Having recently celebrated the gold 50th anniversary of its Componibili storage system by late founder and art director Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Italian furniture maker Kartell extended the party by inviting 15 designers to put their stamp on the famous ABS plastic form. Among these partnerships, one with architect Fabio Novembre is noteworthy because he is known more for shockingly irreverent hospitality projects than for marketable, consumer-friendly product design. Yet Componibili Smile, his playful, emoji-inspired interpretation of Ferrieri’s original design, has achieved the right balance of cheek and best practices, according to the manufacturer. “This collaboration perfectly combines his creativty, vision, and irony with Kartell’s ability to create high-quality, technologically innovative products,” says Kartell president Claudio Luti.

Instead of altering the archetype, Novembre avoided adding details and instead subtracted material to create three fun facial expressions, instantly recognizable in modern communication. “I’ve always been under the impression that the round finger hole was meant to be a wink for those who were able to grasp Anna’s sense of irony,” says Novembre, explaining that having known Ferrieri personally helped to fuel his idea. The minimal tweaks to the units’ door pulls deliver a surprisingly strong visual impact without adding a lot of steps to the existing production process. Measuring 12.6 inches in diameter and standing 15.7 inches high, the units are constructed via a tongue-and-groove system. As they have been since 1967, the units can be ordered with casters, topped with removable trays, and intermingled to create side tables and tall cabinets.

Kartell is producing three other Novembre designs too: the EUR stool, the Lantern luminaire, and the Villa dollhouse. Designs of all the Novembre pieces suggest that the forward-thinking architect also has an affinity for romancing the past. “I am very aware that the past, present, and future are links in the same chain,” he says.