The Italian glass company became an artistic hothouse when Milanese architect Gio Ponti signed on as design director in 1931 and was soon joined by glassblower Pietro Chiesa. The creative spark ignited when the maestros combined old-world glassmaking techniques, for which the firm was well known, with daring Italian designs in a style known as Novecento.
"I’ve taken the leap," says Leigh, who recently shed a Regency desk for a lean, angular beauty by Ponti. "I’m interested in design that reflects the best of whatever period it was made."
Consider Fontana Arte’s bold and bellissimo cocktail cabinet shown here. Crafted of pearwood and wrapped in blue glass, it went for $72,000 at Christie’s in December 2006. When it was made in 1937, the cobalt cabinet with a mirrored interior and copper shelves won the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition in Paris. It’s a virtuoso performance piece that fuses traditional cabinetmaking (bronze feet, wood-trimmed escutcheon, and carved legs) to modern glass.
Photograph: Courtesy of Christie’s