When Gio Ponti created a line of furniture, he left no stone unturned where details were concerned. In order to create a cohesive design for a living space, in which one piece of furniture complements another, it is important to create pieces which can serve as a central focal point for the room. In a living space, this focal point is often the coffee table. Ponti certainly took notice of this fact, and produced a number of these pieces during his career. In fact, the coffee table could be seen as a key piece in understanding Ponti’s approach to furniture design, because these items serve a practical purpose in addition to functioning as a key element in a room’s overall aesthetic appeal.
One early (1920) Ponti coffee table exemplifies this unique combination of function and style. Composed of post, the table reflects Ponti’s dedication to creating chic furniture which could also be mass-produced in factories. The three-legged tripod design provides a refreshing, modern change from traditional four-legged varieties, giving this piece the unique flair characteristic of Ponti’s technique. The oval shape also provides an innovative stylistic change from the common rectangular shape often seen in coffee tables. The large cut-out in the table top might at first seem to detract from its function, but serves a clear stylistic purpose. The table still has enough surface area to perform its primary task, while the cut-out area lends a transparency to the table which helps it blend into its surroundings and seem to float, lighter than air, in the center of the visual space. Such blending of purpose and chic design demonstrates that Ponti had a very clear vision even this early in his career.
Another classic example of Ponti’s work is this round coffee table with a diamond patterned top. Once again, the transparency of the table top keeps the piece feeling light and allows it to be a complement to the room without weighing it down. Small accents of color are included on the inside of the diamond patterns, so that an intriguing amount of color can add interest to the room without becoming overpowering. The round design makes the table an interesting piece to add to a grouping of sofas or chairs, which are often more square or rectangular in shape. This adds an eclectic touch to the room and prevents the overall result from feeling too boxy. Slender, barely noticeable legs provide functional support without distracting the eye from the table’s intricately designed top. Once again, the materials chosen reflect ease of manufacturing while allowing for creative design.
It is difficult to find examples of coffee tables prior to the late Victorian era (1837-1901), and many historical examples prove upon closer inspection to simply be dining tables with their legs purposely shortened. Historians believe this reflects an upsurge of interest in entertaining guests at home, as well as increased leisure time due to changes in the way people now lived and worked. The mass production of coffee tables was only just beginning when Gio Ponti began to impact the world of furniture manufacturing. His designs certainly influenced the way this piece was conceptualized in the future, by other designers as well as the public. For this reason, it could be said the coffee table is one of the most iconic examples of Ponti’s career.