HISTORY OF A BRAND POLTRONA FRAU
Originally inspired by classic British furniture, over the last century this Italian brand’s designs have become icons in their own right
On the wall of the entrance to the Poltrona Frau museum (below left), at the company’s headquarters in Tolentino in Italy, is an A-Z of designers, architects and manufacturers that the company has collaborated with over the past 105 years. Featuring names such as Gio Ponti, Jean Nouvel and Piero Lissoni, it reads like a roll call of design excellence.
Poltrona Frau Products Photo Gallery
Often mistakenly thought to be Germanic, the company’s name is a marriage of the Italian word for armchair and the surname of the brand’s founder, Sardinian-born Renzo Frau. Having spent time in the army in the early 20th century, in 1912 he set up a workshop in Turin to replicate the upholstery he had seen on his travels. ‘The idea was to bring furniture inspired by traditional British designs – including wingback chairs and Chesterfield sofas – to Italy, but with a lighter, more feminine touch,’ says general manager Nicola Coropulis. ‘Frau’s priority was to create pieces manufactured and handcrafted to the very highest
of standards, and with the finest materials.’ Research and innovation are central to the company’s success, and, along with a select group of Italy’s finest tanneries, it has developed a unique 21-step process that ensures a functional, scratch-resistant yet natural surface on its range of leathers. In addition to its furniture (including the ‘Massimosistema’ sofa, above), the brand also produces leatherwork for many of the country’s luxury car manufacturers, from Ferrari to Alfa Romeo, as well as interiors for private yachts and aeroplanes.
From Frau’s original upholstery designs to the brand’s latest pieces, such as the leather-covered ‘Ren’ bookcase by Neri & Hu, which was launched at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair, to the ‘Fidelio’ side tables and floor lamp by Roberto Lazzeroni, the company’s values have remained the same. ‘Craftsmanship, elegance, authentic design and excellent materials are all key,’ says Coropulis (poltronafrau.com).
For more than a century, the brand has been driven by a commitment to elegant, authentic leatherwork.
FIVE POLTRONA FRAU PRODUCTS TO KNOW
T Albero’ Gianfranco Fratti produced this visionary floor-to-ceiling free-standing bookcase in the late 1950s. The solid Canaletto wood unit features a swivel mechanism for ease of use.
2’Vanity Fair’ This piece is a replica of the celebrated ‘904’ armchair created by Renzo Frau in 1903, before the official launch of the company. It’s now recognised all over the world.
3’Dezza’ Designed in 1965 by Gio Ponti, the ‘Dezza’ features his characteristic tapered legs. Ponti was living on the street Via Dezza in Milan when he created this iconic piece.
4’Archibald’ Jean-Marie Massaud’s playful and enveloping armchair features leather folds that make this piece a design classic.
5’Chester’ Inspired by sofas and armchairs in English clubs and country houses, this design was reproduced by Renzo Frau. Also available is ‘Chester Line’, a modern version of the 1912 original.
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