Frans Schrofer brings Dutch pragmatism and a dash of optimism into his furniture designs for BoConcept
Born in Voorburg, the Netherlands, Frans Schrofer hails from three generations of artists and craftsmen. He grew up surrounded by his father's art and studied industrial design at the Design Academy Eindhoven. Since founding Studio Schrofer in 1984, he has designed furniture for the likes of Rolf Benz, Natuzzi and BoConcept. Along with his wife and business partner Sonia Sin – whose family comes from Hong Kong – The Hague-based Schrofer is on a mission to make homes beautiful and functional, one chair at a time.
What were your biggest influences growing up in an artistic family?
My father loved drawing nudes, helping me to analyse the human body. I sympathised with models posing for long periods on an uncomfortable mid-19th-century Willem III sofa or a Voltaire chair, and most of my Dutch countrymen will agree that finding a comfortable chair for people over 175cm tall is difficult. When I started out, I made sure that the proportions of my designs fit contemporary body types.
Most of my Dutch countrymen will agree that finding a comfortable chair for people over 175cm tall is difficult
How does your love of cars relate to your work?
Furniture design is akin to car design – both mould our desires to form voluptuous, sensual, corporal bodies to drive the journey of our dreams and imagination. My small collection of Citroën Divas and Goddesses deserve those divine titles, as their technology, materials and forms were among the most innovative in their day. My chair designs reflect this desire to realise my dreams using the latest technology.
Describe the design atmosphere in the Netherlands when you graduated from university.
In retrospect, it was a very creative period with opportunities for experimentation. My first job was at a design office that specialised in consumer packaging. Dutch sculptor Frans de Wit mentored me, teaching me to evoke emotion through colour, texture, form, and scale. I designed shampoo bottles and mayonnaise dispensers for industrial and retail clients. Those early studies of form shaped my career in furniture design.How do you approach the design process when working for a range of brands?
The Netherlands' culture is experimental. Dutch brand Leolux is one of my oldest clients – I won a Red Dot Award for my design of the Caruzzo armchair. It has an edgy design that appeals to those who work hard and play hard. As a Danish brand, BoConcept shares many of the same values. Both countries are small, with a critical eye for detail yet demand cosiness in work and living environments. Danes call it hygge and we call it gezelligheid. We are both pragmatic in our approaches. Our lifestyles are centred around personal relationships, friendships, family, good food and conversation – basic principles that resonate worldwide.
What led to your association with BoConcept?
Years ago, I designed a sofa for Italian brand Natuzzi. Stefano Sette, its head of R&D, was recruited by BoConcept. He asked me to design a contemporary recliner with a simple, relaxed mechanism. The result was the Athena chair, which became a very successful item at BoConcept.
Why the name Athena?
As her divine name suggests, Athena (pictured below) is powerful, wise, strong, and creative. My design represents feminine power that has flourished internationally at all levels of society. I translated this essence into a distinguished, expressive, sensual form as if it was made in one continuous movement. She is incredibly soft and speaks to the soul, as if she was beckoning people to come, sit down and relax.
My design represents feminine power that has flourished internationally at all levels of society
What other designs are on your drawing board?
With Athena's success, a masculine version will be introduced later this year. The Parma functional sofa was recently launched, with duo relax mechanisms. The collection will expand to incorporate more modules for endless configurations.
With Athena's success, a masculine version will be introduced later this year
What inspires you?
First – all the people who share my excitement for art and design, and those who appreciate the twist I aim for. Their reaction and sharing their experience drives me. Second – music: the diversity and balance between tones and tempo. It creates a language that speaks to people across the world. It is borderless and evokes positive emotions. I aim to achieve this when I design.
What are your thoughts about Chinese designers?
Every year, hundreds of thousands of industrial engineers graduate from Chinese universities compared to a few thousand in America and Europe. They are travelling, experiencing freedom, exposing themselves to creative sectors, and have the industry in their backyards. I expect to see incredible developments in China in the next five years, with a merge of technologies not yet explored by the West.