Carlo Bugatti was born in Milan on 16 February 1856, son of the architect and sculptor Giovanni Luigi Bugatti.
Young Carlo trained at the Brera Academy in Milan and the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1880 he began his professional career as an architect in Milan and married Teresa Lorioli. Their eldest son Ettore was born 1881, followed by daughter Deanice in 1883 and another son, Rembrandt, a year later. The Bugatti’s circle of friends consisted of numerous sculptors and artists, including the composer Giacomo Puccini and the painter Giovanni Segantini, who had married Carlo Bugatti’s sister in 1880.
Carlo Bugatti worked with ceramics, musical instruments, silverware, and textiles, but he is best known for his furniture designs. The first show of Bugatti furniture was at the 1888 Fine Arts Fair in Milan. Influenced by “New Art”, Bugatti used inlays of exotic wood, copper and parchment in his designs as well as mother of pearl. In the summer of 1888 his work was displayed at the Italian Exhibition in London – his first international show. In London, Bugatti’s furniture was awarded an honorary prize and his characteristic furniture style began to find avid devotees around the world – in New York, the Waldorf Astoria’s Turkish Salon was furnished with Bugatti pieces. Further shows followed in Amsterdam and Antwerp, and international newspaper reports and reviews contributed to his growing fame. In 1900 his furniture was awarded the silver medal at the Paris World Fair.
At 48 years of age Carlo Bugatti sold his studio in Milan and moved with his family to Paris, where he worked for the big department stores Maison Dufayel and Au Bon Marché. During this time, he also created numerous silverware and bronzeware pieces. In 1910, after six years in Paris, he moved to Pierrefond near Compiégne to once again work in his own studio; during the war years 1914 to 1918 he even served as the town’s mayor. In 1935, at the venerable age of 79, he moved once again, joining his son Ettore in Molsheim. He lived there in one of the coach houses of the Chateau Saint Jean until his death in April 1940.