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Image Credit: FrancoCrea

The Benefits of Bespoke

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FrancoCrea has been crafting bespoke furniture since 2013. Here, Annie Slevison speaks with the company’s founder and designer, Franco Crea, about the eponymous brand’s continued success.

Can you please tell us a little about your company?

FC: FrancoCrea offers sophisticated, timeless design with a distinctive, minimalist aesthetic, crafted with meticulous attention to detail. Our boutique studios are based in Melbourne and Adelaide, and all FrancoCrea’s products are designed in-house and specified to order. They’re also suited to residential and commercial applications in both interior and exterior settings.

What is your signature style?

FC: FrancoCrea offers sophisticated, timeless design with a distinctive, minimalist aesthetic, crafted with meticulous attention to detail. Our boutique studios are based in Melbourne and Adelaide, and all FrancoCrea’s products are designed in-house and specified to order. They’re also suited to residential and commercial applications in both interior and exterior settings.

What sparked your passion for furniture design?

Family connections play an important role in my passion and determination for what I do. My father, a scientist, discovered a love of timber and decided to learn traditional woodworking methods resulting in him becoming a woodturner and hobbyist, which sparked my interests when I was very young. My mother, also a talented creative, is the inspiration behind a large part of my work and design language. I’ve always gravitated towards picking up a pen or pencil and drawing. That is my sanctuary.

 

Which designers and movements are your most inspired by?

Two designers who have inspired me over the years, and continue to do so, are Peter Zumthor – a Swiss architect whose work is frequently described as uncompromising and minimalist, and Carlo Scarpa – an Italian architect influenced by materials and landscape. These designers are much older, but they really set the scene with clean, simple designs using language that resonates with my design process and thinking today. The Bauhaus movement is also a key source of inspiration for me; it is where my core design ethos and thinking comes from.

Where else do you find inspiration?

For me, inspiration is everywhere. The things I see daily, and experience are all sensory trigger points for me, through sight, smell and touch. I believe that things like materials need to be experienced in order to be fully understood and appreciated.

Can you please take us through the process of creating one of your bespoke pieces?

It really changes from project to project. However, generally the design process would begin with a client outlining what they would like to achieve with this piece in a particular environment. The client’s wishes must be considered and reflected within the product, and if there is a collaboration with another designer or architect on the project, I would consult with them as well. Once I have a detailed brief, I hand-sketch the piece to develop initial concepts. 

After refining the initial sketches, I present the client with a 3D model. This is a very interactive process, where the client can work with the design and make their own adjustments. Once everyone is happy, we proceed with making the piece. Depending on the project we might make a prototype first, as part of the interaction with the client, experimenting and discovering different possibilities with materials. Finally, we deliver the finished product to the client.

What have you been working on of late?

I recently produced a dining table for a residential client. The table needed to be very sensitive to its environment; it had to be dramatic, but we also wanted to create solidarity within the design while using humble materials. We used black Zimbabwe granite for the top of the 3.5-metrelong table, and four geometric brass legs with bronze patina positioned underneath.

What typically inspires the commissioning of a bespoke furniture piece?

All my pieces are made-to-order and can be customised based on the needs of the client or project. I think there is something special about this process, as the client will feel a stronger connection to the furniture; it is a long-term investment that they should be proud of, and having a hand in the specification increases this connection.

Image Credit: FrancoCrea
Image Credit: FrancoCrea
Image Credit: FrancoCrea
Image Credit: FrancoCrea
Image Credit: FrancoCrea

Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve designed?

I love all the pieces I have designed over the years; however, I would have to say that I am most proud of the Ekta room divider. I designed it a few years ago when I was exploring with different materials and engineering processes. Ekta serves as a bold, theatrical, sculptural element, while also providing practical storage for treasured objects.

What are the essential elements of a quality furniture piece?

Materials are very important as they ensure longevity, meaning each piece will be admired, used and loved every day for decades to come. The other essential element is craftsmanship in the execution process. Quality craftsmanship and materials are intertwined elements, integral to each other.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of contemporary furniture design in Australia, and its future?

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the durability of products, sustainability, and wastage, which is having a positive effect on the industry for designers that produce quality work. Large companies that mass produce have

a broad reach at an accessible price; however, this has resulted in uniform interiors, which don’t necessarily reflect their owner’s identities. Although a lot of production is moving overseas, it means that clients have a greater appreciation for the work that Australian-made furniture companies, like FrancoCrea, are producing.

What recent trends have you noticed in contemporary furniture design?

I aim to design pieces that are timeless, so I tend to steer clear of trends, but Fenix and Corian are some exciting new materials I enjoy working with that I think we will see more of in the future.

What designs are proving most popular?

Dining tables and chairs are by far the most popular pieces requested, in particular the Mila table and Mila chairs. I think this comes down to how people are using the dining table today – with the kitchen as the heartbeat of the home, and the dining table placed within close proximity – it is where people interact. We sit around it with friends and family for dinner, we use it to work on, and as a benchtop. As such, people like this piece to be something special, so there is a lot of emphasis on the investment of the dining table.

What type of materials do you use for your bespoke designs?

Although I like to retain core language across my designs, I am open to working with and exploring new materials. However, it’s a process that takes time, as I like to experiment with and understand the material before I implement it into my work. I enjoy working with wood, metal, brass, and natural stone, and I think it’s really important to use classic, high-quality materials that will stand the test of time. Quality of material selection is important, but how the materials make you feel is equally as vital. Evoking the senses, from sight to touch, is key to connecting with my product.

What is something that might surprise readers about your craft?

The fact that each piece is made-to-order in Australia may be of surprise. This is unusual for premium Australian furniture today, but I don’t want to deliver a product that is one size fits all – each should be perfectly designed for the client and its environment.

What’s next for FrancoCrea as a brand?

At the moment, the FrancoCrea brand story is being told in Australia; however, I have plans for it to be told internationally in the future. I would love to share my story and products with the wider community overseas.

Top Image Credit: FrancoCrea
Bottom Image Credit: FrancoCrea