs or tables?
Depends what for.. hmmm. If I was stuck on a desert island alone, probably a chair, if I was stuck on an island with friends, then a table.

Melbourne is home because…
I was born here, love the culture, food, and lots of specialist industry that I work with that merge with my design practice.

Marble or metal?
Marble if I wanted to create something that could never be melted down to create something else.

Dogs or cats?
I love cats, I like dogs, but only live with cats. I don’t have the time I would want to give to a dog.

Trivial pursuit or monopoly?
Monopoly, makes you feel like you are in primary school.

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise, I always have intentions, but rarely get up to see them.

A designer who inspires you?
Ross Lovegrove, for his love and pursuit of the sciences.. I love science too and it plays a big part in what I do, and how I see objects not only from the outside, but thinking like nature ‘inside out’.


Photography by Ben Pyke
Videography by: Jill Schaeffer

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