Lake Como is home to some of the most iconic, breathtaking views in Italy. Its tranquil waters touch the foothills of the Alps, creating dramatic views that have drawn droves of tourists throughout modern history. From the gardens of Villa Olmo to the Piazza Cavour, its majestic shores have been a time-honored getaway for names like George Clooney, Greta Garbo, Liz Taylor, and Frank Sinatra.
The region and nearby Brianza are also home to Poliform, the family-run furniture maker that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Beginning as an artisanal studio in 1942, the international design company was officially established in 1970 by Alberto Spinelli, Aldo Spinelli, and Giovanni Anzani. A culture of tradition, hard work, and material know-how has defined the multi-generational brand recognized for its focus on functional modular systems and luxury Italian craftsmanship.
Through contemporary collections created in collaborations with some of the biggest names in design—think Marcel Wanders, Daniel Libeskind, Jean-Marie Massaud—its clients can customize their personal space from concept to completion. Poliform’s eye for design can also be found at some of the best hotels around the world, including the Hilton Lake Como, via Poliform Contract which focuses on larger-scale projects.
With a summer holiday on the banks of Lake Como on the mind, Whitewall spoke with the CEO of Poliform, Giovanni Anzani about the area’s rich history, traditions, and pervasive culture.
WHITEWALL: What does the area of Brianza and Lake Como represent to you personally?
GIOVANNI ANZANI: I have always been linked to this area. It’s where I was born and still live. Here, business and social cultural values are handed down from generation to generation. My parents gave me the passion to do things well, which reflects a typical Brianza entrepreneurial spirit that never stops. That is why I’ve stayed, along with my partners.
WW: Poliform has roots in the area, in addition to the presence of its current manufacturers, production facilities, and Poliform Lab. How do you think the landscape near Lake Como influences the culture of Poliform?
GA: Poliform is an international company that preserved the values and traditions of the region. A culture of work and knowledge of wood has defined the area, and in recent years, seen exceptional economic development. Here, there is a bond rooted in the know-how of the past, anchored to a present in total harmony with the future you want to live.
WW: How is the architecture of Poliform’s spaces designed with its surrounding environment in mind?
GA: All our offices are characterized by architectures of great rigor, located within a few kilometers from each other, perfectly integrated with the surrounding environment in full respect of the nature that characterizes Brianza.
WW: With almost 680 employees locally, how does Poliform connect with the community of the area?
GA: Poliform fully recognizes the influence that its presence and industrial activity have on the community in terms of social development and shared economic well-being. To this end, we work to always pursue high ethical and deontological standards. We work daily to improve the quality of life by placing the person at the center of our sphere of attention. Alongside internal activities and initiatives in favor of our employees, we have developed a series of activities in the field of social and environmental protection, strongly supporting culture. Today more than ever, a company must be socially responsible, at the service of the region, the community, and the system in which it operates.
WW: Poliform is known for its incredible list of collaborators, like Marcel Wanders, Daniel Libeskind, Jean-Marie Massaud, Emmanuel Gallina, and Paolo Piva. When working with a designer, are they invited to the Lake Como area? If so, what are those interactions like and why is that important?
GA: Poliform manages to respond to the desires of an international audience while achieving the highest quality and formal perfection when it comes to design and creativity, thanks to collaborations with some of the most prestigious Italian and international designers. These designers periodically visit the company, helping to breathe our DNA into their own vision.
WW: Poliform notably furnished the Hilton Lake Como. Can you tell us about this project and how it represents the vision of Poliform?
GA: Poliform Contract helped to achieve a contemporary and sophisticated atmosphere within the Hilton Lake Como. This was a complete project—from the restaurants, lobby, concierge counters, bars, spa, and meeting rooms, to the 170 rooms and suites of the new luxury hotel that is the largest on Lake Como.
Ideally located in the heart of the city between the center of Como and the Swiss border, the hotel offers its guests the opportunity to stay within walking distance of the romantic villas and lush gardens near the lakefront and the neoclassical Villa Olmo. There, natural beauty rivals the rich artistic heritage.
When traveling, a hotel becomes a moment of experience, an element that makes any trip memorable. Our Contract division contributes to the creation of original architecture around the world, combining functionality and stylistic vision—in places like Hilton Lake Como, Lutetia in Paris, Café Royal in London, Conservatorium in Amsterdam, and Cala di Volpe in Sardinia—making any trip a moment to live and remember.
WW: Around Lake Como, what are some of your favorite places to eat or have a drink/relax?
GA: There are many different places where I can enjoy a drink and breathe in a quiet, holiday atmosphere—from the terrace of a luxury hotel to that of the hotel once frequented by Greta Garbo, from the coffee table of a former boat stopover to that of a historic butcher’s shop now transformed into a bistro—all situations that reflect the class that you breathe in every corner of our lake.
WW: For you, what is the best kept secret of Lake Como?
GA: Lake Como has always been considered one of the most beautiful places in the world thanks to a certain purity in the air, innumerable traditions, and unique history all its own. Here, the lake and the mountain meet to create a varied and complex environment that is unparalleled. Whether surrounded by nature or sitting directly on the lake, there are many small villages and towns. Some of them are a true mirror on the past, endowed with a rustic beauty of when the mountain meets and the calm of the lake, as it does in Bellagio and Ravenna.
WW: Where in the area would you go to get inspired?
GA: Sailing from Como to Cernobbio, up to Tremezzo and Bellagio. The view of the high wooded mountains rising vertically from the lake, set against a sky clouding in sudden thunderstorms is a vision of pure beauty from which I’ll always draw inspiration.
WW: Poliform recently celebrates its 50th anniversary. You have been there from the beginning. What did this anniversary mean for you?
GA: They say that looking at each other’s eyes is one of the hardest things. Poliform, after 50 years, decided to do so, sharing our values—love for work, respect for quality, and dedication to excellence—in the universal language of photography.
Around design, one has often tried to build a philosophy, while it is much rarer to look for the substance without which the furniture has no life: the soul. This is what we asked Paolo Roversi to do in the book Time, Light, Space, in which the great photographer interpreted the 50 years of our company. It is a real journey within the Poliform universe that condenses years of innovations, challenges, and encounters into the images of its products.