Misha Kahn masters anti-conformism with a furniture collection inspired by human shapes

Misha Kahn presents 'Morphologica' a collection including a sofa and an armchair for the eclectic Italian brand Meritalia, marking the American designer's first collaboration with a furniture brand

Misha Kahn colourful sofas in a green room
(Image credit: courtesy of Meritalia)

In the bustling tapestry of creative intersections Misha Kahn's 'Morphologica' collection is a beacon of autobiographical creation. Created for Meritalia (the Italian furniture brand acquired by Gufram's Italian Radical Design group in 2023, and whose catalogue includes some of Gaetano Pesce's most imaginative upholstered seating) and presented at Salone del Mobile 2024, the collection comprises a sofa and an armchair, both inspired by human shapes. The series also marks Kahn's first collaboration with a furniture brand, his work usually existing primarily in the collectible design sphere. 

The New York based designer has always been a master of anti-conformism, surprising the audience with unusual forms and bright, powerful associations of colours as well as an audacious use of materials. The new pieces integrate his signature gestures into a product that can be produced by the company, an integration that implies not only the exploration of new perspectives within today’s industry but also a real adventure for Kahn, ultimately showcasing the versatility and adaptability of his talent.

Misha Kahn presents 'Morphologica' for Meritalia

Misha Kahn colourful sofas

(Image credit: courtesy of Meritalia)

'I come to projects with different approaches, sometimes sketching, sometimes making small models, and sometimes sculpting directly into the computer,' he says. 'I find that it can be useful to try them all as the first marks often give the character in the end piece.' 

His approach combining material manipulation and casual alterations is embodied in the sofa and armchair conceived for Meritalia, expressing his specific idea of creativity: 'They are made of impossible shapes, just like a rollercoaster,' he explains. 'I love the experience of working surprising myself, and I found that same sentiment in the historical works of Meritalia, so I’m happy we could capture it again for our first project together. 

'I believe there’s a way to work with intuition and emotion beyond being naïve, and I have tried to find this balance between the objectives of building and engineering, and the spirit of endless possibility. I also believe that things can communicate with us in a way that isn’t about us as people and our narratives; they have this kind of intangible energy of matter that resonates with us on a different plane. I think this type of thingness is a very useful emotional cartographer that can be a mirror for us, or a recording for a feeling in time.'

Misha Kahn colourful sofas

(Image credit: courtesy of Meritalia)

Kahn was asked by Charley Vezza, owner of the company, to produce an upholstered, modular sofa. The 'Morphologica' armchair and sofa are made of an assemblage of modules – 12 for the sofa and 8 for the armchair – of sculpted polyurethane foam upholstered with fabric. A solid metal structure allows for the roller coasters of foam to swirl, enmesh and expand, resulting in an experimental, and, in Kahn's words, almost ‘shocking couch’. 

The colour palette was sourced by a software with the input of working on 5 basic colours, playing with a different tone for each module. Because of the software, the colour possibilities are endless, a match to the pop-modernity of Meritalia.

Does Kahn consider himself a designer or an artist? As a child, he wanted to direct Claymation films. 'I think I just bring a related feeling to the different pieces, emphasizing their connection even if the materials and techniques are quite varied.'

He is a perfect representation of a rebel within his own industry, playing with unusual shapes, breaking down and moving freely between disciplines, mixing his creative chaos with the more rigorous rules of industrial design. 'Sometimes an object can be so strange and obscure, and someone still wants it - just one person in the world. I love that, but I also love trying to tap into something more universal, but still totally anachronistic and unfamiliar.'

The 'Morphologica' collection by Misha Kahn for Meritalia will be shown as part of the Italian Radical Design Pavilion at Salone del Mobile 2024, Hall 24, Booth M10-M12


Maria Cristina Didero is an independent design curator, consultant and author, who has contributed to many publications over the years. Didero has consulted for companies such as Vitra, Fritz Hansen, Lexus, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valextra among others. Based in Milan, she works internationally, curating exhibitions for institutions: some of her most recent projects include Nendo: The Space in Between and The Conversation Show at the Holon Design Museum, Israel; FUN HOUSE by Snarkitecture at National Building Museum, Washington D.C.; SuperDesign a project about Italian radical design, NY; Vegan Design, or the Art of Reduction by Erez Nevi and The Fish and The Crowd by Carlo Massoud, Milan. In April 2022 she curated a Mathieu Lehanneur exhibition at the Triennale in Milan called The Inventory of Life, while in July she debuted a project at the MK&G in Hamburg titled Ask Me if I Believe in the Future, alongside a series of ongoing collaborations. She was appointed 2022 Curatorial Director of Design Miami/. She is currently preparing two projects for Milan Design Week 2023.