Designer Frans Schrofer

Design that moves

Design that moves: A conversation with Frans Schrofer 

 
Frans Schrofer is the acclaimed Dutch designer behind the Athena armchair and the stunning recliner sofa, Parma. Frans and his wife, Sonia run Studio Schrofer, an award-winning practice based in The Hague.

The team deliver “contemporary furniture with a twist.” It’s a considered design language that blends the familiar – captivating cues that convey function and elicit visual comfort – with touches of the unexpected that challenge industry norms and arouse enduring curiosity.

We spoke with Frans about his famous creative roots, unabating love of French mid-century cars and working relationship with Sonia – the “beating heart” of Studio Schrofer.

The Athena recliner chair

Soft recliner in leather

Define your design – its purpose in the world, society and your role as designer.

I believe it is my responsibility as a designer to create long lifecycle products with a balanced use of materials so the carbon footprint is minimal. Beauty, comfort, and quality is optima forma. It is important for me that my designs are endeared, loved, and used for coming generations.

How do you define creativity? And do you need routines or prescribed environments to be at your most creative?

Creativity is a small wonder. It’s miraculous how the brain can make unexpected connections from different unrelated elements, driving the creative spirit and generating a flow of energy. So much so, that I can’t stop working until the final design is perfect. Every time, I feel like it’s the birth of a new species.

I love working in my studio, and on the factory floor. When I am surrounded by craftsmen, engineers, artists, machinists and all the elements that can create and reproduce, the entire process becomes fluid and creativity flows effortlessly

 

You mentioned ‘perfect.’ What are your thoughts on perfection and how do you know when a design is complete?

Design and music composing are very similar: all the notes have to be in the right place taking into consideration the tone, balance and tempo. Sometimes this takes days, or even years – getting the right harmony between all the elements. Then the production chain is the orchestration of all materials, ensuring that in the design experience, you fall in love.

Athena armchair

Frans Schrofer in his car

Car purchases don’t often result in one’s wife leaving the family home for two days. The purchase in question was your third Citroën Goddess. You also own a Citroën Maserati. Tell us about your love affair with mid-century French cars.

Automobile design takes a very sculptural approach, evoking an emotion from the consumer. Every brand has to appeal to its public in its unique way. My early obsession with car design, led me to understand this visual language at a young age. I approach my furniture design in a similar way – creating a language of form without words.

One of the best examples is the Goddess Citroën DS 1955, designed by the Italian, Flaminio Bertoni, who was first and foremost a sculptor. The shape was made without any compromise, with a detailed form study that integrated innovative hydraulics techniques, making it revolutionary. This led to a very elegant, commercially successful car for over 20 years. If you find a Goddess in the dust, blessed with a wooden cross above it, I feel it is my responsibility to rescue it – sorry Sonia!

Where do you find your inspiration?

Inspiration comes from all events in daily life: Relaxing in the evening, meeting with friends and doing different cultural things. We live in a multicultural city, with a big melting pot of influences. So, I keep an open mind and make a fresh start every morning. Curiosity and new challenges give me the energy to keep searching. The most beautiful piece of furniture is still yet to be created. The most rewarding experience is when there is an overwhelming reaction to my designs.

Interior with recliner sofa

Do you see similarities between Dutch and Danish design?

Very much so! Both of our cultures appreciate clean and well thought out designs – optimizing materials and using innovative technologies. We are both small countries that had to look beyond our borders to do business. Historically both of our countries have hundreds of years in furniture making. Actually, my grandfather was a Swiss furniture maker who moved to The Netherlands in the 1800s.

Your parents were revered painters and you were mentored by sculptor, Frans de Wit. Do you identify with the artistry in your craft, or do you see your work as purely design?

Both of my folks were artists and provided me with the DNA. Only now I see so many parallels in their oeuvres and my body of work. They were both very prolific and constantly exploring new styles, techniques and themes.

Sculptor, Frans de Wit worked on monumental sized projects, but could also work in the finest detail. He enlightened me with his patience and persistence on refining a model till there was perfect harmony. I have not seen this kind of energy nor devotion in anyone else. He was my greatest inspiration.

The Parma recliner sofa

Electric recliner sofa

I love Sonia’s job title: Chief Cheer Leader. Describe your working relationship. And what advice would you give to married or partnered work duos?

Our management styles are very different and complimentary. Sonia has international experience in fashion, so she introduced, early on, the use of moodboards, marketing analysis, collection build-ups and the socio-political, economic issues that affect the industry. She also arranges all the communication with clients and presentation strategies. I’m the grease monkey who knows when the engines sound right. Creative people don’t fit a standard format and you have to know how to tap into each other’s strengths.

My biggest advice is to know where to play your role. It’s easy falling into the husband-wife role at work, when you should be Designer-Marketer. Keeping home and work separate is difficult. I might be able to switch off, but Sonia keeps cheerleading long after business hours.

Athena

A private escape. Striking beauty, hugging shapes and a seating comfort out of this world – that is the essence of the Athena recliner chair.

Athena

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