Atelier Living Divani Embraces Upholstery Tradition with a Modern Twist

The first thing you must know about furniture atelier Living Divani: it’s an Italian company. Not only in the name, divani being Italian for sofa, but in the way it does business. In its dedication to its craft. In its idea of what constitutes good design. In its aesthetic of what’s pleasing to the eye and the touch. In its soul, in other words.

“Live on them!”

Carola Bestetti wouldn’t have it any other way. As the studio’s current president, and daughter of its two founders, Bestetti wears her heritage with pride: the craftsmanship, the traditions, and the years of know-how embodied in the community of artisans, designers, suppliers, and manufacturers who have lived in the area north of Milan for generations.

Right: Extra soft 8-piece sectional. Living Divani’s distinctly modernist pieces fit with a range of home styles, from traditional to contemporary.
Right: Extra soft 8-piece sectional. Living Divani’s distinctly modernist pieces fit with a range of home styles, from traditional to contemporary.

And of course, the family. “I always say Living Divani is in my DNA,” Bestetti says, smiling as she leans back and settles into one of her company’s immensely stylish, immensely comfortable sofas at Livingspace, the Vancouver dealer for Living Divani’s wares. “I spent more time in the company when I was little — because my parents had to sometimes work on the weekend, so I would walk around and be there. And it grows on you.”

Growing is something that Living Divani has been doing for a while now. The company started almost 50 years ago, producing fine, mostly leather Italian upholstery. Gradually, that grew into an entire line of chairs and sofas, offered in a variety of fabrics. As the years went on, the company slowly branched into other lines of furniture. While the word divani may tell you about the company’s roots, it’s the “living” part that describes how the company approaches its work.

The soft, comfortable piece has a sensuality that is a hallmark of the designer Piero Lissoni, who has worked with Living Divani since 1988. (Photo by Elisa Casanova)
The soft, comfortable piece has a sensuality that is a hallmark of the designer Piero Lissoni, who has worked with Living Divani since 1988. (Photo by Elisa Casanova)

“Live on them!” Bestetti says emphatically of the sofas, pressing and pushing the cushions she’s sitting on to drive home her point. “The one thing that I always like to say is that whatever piece of furniture you put in an environment, it might change the look of the environment, but it’s who’s living within the environment that makes it alive. It’s not what you put inside. It’s how you live with it.”

To that end, Bestetti is hard at work expanding the studio’s work beyond its traditional expertise in upholstery. In doing so, she has also expanded the company’s stable of designers, and invited up-and-coming talent to contribute to the studio’s work. “I decided to focus on emerging designers,” she says. “I thought that [would be] a good choice for us, to be able to have fresher ideas on certain levels, [and] to give a chance to other designers to be seen and known.”