Not just to look at: the sofas by Edra have to be tried, experienced, loved. They can be used to work, relax, chair, constantly changing ways of sitting. And they stick with you, like faithful traveling companions

It might seem banal, but it is not so easy to find sofas that accompany all the various seating needs. Some are too stiff, others too soft, the back is too high or too low, and many require lots of cushions to finally achieve the right position. Obviously these parameters change, depending on the user, but also on the time of day. As if the sofa could not suffice: and soft helpers become a strategy to accompany the body.

But this is not the case with the sofas of Edra, where innovation starts from the core of the design, i.e. the internal structure based on in-depth research to achieve 360° comfort, adapting to the changing moods of people. An idea of the sofa that is an invitation to freely utilize the home, always rooted in a history and gradually developed through the structure to give form to the final design. In this sense, the relationship between Valerio Mazzei, president of Edra, and Francesco Binfaré, the company’s designer for almost thirty years, is fundamental.

After having achieved his artistic education under his father's guide, Francesco Binfarè started working for Cassina in 1960. At first as a researcher for new technologies then as Cesare Cassina's assistant for the new projects and for the realisation of prototypes. After he left Cassina in 1991 he designed the matching sofa L'Homme et la Femme (1993), Tangeri (1994) and Angels (1996) for Edra; the armchair "Girotonda" in 1994 and the sofa "Grand'angolo" in 1995 for Adele C. Painting, which he still performs, is the main source of inspiration for his design.

“When Francesco stopped working with Cassina he began designing things for us. That was in 1992. We immediately understood each other. We don’t talk much, but we are both observers who like to achieve things.” It all begins with an idea, a suggestion, a preliminary vision. Such as the interactive frame for the Flap sofa designed by Francesco Binfaré and launched in 2000, still a surprisingly modern feature. Mazzei explains: “Francesco looked at me and moved his fingers. ‘I want a sofa like this,” he said.” And the result was Flap, an evolution of an earlier prototype with the form of a fig leaf, with a curved silhouette that has ‘flaps’ on both sides that bend at different angles to become real backs.

Its extreme functional flexibility is based on complex engineering: the base is a solid in metal tubing, while the mobile parts are individually attached on double steel mechanisms. The base is in brushed and chrome-plated metal, while the feet are in chrome-plated metal with a scratch-preventing tip in aluminium and rubber. The upholstery is done by hand with over 180 different pieces of elastic, breathing polyurethane, providing a comfortable seat in spite of the complex internal mechanisms. Last but not least, the covering has been specially developed to stand up to the constant movements of the ‘flaps.’

As Monica Mazzei, vice-president of Edra, says: “The fabrics with which we cover every single piece have been developed and made by us: like a bespoke garment. Each piece of furniture has its own characteristics, and the fabrics are simply part of the overall project.” This is why Edra does not have a range of coverings that can be applied to all the models: every upholstered model is a project in its own right, and brings its own ‘apparel’ to enhance its form with different characteristics of looks, elasticity and strength. This complex research accompanies all the stories told by the Edra sofas.

As in the model On the Rocks, an idea that came to Binfaré by observing people sitting for hours on rocky beaches. In that period Valerio Mazzei had shown the designer a new material, which independent of the center of gravity and angle of the body was capable of providing a certain amount of static support. It is precisely the combination of this material and the initial vision that gives concrete form to On the Rocks, composed of four parts that can be freely assembled (three polygons and one square), joined by totally independent, flexible and movable backs that cling to the base thanks to disks of thermoformed rubber. The shapes, without a shell, are made by hand in a mixture of Gellyfoam® and other foams, to guarantee softness. The fabrics add the final touch: substantial and soft, they round out the sensation of comfort.

When Francesco Binfarè stopped working with Cassina he began designing things for us. That was in 1992. We immediately understood each other. We don’t talk much, but we are both observers who like to achieve things."

Among the patented innovations, always in search of new thresholds of comfort, there is the intelligent cushion based on an idea of Francesco Binfaré: a pillow inside which to place a special mechanism that shifts its angle at each point with slight pressure, to find just the right position. This patent has then been used for various models, including Standard: a couch that frees up movement and multiplies the possible compositions with seats in regular and irregular forms, having different depths, each joined by an intelligent cushion that functions as an armrest and a back, individually reclining with fluid movements, for a free experience of the sofa based on mood and necessities of the individual.

Another sofa hatched by the tireless gaze of Binfaré is the Pack. “One day Francesco told me about a photograph that had caught his eye: a bear on a floating slab of ice,” says Valerio Mazzei. A metaphor of the melting of the ice caps and a society set adrift. “We had a prototype of a geometric divan, which had a block as an independent back,” Valerio Mazzei explains. “Francesco transformed it into the profile of a bear.”

A poetic project that has revolutionized the domestic landscape, creating immediate empathy with viewers. The sensation when you stretch out on this Arctic ice pack, also in the fabric that suggests that texture, is of being on a cloud: a perception that is reinforced by the soft back/bear clad in eco-fur. The value of Edra’s sofa also lies here: they make your body feel good, but also your mind. They are able to touch the heart, triggering an emotional reaction, reawakening slumbering memories.

As in the latest project presented at the Salone del Mobile, the Grande Soffice, played by the flute of the ‘Pied Piper’ (as Andrea Branzi has called Francesco Binfaré, back when he directed the Cassina research center, ed.). “It sets out to be a reassuring sofa, the one found in the home of your grandparents,” says Carlotta Palermo, communication manager of Edra. It seems soft and inviting, almost maternal, but it has an innovative heart: it welcomes you like a soft embrace and adapts to the user’s desires. This is possible thanks to the intelligent cushion, the key feature of the project, which can be freely adjusted, also separately, transforming into an armrest or a back.

The fabrics with which we cover every single piece have been developed and made by us: like a bespoke garment. Each piece of furniture has its own characteristics, and the fabrics are simply part of the overall project."

There are no limits to the possible positions: symmetrical or asymmetrical, informal or formal. You can stretch out, read, work, relax on this sofa: in practice, you have total freedom, without having to adapt to the furniture, because it is the furniture that adapts to our desires of the moment, also in terms of its position in the space.

On the Edra philosophy, Valerio Mazzei emphasizes: “I do not evaluate a project based on the name of its creator. I look for good ideas and make them as well as possible.” He continues: “I love the world of sommeliers: they stand in front of a row of glasses, not knowing what wines are inside them. They make their choices on the basis of the use of the senses. I think the same approach can work in the world of furniture.” A sort of ‘furniture tasting,’ then, where people have to first try sitting down, before they know the names of the brands or designers involved. The judgment comes before that information.

“The heading design truly covers just about anything today: even an uncomfortable sofa is called design. For me, the term should indicate what is functional and is part of beauty, elegance. I don’t like fashions and I am not interested in making Edra into a trendy company: my goal is to make quality things that will last in time.” Taking a trip inside Edra is a bit like observing the timeless elegance of a swan sliding over the water: it moves forward without apparent effort, but underneath its feet are moving with all the necessary force. You can’t see them, but they are there. And they make the difference.