It likely wasn’t Chrissy Teigen’s intention to cause a furniture frenzy over Instagram. However, a couple of weeks ago, that’s what happened. After the model and cookbook author posted a picture advertising her new loungewear line, Chill by Cravings, thousands of people commented on, yes, her fuzzy slippers, but also the sofa she was sitting on. “I need info on this couch,” wrote one user. Its identity was quickly, and correctly, confirmed—a Bellini.
A Mario Bellini Camaleonda, to be exact. You might not know his name, but you know his design. It sits in the living rooms of a large swath of tastemakers. There’s Teigen, but also artist Daniel Ashram, influencer Aimee Song, lifestyle expert Athena Calderone, and Beastie Boy Mike D, just to name a wide-ranging few. When noted perfectionist Marc Jacobs opened his Madison Avenue pop-up store in 2018, he placed a green corduroy Camaleonda smack-dab in the middle.
It’s beautiful and bulbous, like a giant bunch of bubble wrap decided to drape itself in voluptuous velvet or live it up in leather. (It might even be, well, a bit ugly.) The Camaleonda has no set shape: the piece is morpheus, consisting of shifting sectionals positioned by owner preference. But perhaps it’s best to let Bellini describe his creation in his own words: “I crossed two words: camaleonte, or chameleon, an extraordinary animal capable of adapting to its environment, and onda, or wave,” he told Architectural Digest.
We could take the easy way out and say that the Camaleonda is having a moment. Technically it is: this summer, B&B Italia, the original seller of the piece, re-released the official design for the first time since 1979. In early 2019, Eternity Modern launched a re-production.
And as we trudge through month 11 of lockdown, it makes absolute sense that such a sprawling, sink-into sofa is resonating with so many. For example: Erica Choi, founder of Egg Canvas, and her husband bought the Camaleonda in August, after years of staring at vintage listings on 1st Dibs. It was a decision precipitated by the pandemic: “As we found ourselves spending more and more time at home, making our space truly a space we adored was becoming notably more important,” she tells Vogue. “When B&B Italia announced they were bringing the Camaleonda back after 50 years, the timing was perfect. Instead of gifts, my husband and I also usually travel for special occasions and holidays, but since we have not been able to due to COVID, we used those funds to finally make the plunge in getting the sofa of my dreams.” Her pure-white version sits in a cozy corner of her Brooklyn living room. At night, they curl up on the Camaleonda’s cushions for some after-dinner reading and Netflix watching.
But the cult of the Camaleonda goes beyond coronavirus and back half a century, to 1972. That year, the Museum of Modern Art invited twelve Italian designers to participate in their new exhibition, “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape.” It’s there that Bellini debuted his fantastical creation in front of New York’s art and aesthetic elite. B&B Italia produced it for only five years, but its legend lived on: over the next decade, it became a sought-after collectors’ item.
In that same show? Ettore Sottsass, the designer of the Ultrafragola Mirror—another seventies piece seeing a significant resurgence at the moment. In the past few years, it’s been spotted in the homes of Bella Hadid, Frank Ocean, and Lena Dunham. (New York Magazine did an excellent story on its timeline.)
So what’s the link between the renaissance of the Ultrafragola and the Camaleonda? Well, as the design preference pendulum swings from minimalism to an embrace of maximalism, it seems that these made-to-stand-out pieces are once again getting their time in the living room. Plus, in this online age, doesn’t everyone want a bit of Instagram fodder?
This story was originally published on Vogue.com