Chiavari Chairs by Fratelli Levaggi

Read our interview with Fratelli Levaggi and discover the genuine passion shared by three generations. Fratelli Levaggi work with a variety of woods that are part of the time-honored Chiavari chair tradition and leave very few steps of the process up to modern machinery, favoring a human assessment and manual approach to ensure high quality and attention to detail.

Chiavari, a small town in Liguria near the capital city of Genoa, is renowned for its millennial forests of beech, cherry, ash and maple trees. These forests have supported wood-based crafts for centuries thanks to the sustainable harvesting methods employed by Italian lumberjacks. 

Tell us about your products and what makes them unique.

For over two centuries the chairs we make in Chiavari have achieved an optimal merging of form and function. Antonio Canova described their structure as “a miracle of technique and elegance.” To this day our chairs are extraordinarily light without compromising strength and sturdiness. Over the past two hundred years, one particular chair, the chiavarina, has come to symbolize this symbiotic relationship between man and nature. At once classical in its clean style, and modern in its lack of decorative excess, the chiavarina uses only the finest aged woods, all locally sourced. Fratelli Levaggi is one of the very few select, family-run companies to employ age-old techniques and ancient tools, combined with exquisite taste and forward-thinking design concepts to carry this tradition into the 21st century.

Can you walk us through your process step by step?

After the trees are selected and cut down, over a period of two to five years, the planks are aged naturally, by allowing the air to flow over and around them. The use of larger machines is limited to the very beginning of the process. Then, with hand-guided saws, we follow stencils to cut out the shapes for each component part of the chairs. By turning the legs and other round parts on lathes by hand, we achieve a precision and meticulousness of finish that no industrial machine could match. We still use natural animal glue and each join fits very tightly together, requiring many blows of the mallet. This ensures the structural integrity and great sturdiness of our chairs, giving them a very long life. Finally, the polish and wide array of colors with which we finish the chairs protects them from humidity and aging, while satisfying even the most discerning customers.

How did the company get started?

It was the entrepreneurial spirit of Rinaldo Levaggi (1934-2015) that set the wheels in motion. After many years of apprenticeship as a lathe worker in the shops of several artisans, he took over a small workshop, in 1963, and started manufacturing chiavarine, together with his three brothers.

Give us a brief history of your company.

From the beginning, in their youthful zeal, the founding Levaggi brothers participated in many trade shows, exhibitions and competitions. They soon realized that if they wanted to thrive in a broader, more international market, they would have to introduce new, more modern designs to add to their roster of time-honored models. This they proceeded to do, while always remaining true to the ancient manufacturing method still followed today.

he 1970s were a trying time, because unscrupulous industrial competitors flooded the market with machine-made, cheap imitations of the chiavarina, forcing almost all of the authentic original craftsmen out of business. The Levaggi brothers were one of a small handful of companies who decided to weather the storm. They moved to a building they owned, to cut down on overhead, and doubled down on the quality of their work, believing that eventually quality and exquisite workmanship would win out over cheap cookie-cutter chairs.

History has proven them right, and today the Levaggi company is still thriving. Gabriele and Paolo, the latest generation of the Levaggi family to take over the reins, have given the company a new burst of energy and creativity, and are steering it into the future with a sure hand.

Are there any projects or designer collaborations that you are particularly proud of?

Fratelli Levaggi is proud to collaborate with a number of renowned international brands, among which are Salco, Fendi, Laura Biagiotti, Vogue, Matteo Thun and many others in the world of architecture and fashion.

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