Digging the Crates: Bottega Veneta Reimagines Le Corbusier’s Minimalist Seat Design

For Milan Design Week, creative director Matthieu Blazy commissioned revamped editions of a deceptively simple Le Corbusier classic.

An installation view of "On the Rocks." Courtesy of Bottega Veneta.

Last night as Milan Design Week was beginning to escalate, guests milled about eating exquisitely sculptural canapés to the swinging soundtrack of a live jazz trio. Among the well-heeled attendants at the Palazzo San Fedele, a grand 19th-century architectural jewel that is now a roughhewn industrial work-in-progress, was an understated Matthieu Blazy, Bottega Veneta’s creative director. The Italian luxury house will soon turn this raw, domed space into its Milan headquarters as well as a showcase for its cultural initiatives. But for now, it was a darkened setting that was dominated by two towering mountains of boxes, stacked haphazardly chic like a Jenga of luxury.

a close up of a colorful leather wrapped designer crate designed by Bottega Veneta sitting atop wooden ones

Two Bottega Veneta versions of the classic LC14 Tabouret Cabano. Courtesy of Bottega Veneta.

These great mounds were testaments to iconic design, as well as Blazy’s affinity for killer seating. It’s certainly a standout quality for a fashion designer to have.

In 2022, Blazy’s second Bottega Veneta runway outing featured a mic-drop stellar set, with an audience seated on custom Gaetano Pesce chairs. In fact, the mountain components will look familiar to guests who attended the Fall 2024 show. The audience sat on these deceptively simple Blazy-commissioned cubes that were forged with a special charred-wood technique, based on traditional Japanese methods, which provides natural protection to the wood while revealing the unique patterns of the grain.

a wooden fashion show set has minimalist boxes for seating and sculptural cacti

The minimal Western setting for the Fall 2024 eschewed bleachers for custom LC14 Tabouret Cabano stools. Courtesy of Bottega Veneta.

They’re now part of the “On the Rocks” installation, a joint pop-up venture between Bottega Veneta, luxury Italian furniture-maker Cassina, and Fondation Le Corbusier. It is open to the public until April 20. As for the seats in question, calling them mere stools wouldn’t be inaccurate but seems somewhat dismissive. There are a lot of ideas within these crates, and they obviously continue to inspire. They were originally conceived by Le Corbusier to be the ultimate expression of utilitarian minimalism. The design is gracefully elemental—seamless dovetail joints and oblong apertures make them perfect for handling.

a worn whiskey crate from the 1950s

The original crate that inspired Le Corbusier. Courtesy of Botttega Veneta.

The origin of the LC14 Tabouret Cabano is both epic and serendipitous. As the saga goes, the architect and designer found a whiskey crate washed ashore on the beach near his Cote d’Azur home. Lest you think this a myth, the original Ballantine’s Glasgow crate is on display at “On the Rocks,” surrounded by velvet ropes and guarded by an eagle-eyed sentry. Corbusier painted the interior sea green which echoes its origins as well as perhaps, the next point in its aesthetic journey.

one blue and one yellow leather luxury crates designed by Bottega Veneta to be used as stools

Only 15 will be made of each color. Courtesy of Bottega Veneta.

There are colorful, leather-bound limited-edition versions made for this project and Milan Design Week—a seafaring rain-tree green, red, blue, and a rapturous acid yellow. While the wooden ones evoke quiet luxury and minimalism, these are clearly products of Bottega Veneta, and formed using the instantly recognizable Intreccio foulard technique, woven by hand at the house’s artisanal atelier in Montebello, near Venice. To give them their unique, textured finish, a special brushwork process is used that entails laying down a layer of black paint over the color and then partially removing it. Therefore, each is unique. An engraved gold plaque marks the edition and only 15 of each colorway will be produced. A hundred wooden iterations will be available.

This selection joyously veers from serene to opulent. The only question that remains is, “Where will Matthieu Blazy’s seating journey take him next?”

“On the Rocks” is on view at Piazza San Fedele 1/3 in Milan, Italy, through April 20. Book your visit online.

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