When a small lemon squeezer revolutionizes design: the KS 1481 by Gino Colombini for Kartell

The KS 1481 lemon squeezer, designed by Gino Colombini for Kartell, is one of the most revolutionary objects of the 1950s: novel shapes, innovative materials, to radically renew kitchen design and beyond.

If you have an orange or lemon-shaped juicer in your home, it is very likely that the person who designed it was inspired by a true legend of kitchen design, namely the KS 1481 lemon squeezer, a masterpiece by Gino Colombini (Milan, 1915 - 2011) designed in 1957 for Kartell, a company for which Colombini was technical director at the time. The main novelty of Colombini’s instrument was, first of all, its very special shape, which resembled precisely that of a citrus fruit. KS 1481 is composed of several parts: when closed, it resembles a glass covered with a dome similar to a stylized orange, with the shape of its segments. The ribbed dome is removed and the functional part is revealed: the knurled pin on which the orange or lemon is placed to obtain its juice. What’s more, KS 1481’s dome can also be gripped to hold the fruit in place and thus avoid touching it with your hands. Finally, the color: the same as the juice that was to be obtained from using the object, to recall the function of the lemon squeezer. An eccentric color for the kitchens of those times, but nevertheless functional for its purpose, and able to keep the elegant line of KS 1481 intact.

This device also stands out as one of the most remarkable achievements in plastics processing in the second half of the 1950s. Made by a sophisticated injection molding process using low-pressure polyethylene, KS 1481 took on an innovative shape that was the result of a meticulous study of the proportions and interactions of its constituent parts. It was precisely these characteristics that earned Gino Colombini’s lemon squeezer the Compasso d’Oro award in 1959, with this motivation: “The details of the function have been restudied with great attention until obtaining an absolutely unprecedented form that through the metered dimensional play of the individual parts succeeds in ennobling and qualifying in the large series a recently introduced plastic material.”

The Kartell KS 1481 lemon squeezer by Gino Colombini
The Kartell KS 1481 lemon squeezer by Gino Colombini
The Kartell KS 1481 lemon squeezer by Gino Colombini The
Kartell KS 1481 lemon squeezer by Gino Colombini

Plastic applied to everyday objects: this is another of Gino Colombini’s important insights that make KS 1481 a pioneering object, which paved the way for the use of plastic materials even in the kitchen, where until then they had not yet established themselves. For this reason, too, its lemon squeezer can be considered one of the most important objects of Italian design in the 1950s.

Elegant, fun, colorful, and bright, KS 1481 remained on sale until 1963: other similar juicers replaced it on the market, and then came electric juicers that nevertheless maintained the lines introduced by Colombini. An object, then, that had a relatively short life, but whose influence certainly went far beyond the few years that KS 1481 was in production, and especially went far beyond the reduced functions of a small juicer.

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