The archly graphic design language of Pedrali's collection, with its confident, yet friendly, forms – ideal for contract settings. Art Direction: Leftloft; photos: Beppe Brancato
When you reach 50 – unless you’re standing for presidential office or are a pioneering heart surgeon – it’s fair to say that, although not winding down, you probably have most of your days of striving and climbing behind you.
Premium design brand Pedrali may have clocked up half a century in business, yet it’s anything but ready for a quiet life. With innovation as a key driver, its products – 100% Italian-produced – are readily specified for high-end contract projects internationally, clients understanding the way in which their contemporary design helps stage the interior spaces in which they’re deployed.
Claudio Dondoli and Marco Pocci's 'Parenthesis' family of rounded and reduced lounge/waiting-room and side tables
Can't see the hat for the trees with Pio and Tito Toso’s polypropylene and steel ‘Flag’ coat stands
It may have something to do with the decidedly considered approach Pedrali takes. While the formal language of its products features rational, yet friendly, shapes, creating a pleasingly graphic presence, such visual simplicity belies the extensive research that goes into its furniture.
Its large collection of tables, lamps, complements and, of course chairs – 2011 saw the company pick up a coveted Compasso d’Oro award for its Odo Fioravanti-designed ‘Frida’ chair – clearly demonstrates a union of strong creativity and first-rate engineering. It’s a marriage that, itself, is based on the union of Pedrali’s in-house R&D team and its external designers, who include the esteemed likes of Patrick Jouin, Marc Sadler, Pio & Tito Toso, Jorge Pensi and Enrico Franzolini. Together they experiment not only with materials, fashioning original forms in plastic, metal and wood, but also experiment with production technologies.
The Compasso d’Oro-winning, Odo Fioravanti-designed ‘Frida’ chair, with its union of strong creativity and first-rate engineering
The ultra-ergonomic, highly sculptural ‘Log’ chair, designed by Manuela Busetti, Andrea Garuti and Matteo Redaelli
‘We always work with the idea of experimenting with something new,’ explains Sales and Marketing Director Monica Pedrali. ‘A new material, a new technology, a new production process. There’s a constant stream of ideas and thinking throughout the entire company. It’s a challenge every time and involves teamwork – which can sometimes last several years – but the result is highly appreciated products.’
The ‘Frida’ chair is a case in point: its use of an age-old material, oak, is squared with a super-reduced design that employs the latest 3D-veneer technology to deliver robustness and minimalism via a thin moulded plywood shell. This is tradition and innovation, hand in glove. Understanding, as all successful brands do – even heritage ones – that markets change, that tastes are never static, Pedrali doesn’t let the fact that it was established way back in 1963 and is still family-owned mean it plays it safe. The idea of manufacturing short-term-oriented, derivative products that merely ride the wave of current (and fleeting) trends just isn’t in their DNA. ‘In our opinion,’ says Monica Pedrali, ‘only innovation allows us to be different from our competitors. And avoid forgery.’
Pedrali's company HQ near Bergamo, Italy (top), and, from left to right, Monica Pedrali (Sales and Marketing Director), Mario Pedrali (founder) and Giuseppe Pedrali (CEO)
Visitors to this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan were invited to get to grips first-hand with Pedrali’s distinctive products, seeing for themselves how they unite quality material usage with technologically innovative production techniques. Shown on a Migliore+Servetto Architects-designed fair stand characterised by a visual levity and dynamism were a number of new product families, which, through their confident yet personable forms, amplify further the overall Pedrali collection’s recognisable design language. Cazzaniga Mandelli Pagliarulo’s ‘Tivoli’ chair and armchair, available with or without upholstery, revisits the familiar typology of the wooden chair and yet, through its precision, three-dimensional curves and flawless integration of its various structural elements, speaks with a highly contemporary voice.
The bearable lightness of being at Migliore+Servetto Architects' Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2014 fair stand for Pedrali
Claudio Dondoli and Marco Pocci’s ‘Parenthesis’ family of rounded and pared-down lounge/waiting-room and side tables, together with Manuela Busetti, Andrea Garuti and Matteo Redaelli’s ultra-ergonomic, highly sculptural ‘Log’ chair, also present users with simple yet optically and tactilely pleasing shapes of which you never tire. Meanwhile, Pedrali R&D’s ‘Zippo’ high-sided, two-seater sofa, conceived of for lounge and informal meeting areas, and Pio and Tito Toso’s polypropylene and steel ‘Flag’ coat stand both prove that functionality doesn’t have to be at odds with expressiveness.
Whoever Pedrali decides to collaborate with creatively, the fitness for purpose of their products has to mirrored by the fitness for purpose of the designers they decide to commission. ‘We care more about the quality of the design projects,’ maintains Monica Pedrali, ‘irrespective of whether they come from Italian or foreign designers, from emerging talent or well-known professionals. We like working with people who share our ideas and dreams.’
Top: Cazzaniga Mandelli Pagliarulo’s ‘Tivoli’ chair and armchair, which revisits a familiar typology. Above: the designers discuss their work
Such a broad-church approach to creative partnerships is counterbalanced by a resolute focus on the ‘Made in Italy’ tag as a core brand value. Flagged up via their slogan ‘The Italian Essence’, Pedrali continues to manufacture in Italian ‘despite the current economic situation because we believe in the value of “Made in Italy”, a mix of creativity, innovation and manufacturing without parallel in the world.’ The value, both real and perceived, of Italian design globally certainly plays a significant part in the appeal of Pedrali’s products to a truly international market. Exporting to 99 countries via a network of hand-picked and trusted retailers, the company has established itself as one of the leading, go-to design brands for the contract sector, its hardworking and visually engaging furniture proving the right kind of interior-architectural language for a diversity of projects, from hospitality settings to cultural-sector spaces such as museums, libraries and exhibition centres. ‘Collective spaces,’ says Monica Pedrali, ‘are increasingly developed with the idea of creating a unique experience, giving users the possibility to live something memorable that involves all the senses. Pieces of furniture are essential components to characterise these spaces.’
Top: Patrick Jouin's 'Ester' collection of upholstered seating. Above: Jouin talks about the project
One such space can be found in that grandee of London hotels, The Dorchester. Overlooking Hyde Park in upmarket Mayfair, the ‘Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester’ restaurant – the only hotel restaurant in the UK to be recognised with three Michelin stars – features Pedrali’s ‘Ester’ armchair, designed by Patrick Jouin and commissioned especially for the venue’s discerning diners. With Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku (Jouin Manku design studio) responsible for the restaurant’s interiors, the armchair, replete with soft curves, quality full-grain leather upholstery and brushed-bronzed-finished legs, dovetails with the space around it, one where warm, natural materials such as wood and cotton have been deployed generously. ‘The design of the “Ester” armchair,’ says Patrick Jouin, ‘is the outcome of the experiences that I could achieve since I started designing restaurants. A mix of elegance, ergonomics and functionality.’
Patrick Jouin's 'Ester' armchairs installed at The Dorchester hotel's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in London, whose interiors were created by Jouin and Sanjit Manku; photo ®pierremonetta
Across the pond in New York, the prestigious Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery store on Fifth Avenue, which first opened in the 1930s, recently received the Jouin Manku design treatment, and once again Pedrali helped shape the environment with its ‘Ester’ armchairs. The design duo created a striking Art Deco-inspired environment for the flagship boutique, strong on geometry and parallel lines, with the fine materials and flowing lines of furniture underpinning the concept.
High material quality serves more than just a visual function or to provide elevated levels of comfort, however. It’s also a means of building in sustainability. Pedrali understands that specifying first-rate, long-lasting materials is more likely than not to result in products that stand the test of time both in terms of durability and aesthetic obsolescence. In short: if it’s made well, you’re not going to throw it away. What’s more, the manufacturer engages with its environmental impact across the board, as Monica Pedrali explains: ‘During the production process, particular attention is paid to the materials used, to raw material consumption, to the rationalisation of resources, and to waste management and emissions control. Moreover, in order to simplify the recycling process, all Pedrali products are designed to be disassembled and brought again to monomaterial elements.’ Serious engagement, indeed.
Prestigious Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue (top) uses Pedrali's 'Ester' armchairs to stage its Art Deco-inspired interior (above); Genevieve Garruppo © Van Cleef&Arpels
Serious, too, is the company’s facing up to future challenges. You won’t find any laurel-resting going on here. For Monica Pedrali, it’s all about courage, about respecting your heritage, but not being afraid to make bold decisions. ‘We have recently enlarged our wood production unit in Manzano, near Udine,’ she explains, ‘because we wanted more space to set up our new production technologies. The aim of the project is to repeat the successful production model we have at our company headquarters near Bergamo, where our wide range of products in other quality materials come to life.’
With that kind of attitude, it’s no wonder the brand is looking good for its years. Viva Pedrali. 50 years young.
Walking the line with Pedrali R&D’s ‘Zippo’ high-sided, two-seater sofa, conceived of for lounge and informal meeting areas