Founded in 1934 with a focus on kitchens in its native Italy, Boffi is today recognized as a global design brand for the home and contract markets, known for its innovative blend of modern aesthetics and traditional craftsmanship. A conversation with Boffi CEO Roberto Gavazzi.
When you entered Boffi in 1989, the company was a traditional family business. What key steps did you take to transform it into a contemporary design brand?
It was a multi-phase approach, focused on the offering and international expansion. The starting point was to expand the offering and sell more than just kitchens – when I arrived, kitchens made up 96 percent of sales. We diversified into bathrooms, wardrobes and now furniture after our acquisition of De Padova (a prestigious Milan furniture brand acquired by Boffi in 2015). We moved away from a company that was simply selling “products” to one that was offering systems. The idea was to create systems that could be adapted to meet the desires of a high-end clientele.
Our range revolves today around three concepts: standard, modular and customized. Take kitchens, for example. The main offering is a traditional setup with standard cabinets and different kinds of finishes; then there are technical pieces like the Salinas kitchen, where we have a wide offer of materials but a specific number of possibilities since you put your kitchen together with a configurator choosing from a series of modules; lastly, we have Boffi Code, which is based on a totally customized solution for those who want to stand out from the crowd. The same concept is applied to our entire product offering.
What are the key elements of your brand strategy in terms of marketing and communications?
A key role was and is played by the monobrand showrooms we have in major cities like Milan, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, to mention just a few. It’s a vehicle that other successful brands, such as those in fashion, have used. Showrooms played a key role in our
successful internationalization – today, 85 percent of our business is done abroad. The Boffi brand and style are recognizable here. The interior design is clean but emotional. They are places that attract developers, press and VIPs. It’s where clients meet our network of architects who can work with them. Clients need to feel special and see they are getting the best treatment. A Boffi showroom must be in a strong, charismatic location. It should surprise customers, make them want to come inside and learn more. And the know-how of
showroom staff must meet the same high standards as our products: staff are trained and regularly updated at our factory headquarters in Italy.
How would you describe the brand’s personality? What keywords do you want people to associate with Boffi?
We want to be seen as a solution provider not a furniture seller and be associated with sophisticated, contemporary, long-lasting design. It’s the same with De Padova, which has always promoted timeless products. You are certain that our products will still be appreciated 20 years from now.
For Boffi and De Padova, it’s about creating something that has a clean look but that is not minimalist: solutions can be combined with different styles and materials that can fit
together in harmony.
How has the industry changed?
Apartments are now much more open. Walls are falling in the kitchen and bathroom. Space is an added value. Homes integrate the kitchen with the living room and dining area. People want to show off the kitchen. It’s about creating a pleasurable environment.
What challenges do you see for the brand?
We have to pay more attention to digital technology, web and social media, but we will also need to be careful since too much tends to be accessible online. We try to create mystery and intimacy around our brand and we communicate this via our showrooms. Online things
become flat, you don’t experience the products in the same way. We want people to enjoy the atmosphere in our showroom and make them feel secure. It’s not just about showing a nice product but introducing them to our world. It shouldn’t be so attainable or accessible, but it
shouldn’t be snobbish either. It’s about sophistication
Boffi is globally renowned as a brand linked to the world of design kitchen and bathrooms, with collections of a unique style and a strong personality that transform a kitchen or a bathroom into the centre of a home and of our daily life. In its history the brand can boast three very famous art directors namely Luigi Massoni, Antonio Citterio e Piero Lissoni. Together with them, Boffi has developed a sophisticate array of products that has been able to conquer the international market over the years.
The 60 single brand showrooms located across the world and the various retails guarantee the customers a qualified personnel, able to transform any aesthetic requirements in ideal and bespoke solutions in line with Boffi strategy and through the customization of shapes, dimensions and materials.
The History of Boffi In the Italian Design
The first Boffi artisan business was founded in 1934 by Piero Boffi. However, it was only in 1947, when his three sons joined the company that the real factory was born. In the ‘60s under the guidance of the first art director Luigi Massoni revolutionary projects took shape, among which Joe Colombo’s Minikitchen, exhibited at the Moma museum in New York. The launching of the collection dedicated to the bathroom and the collaboration with Antonio Citterio who signed the Factory collection date back to the ‘80s. In 1990 Piero Lissoni became the new art director. From that moment on, thanks to the business strategy and to his creative and innovative wit, the brand started its endless ascent into the international market, which reached its apex with the prestigious Compasso d’Oro for the career awarded in 1995.
Several Boffi flagship stores sprouted in Italy and across the world, first among those abroad, the one in Paris. In Italy the store in Milan, in the Brera neighborhood, was the one that perfectly reflected Boffi style. The kitchens, the bathrooms and the new wardrobe systems were all displayed in a way to show an example of the versatility and complexity that characterize Boffi production. In parallel with the flourishing of single brand showrooms around the world, Boffi has collected plenty of acknowledgments over the years. In 2004 the Cut taps collection won the Red Dot Design Award, while in 2007 the Table System kitchen signed by Piero Lissoni was awarded the Good Design Award. 2010 was the year in which Aboutwater was launched, the collection of bathroom taps and overhead showers born from the collaboration between Boffi and the Fantini company. Another eminent collaboration was the one with the De Padova company, which resulted in 2015 with the fusion between the two brands in one group. An excellence in the scenario of the Italian design, the group was born with the intention to expand each brand visibility and widen each market of reference to all the furnishing categories in the domestic and contract domain. 2017 saw the partnership with the Danish start up MA/U Studio, a young producer of innovative furniture solutions and shelves systems for the home and office environments. In the most recent years, Boffi has also opened to the outdoor furnishing with a series of products conceived to be used both indoor and outdoor.
Boffi Production Between Tradition and Innovation
A nexus between creative passion and innovation, with respect to the tradition, Boffi created kitchen collections apt to be customized and tailor-made thanks to a large variety of formats and finishes and to the top quality materials available on the market such as wood, steel, stone and marble. Next to those, bathroom fixtures and bathroom taps and avant-guarde appliances form a complete and comprehensive offer. With 60 single brand showrooms spread over 60 countries in the world, Boffi also offers a service of project development, advising and assistance able to sort out any aesthetic, technical or functional problem in the most ideal way.
Sustainability is ever since a dear aspect to Boffi. Sustainability is approached not only as related to the environment, but also from an economic and social angle. As a matter of fact Boffi works in synergy not only with all its employees, but also with its territory of belonging, Brianza, which traditions and values it strongly cherishes. This harmonious climate also invests the interactions with designers, suppliers and customers at 360 degrees. Boffi is solidly bound to its territory and makes of sustainability its added value, together with creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial wit. Sustainability is core to any choice made by the company, at all levels of planning, production and control. Boffi complies with all the rules on environment in force in all the countries where it operates. The objective is to make the final product a sustainable one, improving its environmental performances thanks to innovation, as not uniquely related to the product, but also to the work methodologies and managing systems.