Edra is a family-owned company that produces quality furniture with a combination of skill, research and technology. Co-founder and vice-president Monica Mazzei tells us more about the business and what’s next in design trends

Valerio Mazzei, Edra founder and president, is sharing his thoughts about its design philosophy: “I like it when someone creates a beautiful object that is also functional because it becomes something that is a pleasure to use. Beauty and functionality, elegance and timelessness must live together.”

This is exactly what Edra furniture represents and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding — or in the case of Edra, in touching and sitting and try- ing out every single piece of furniture. This, Options did, at Space Furniture, where Edra’s classic pieces — including the famous Favela, Vermelha and Getsuen armchairs, the Scringo cabinet, and three of their best-selling sofas, the On the Rocks Standard and Grande Soffice — are on display. Judging by the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the media, the comfort level is way up there and these are names to remember.

Edra is an Italian family-owned company that was established in 1987, and the name is a modification of the Greek word έδρα, meaning “a place for philosophical discussion”. When Options asked co-founder and vice-president Monica Mazzei if business discussions are held over dinner, she replies in jest that the family prefers to talk about the good food and wine they share at these gatherings instead.

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The family-owned Edra grew over the years under the art direction of Milan-based and well-known architect Massimo Morozzi. His approach to business is to scout for talents and in the course of his career, he has worked with the who’s who of furniture design and architects from all over the world: Alessandro Mendini, Masanori Umeda from Japan, Francesco Binfaré, Fernando and Humbero Campana from Brazil, Ross Lovegrove from Wales, and some top architects, such as Zaha Hadid and the Australian studio Denton Corker and Marshall.

The Edra story began in the hills of Tuscany. In this picture-perfect region steeped in culture, art, history, craftsmanship, and industrial production way beyond its size, the Mazzei family has been producing furniture built on craftsmanship since 1949. Today, Edra continues to be a family-run furniture business that has defined its own direction in the design world that blends high-end technology with traditional skills of the handmade.

Options speaks to Monica Mazzei about the company and the direction it is taking.

What was the idea behind Spazio Edra? What message do you want to give to its visitors?
Spazio Edra, located inside the beautiful Space showroom, is a dematerialised and neuter space and, thanks to the mirrors that cover the entire surface of the walls, it can highlight the characteristics of Edra products and its details. Visitors and clients visiting the showroom can appreciate the high-quality characteristics of the collection, the performance and superlative comfort of the sofas and the universality of use of the products in both classical or modern locations.  The gallery features a selection of Edra’s classic or iconic pieces including the famous Favela, Vermelha and Getsuen armchairs.

Are we likely to see more pieces go on display?

The products featured in Spazio Edra are a selection of the most representative of our collection, from the iconic pieces to the classic ones, to our best-sellers. They were chosen in the versions that better represent the projects and the story of the products.

What is Edra’s DNA and what is its design philosophy?
Edra was born in 1987 and since then we have carved out a well-defined road: An idea of “company-project” that was based — and I hope it will be forever based — on a clear and solid principle: work towards the maximum quality in terms of the project, product, materials and comfort. The heart of all of this is a history made of relationships and understandings with people, be they collaborators, suppliers, or customers.

Can you tell us some highlights or milestones of the company over the years?
I remember the debut of Edra at the Galeria Marconi in Milano, Italy, in 1987; then, in 1988, the extraordinary presentation of Zaha Hadid sofas at the most famous club at that time in Milano, called Rolling Stones. In 1990, there was the presentation of the Flowers Collection by Masanori Umeda; in 1994, the first participation to Castel Greve in Cologne, Germany, with the presentation of the sofa Homme et la Femme by Francesco Binfaré: the first sofa in the history of sofas with the moveable backrest.

In 2000 was the presentation of Flap sofa, at the Salone del Mobile Milano furniture fair, a product that has become an icon, and it is still today one of our most innovative projects. The next big event was the presentation of the On The Rocks sofa in 2004 — we conceptualised a design based on the sand and rocks of the Sardinian coast — together with other products linked to the sea, such as the Corallo and Sponge armchair. Other icons involved the Campana Brothers, from the Boa sofa from Historia Naturalis Collection to the Vermelha armchair.

The invention of the Smart Cushion with Standard sofa in 2013 marked an extraordinary success. In 2017, we presented the Pack sofa by Francesco Binfaré, which won the Salone del Mobile Milano prize of “Best Product of the Year” and also received a visit from the Italian President at the Edra stand. Last year, another important event was the invention of Grande Soffice by Francesco Binfaré, the maximum expression of comfort.

Each product had a preview in the showrooms inside the company but the first official presentations have always been during the Salone del Mobile Milano.

How do you stay relevant through the years?
We focus on the rediscovery of the values that give rise to products destined to last, which do not follow trends, and this has paid off over time. We continue to follow this path with important results.

You work with a number of designers; how does it work? Can you take us through the process from discussion to the finished product?

First, it is about storytelling. We always listen to the authors — we prefer to call them authors rather than designers, as you can see in Edra Magazine (www. edra.com/it/publication/101693) — and they bring us to the idea of the new project. Every product is born with its own proper “dress”. Edra always carries out intense research for each project. A new product is not just a new product, but also, a new story: a tale, a trip, a dream, a nature idea brought into a project. We often design the yarn and define the perfect texture for the performances of our products.

Some of the pieces by Edra have reached cult status. What is your definition of cult status?
I think, first of all, an object needs to have a cultural value to also gain the symbolic value; it needs quality, it has to transmit emotions and it must be recognised immediately. Only then it can achieve a long-lasting success.

When we think about a new project, all these emotions have to occur first with ourselves. An icon is not born thinking of an icon; it is born if, when we think about the true sense of making a project, it meets the needs of quality, research, and novelty.

When Flap sofa was born, we did not set out to make an icon, but it became an icon because it has inside all the qualities listed above, it has been upheld to the highest standards since the beginning and it still is. The same thing happened with the Flowers Collection, Standard sofa, Tatlin sofa and many more. These products become “cult” because they resist time, thanks to all the qualities above.

What is the future of homes post-pandemic? What do you think people are looking for?
I believe that this pandemic has brought us a deeper reflection on our way of living and inhabiting, and on dedicating attention and value to the objects that live with us. Certainly, the public will be more aware of what they choose when looking for an object.

What is it like working in a family business?
It depends on the day! My story is made of family and business that constantly intersect in everyday life: a true Italian story. Work, home and life were a single thing. Maybe they are still today. The house where I spent my early childhood was located next to the production facilities of furniture manufacturing. When I was a child, I used to play with the tools, I enjoyed staying in the factory and I liked watching the customers when they came to choose their pieces of furniture. Continuing this work was a natural choice as well as a privilege. 

On the Rocks

Free of any rigid structure, the silhouettes are moulded by hand in a proprietary blend of Gellyfoam and other types of foam to provide comfort. Four independent seats in different geometric shapes (three polygons and a quadrilateral) can be combined freely while two flexible backs can be positioned as desired. The configurations are endless.

Rose chair

The ‘petals’ are filled individually by hand and are assembled in layers on a structure of moulded metal and wood. The velvet covering is akin to the sensation of touching the petals of a rose.

Vermelha

It takes 500 metres of special rope and a talented craftsman to create this wraparound chair made of aluminium and steel frame. The unique padding is created by progressive overlapping of hundreds of abundant twines on the frame.

Ella

This chair with armrests is supported by a pedestal that allows rotation. The petals of transparent and soft hues are a delicate mix of green and blue.

Favela

The beauty of Favela lies in the choice of natural materials combined with the apparent simplicity of construction. In reality, each armchair is the result of a week of hard work.