Born Cesare Colombo in Milan in 1930 ‘Joe’ Colombo as he became known was in my opinion one of the finest industrial designers of domestic storage solutions. He had a real passion for storage & decluttering and I think his design and passion for storage is simply unparalleled. I hope my short biog of Colombo’s design work on storage products might convince you too:
1958 – As an architecture student at Milan Polytechnic, Colombo was already experimenting with product design in the new wonder material, plastic! He’d previously studied fine art then experimented with abstract art, stumbling into design in 1953 when he was asked to design the ceiling and three open-air seating areas of a jazz club.
1963 – Obsessed with storage, Colombo creates the Combi-Centre. This mobile storage unit (see image left) consisted of a series of cylindrical units that slotted into each other and was designed to store books, drinks or even used as a tool storage cabinet.
In the same year he also produced The Mini-Kitchen, a wheeled storage container just 90cm high and 75cm wide with a hob, oven, grill, fridge, work-top and which still had storage for cookbooks, kitchen utensils and foodstuff.
1964 – Colombo designed the famous Man-Woman Storage Container. He saw this as a modern take on the Victorian travel trunk or perhaps the seaman’s chest but for a couple. The Man-Woman Storage Container had enough shelves, clothes rails, storage drawers and a mirror for two people all inside two storage boxes.
1967 – Colombo’s experiments in the design of modular furniture culminate with his space saving chairs – Additional Living System. He loved product that could be adapted to the users own environment and needs and then perhaps stored away to save space when not required and this was just that.
1968 – Box 1, Colombo’s “night and day facility” was manufactured. The Box 1 contained all the requirements of a bedroom within a series of interlocking storage boxes which when required divide to become a bed, wardrobe and shelves.
1969 – VISIONA1, a more luxurious version of Box 1 was designed which Colombo described as his “habitat of the future” and which contained the contents of an entire house within a series of mobile storage units with no dividing walls, (perhaps inspired by Le Corbusier’s Transformable Double-House).
Back with kitchen storage, Colombo designed the Roto-Living Unit in 1969 for his own kitchen which also had a small production run. The unit consisted of a storage cube with a central rotating table which could be adjusted to different heights surrounded and enclosed by kitchen storage units.
‘69 can’t pass without mentioning his CABRIOLET-BED. Whilst this item wasn’t a product designed with storage in mind it’s an absolute design classic of the 60’s. The bed had a hood that closed like a convertible car to provide total privacy for the user(s), and a lighting system that could simulate day or night time lighting alongside a stereo system.
1970 – Colombo’s design work with storage products culminated in 1970 with the famous Boby Trolley. Made from ABS it had rotating drawers and shelves and 40 years later is still now in production with Bieffeplast.
1972 – MoMA New York exhibits Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit, a 1971 designed giant storage box that has all the essentials of modern living, a kitchen, bathroom, bed and storage cupboards all contained within a single storage box in classic Colombo colours of white, yellow, red and black.
Sadly Colombo died on his 41st birthday 30 July 1971 so did not get to see his masterpiece of storage design in MoMA.