From the shores of Lake Como, Italian furnishing company Baxter uses an ancient material – leather – for pieces fit for the 21st century
Like many a story about Italian design, Baxter has family at its heart. Two enlightened entrepreneurs, Luigi and Paolo Bestetti, founded the company in 1990, but their work alludes to a century-old entrepreneurial tradition for furniture-making, and in particular to working with leather. Baxter’s DNA springs from a love of this material, and is supported by northern Italy’s unique manufacturing culture – a combination that has produced exceptional furniture for people with a taste for both beauty and quality.
Baxter doesn’t just want to create furniture, but evoke an experience via a certain mood or a tactile detail, and with its incredible versatility, leather is one of the few materials that can do this. The quality of these raw materials is paramount: Baxter chooses full-grained, exquisite leather and then works it, maintaining its character as a natural, flexible, pleasant-to-touch, distressed material with imperfections that make it unique.
The manufacturing story begins with a journey from the mountains of northern Europe to the Italian tannery districts. Here, the hide itself, the designers’ creativity and artisans’ hands come together. Master tanners manipulate and dye the hide using natural anilines, and there is a balance between research and tradition, hand and machine.
Baxter seeks to rediscover and re-evaluate regional craft techniques that may have been almost forgotten, using its own research to take them in new directions. It is known for using leather in unprecedented and unexpected ways: folded, sewn, pleated, screen-printed and polished. Chameleon-like, it can morph into the backdrop for vintage geometric motifs or be used as a structural element for outdoor furniture. It can be smooth and velvet-like, wrinkled, or sewn with raw cut edges. By the end of the story, the hide may be deeply changed, but its quality is still recognisable. Leather is unique and impossible to reproduce, elevated by Baxter into something beautiful and tailor made.
Access to craftsmanship and high-quality raw materials, combined with an openness towards innovation and research, have attracted many well-known designers to work with Baxter, including Piero Lissoni, Paola Navone, Vincenzo de Cotiis, Studiopepe and Draga & Aurel.
In its collections, Baxter explores different moods, and recognises how a piece of furniture can change the way you feel. Mix and match materials, colours and textures to play a style game, whether you want to evoke a look that is subtle, elegant, energetic or sensual. Many elements are customisable, from the piping colour and type of leather to the choice of thread for the stitching, to the metal finishes for the feet or the frame. Baxter’s ongoing research anticipates trends and supports many different styles and tastes, resulting in timeless ideas. It is this creative process that lies at the heart of it all.