A home for the range: apartment-style showroom for furniture brand De Padova

High-end Italian furniture company De Padova has opened an apartment-style showroom in London’s Brompton Cross.

The company, which was founded by Maddalena and Fernando De Padova in 1956 to introduce Scandinavian design to Italy, was bought by upmarket Italian kitchen and bathroom brand Boffi Group in 2015. At first, De Padova’s furniture was displayed in existing Boffi showrooms, but now it is taking its own branded sites. In London, De Padova occupies the first floor of a four-storey corner building redesigned by David Chipperfield and previously occupied by Chanel.

Rather than a conventional showroom, Robert Gavazzi, CEO of the Boffi Group, wanted the 310msq flagship to offer customers an experience. This is delivered through the medium of Boffi Group products, which now include storage and seating as well as kitchens and bathrooms. “Now we can transform spaces more than we could,” says Gavazzi, “this gives us a competitive advantage. The strategy is to integrate individual pieces like chairs, beds and shelving to create a total interiors solution. We believe that high-level clients don’t want to buy just a piece but an experience. We’re convinced that the market is going in this direction.”

The Brompton Cross site is the fourth De Padova ‘apartment’, and follows on from Milan, Paris and London. More will open in Europe and Asia. Each one has a slightly out-of-the-way address – London’s discreet front door is on Draycott Avenue rather than in the building’s Sloane Avenue façade – a site which was found after a three-year search.

De Padova’s ‘apartment’ concept, which is being rolled out worldwide, was designed under the creative direction of high-profile Italian product designer and architect Piero Lissoni. “It’s like a loft in the middle of Chelsea with beautiful windows on three sides,” he says of the London location. He adds that his idea was to “design an impression of home. But not in a fake way with too much decoration.” The layout is spare, except for a few quirky ornaments such as a pair of wooden skis and an old fencing mask.

The walls are white, and there is concrete and resin on the floor. Lissoni has given the space a domestic layout with a living room, open plan kitchen, dining room, second living room, bathroom and bedroom. Design execution was carried out by the 10-strong Boffi Group design and style office, based in Milan.

The De Padova furniture is low, and the slim, black metal modular shelving – by Danish sister company MA/U Studio – contributes to good sight lines across the floor. “I’m not a great fan of verticality,” says Lissoni, a tall, colourful character in round spectacles.

Gavazzi predicts that this ‘apartment’s’ clientele will be equally divided between individuals and trade. “Private clients need a translator, and this apartment is easy to understand.” In a future Shanghai space, on the other hand, 80 per cent of the audience are likely to be professional clients, he predicts.

Rather than being stuffed full of stock, the space between items feels generous. On display are De Padova pieces designed by big names including Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, Patricia Urquiola, Nendo, Michele De Lucchi and GamFratesi. Lissoni’s Duemilaotto bath for Boffi is also featured.

Gavazzi says that the display will be tweaked every three months and completely revamped on an annual basis.

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