Between tradition and surprise

Within Gamfratesi two attitudes are at work: the Danish and the Italian, both with their own respective legacies. This duality makes the simple question ‘what is design’ an interesting one to begin an interview with Enrico Fratesi.

These are two countries with a history of designing beautiful objects and interiors – both are from an incredibly different-, even with opposing heritages. Enrico Fratesi thinks that the couple have developed a pan-European outlook. ‘On the other hand’, he admits, their different cultures are a constant source of both conflict and inspiration. ‘For Italians communication is everything. And being able to communicate ‘a strong emotion’ is essential in any project. ‘If we [Italians] can’t communicate, we are nothing. The Scandinavian way of working, meanwhile, is about handcraft and heritage and ‘using natural materials, a simplicity of line and being honest in the way you work with the materials. The materials come first and then hopefully you turn them into a solution.’

Cheshire suspension GamFratesi
Suspence P2 white installation 54559
Mitotti shelley Gamfratesi 03


’After a long one and half year without seeing our family we were finally able to travel to Italy again. We are based near my family’s home in Pesaro, a small city on the Adriatic coast, 100 km south of Rimini. Here we have our own house with a working space and are enjoying a relaxed type of vacation/work holiday. We like meeting the people of the brands we work for near Milan or elsewhere in Italy. And we do it on our own, leisurely pace. We feel part of a travelling circus of creatives and craftsmen. We love talking to the artisans in the workshops making our designs. This trip is very satisfying and makes the work relaxed and easygoing for us. In August we will return to the design action in Copenhagen’.


This year marks a jubilee, because its been 15 years of GamFratesi. ‘We started off as students in architecture, meeting each other in Italy at the University of Ferrara, where Stine was an exchange student. The tables turned later when I decided to study at Aarhus University and coincidentally Stine was there too. In the beginning we were finding our way through the school and into the workshops at Aarhus. At the time not really planning to get involved in furniture. But then we found out we both liked the atmosphere of the workshop, working with our hands, the craftmanship, the honesty of wood and materials. We both did our masters in Aarhus; Stine in furniture and me in industrial design. Later Stine went to Japan where she worked as an architect for a while. Somtime later one of our models went into production and we moved back to Copenhagen. It all evolved from there quite naturally, much like the romance really. This is how we prefer development to go I guess; slowly and steadily’.

Schermafbeelding 2021 07 02 om 14.06.09


‘We have always felt influenced by one another. After fifteen years the process should become more simple, but sometimes I think its becoming more complex and richer. The one is intellectual and conceptual, the other is more concerned with crafts, materials and functionality. We recognize the differences in mentality but we never have drawn lines between our backgrounds, because we work so harmoniously together. In the end the product is a true result of both our creative drives. Intimacy has always been a key part of our work as well. More recently we’ve finished a few complete interiors in Copenhagen for restaurants and bars. Those designs are a happy mix blending modernism with rich dark colors, some hint of classicism, architectural ornament and even some art déco. Eventually the contrasts and diversity, bring the experience of the furniture and of the space to another level. Furniture has to interact with the surrounding space. We prefer soft, rounded furniture. But there is no golden rule. Look at the great architectural interiors by Arne Jacobson like the city hall in Aarhus or the Danish National Bank in Copenhagen. These are examples with highly effective interaction of furniture and space. Sometimes the edges are soft, sometimes rigid’.


History is a cycle. A few years ago I listened to a lecture by Michele de Lucchi. He related his career development and of course talked about his contribution to Memphis. He was a major promotor and one of the original members of the group, contradicting the minimalism of Modernism in the seventies and eighties. But in the nineties, as far as I am concerned, De Lucchi began pouring out his most interesting work; equally uncompromising and revolutionary as Memphis, but much less noted. Founding Produzione Privata, as a collection of experimental objects and furniture in which he achieved a maximum freedom of expression. We share De Lucchi’s fascination for the know-how of artisanal crafts. We aim to make objects of quality, not just adding a lot of meaningless furniture to the world, just for the sake of itself. If you keep it for a long time, it becomes more sustainable, because you’re not going to throw it away. We never think of a product by itself; we always think of a product in the context of people. A product by itself doesn’t make any sense; it’s just a sculpture. Speaking of holidays: do you have a favorite region in Italy? Yes, we both love Puglia which is paradise in a five hours drive. Between the palmtrees and olive groves you’ll find large, usually white farm buildings called Masseria. What strikes me is the sobriety of the architecture; the non color of bricks or plaster. Great minimalism!

GamFratesi Hermes Courtesy of Hermes Japon Ph 1. Nacasa Partners 01
Mindcraft15 exhibition 01