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100 years in design: ALTER EGO visiting the RIVA1920 factory

Those who have passion for their work always achieve success: the Italian factory RIVA1920 illustrates how to turn a sincere love for wood and caring for nature into a brand with a centennial timeline and a style that cannot be confused with anything.

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Last year, the family factory RIVA1920 celebrated its 100 anniversary. Small manufacture turned into a unique player in the design market, keeping to the idea that people and the environment are unified whole. The production uses exclusively natural wood, vinyl glue (no toxin), finishing oils, and wax. The finished furniture is packed in cardboard with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate. In this particular case it’s not a trendy marketing hook, but a deep philosophical business approach.

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ALTER EGO Milan team visited the production units and Riva Center exhibition hall featuring all the current and museum collections of the factory. And also met with the company’s management. It is interesting to note that the facade of the building built in 2010 is totally covered in Siberian larch wood.

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For their furniture, the factory uses solid wood and battenboard. All traditional wood species (poplar, walnut, oak) are purchased exclusively from controlled cuts, where new trees are required to be planted. The entire production process, from primary wood processing to packaging, takes place at the same workshop. At the stage of finishing, one can feel a pleasant smell of oils and wax, as all furniture is covered with these natural materials. Wax is used to give a matte texture, oil is for a shiny one.

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The factory produced its most iconic collections from recycled wood: the Kauri fossil tree that lived for 30/40/50 thousand years, and Briccole from the Venetian lagoon - old oak signposts that have stood in seawater for more than 10 years and have been replaced with new ones.





Kauri is a New Zealand endemic conifer, its cut is strictly forbidden. The diameter of its trunk can reach up to nine metres. About 50,000 years ago, due to natural cataclysms, the Kauri forests were flooded and for several millennia remained trapped in swamps under a layer of water and mud. Without the oxygen, they were not only perfectly preserved but gained additional strength. The RIVA1920 factory was one of the first to use this type of wood for the production of unique tables. All the slabs from Kauri trunks have different textures and shapes. Therefore, it is impossible to make the same tabletops — each one will be unique.

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Though Briccole cannot impress with their considerable age, they are as unique as Kauri. Over several decades salt water changes the characteristics of wood, and marine organisms leave peculiar patterns on it. The factory uses Briccole for both sophisticated tables and cabinet furniture.



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Another RIVA1920 specialty is the Lebanese cedar. The length of its trunk can reach up to 40 metres. Cedarwood is saturated with essential oils that make it resistant to moisture and in the sun change its colour to a noble grey. Thanks to its being a moth-repellent, this wood is also used for wardrobes and other storage units. The workshop where this furniture is produced is perhaps the most fragrant one.

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To know the factory better, you should visit the Riva Center. On the ground floor, there is a showroom with an area of 1200 sq.m. Here you can see new collections and fall in love with the authenticity of wooden furniture. Design of each item reveals the warmth and beauty of this material. You are tempted to touch everything with your hands, smell, examine closely an unusual texture.

The first floor of the Center, dedicated to the history, features a museum of ancient wooden tools from the collection of the factory’s founder. The main exhibit is the Antico table with a twelve-metre top made of Kauri wood, which is 48,000 years old. This table was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano.

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The top floor of the Riva Center houses the Pangea lab - Xyloteque creative laboratory. Here are displayed several thousand samples of natural veneer. Сonversations and meetings take place at the original Pangea tables, made of assembled together figured tabletops on a set of tapered legs. This table by Michele de Lucchi was first presented at the Expo in 2015. Since then it’s considered to be an icon of Italian design.

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Maurizio Riva, CEO of the RIVA1920 factory: “I was very happy to give the wonderful ALTER EGO team a tour around our factory. We love our job and share this passion with our clients. We aspire to cooperate with the best architects who create unique pieces of furniture for us and designers who know how to reveal the beauty of natural materials in their projects”.


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