Published on February 18, 2019

The first time I remember seeing anything Tobia Scarpa, it was in artist Nicole Cohen’s Upper East Side apartment back in 2012. The blogger behind Sketch42 had enthusiastically shared her lucky streak after finding a pair of Tobia Scarpa chairs abandoned at the curbside. At the time, they were selling for almost $9,000 each on 1stdibs. Naturally, she did what any good design enthusiastic Manhattanite would do and dragged them home.

Back then, I wasn’t particularly fond of Tobia Scarpa’s low-slung bulky basement furniture–looking style. But after seeing the designer’s iconic Soriana sofa and chairs in the carefully curated homes of anyone who’s anyone in design—from Nate Berkus to Athena Calderone and Kelly Wearstler—I’ve changed my tune. So where does this infamous sofa come from and how did it get to be so popular?

It all started in Montebelluna, Italy, where Scarpa opened a design office with his wife, Afra. The modern feminist in me can’t help but notice that Afra was all but erased from the legacy of this important piece of design history, but that’s another story for another day. Tobia had previously worked in Murano as a glass designer but quickly became known for his notable contributions to design houses like B&B Italia and Knoll International.

The ever-popular Soriana sofa was a piece designed for Cassina in 1968 and remains one of the couple’s most well-known designs to date.

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Photo courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

In many ways, avant-garde designer Kelly Wearstler kicked off the recent Scarpa frenzy when she featured a whole living set in her Malibu home’s living room. This was in the early 2000s. Drenched in shades of cream and beautiful natural light, this room quickly became a beacon of modern-day design.

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Photo courtesy of Trunk Club

In 2015, fashion startup Trunk Club partnered with Theory to design this room in its Manhattan office. It features a set of original Tobia Scarpa sofa and chairs in a trendy mid-century-inspired environment filled with cacti and sheepskin throws.

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Photo by Julie Holder for Jeremiah Brent

Around the same time, TV personality Nate Berkus revealed the Greenwich Village apartment he then shared with his husband, Jeremiah Brent. Front and center was, yet again, a notable Soriana sofa—this one upholstered in elegant white linen.

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Photo by Chris Dibble for Jeremiah Brent

This same sofa now sits in the formal living room of their sprawling 9,000 square-foot Brentwood, California, home proving that an antique of this pedigree can sustain a cross-country move and blend into virtually any interior—a solid argument that helps justify the sofa’s hefty price tag.

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Tourists Welcome; Photo by Adrian Gaut

Most recently, a set of Tobia Scarpa sofas were spotted in the newly opened Tourists motel in the Berkshires. Surrounded by a vaulted wood-paneled ceiling, a lofty fireplace, and tons of loungey furniture, this space makes the case for the sofa’s game room appeal.

Convinced that you, too, need a Tobia Scarpa sofa in your life? Shop originals below:

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