Franco Crea | Feature Interview
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Liz Barrett

Lillie Thompson & Alex Reinders

One of the greatest and most recognised designers, Charles Eames, once said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” It is the little things, those details, that set something apart from the rest.

Designer and maker Franco Crea is redefining furniture design by focusing on those all-important details. Franco was recognised for his Mesa occasional table collection in 2013 as a finalist in the emerging designer competition Launch Pad, as well as becoming a finalist in the Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in 2016 and 2017.  Franco also received a silver award for my Mila Chair, in 2017 DIA South Australia and Northern Territory Awards.

Franco Crea - a unique, intelligent, and trusted designer within the high-end Australian furniture industry.

The Mila chair by Franco Crea is a classically proportioned chair suiting both formal and casual applications in residential and commercial settings. Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

Crea’s signature style of refined, sophisticated, contemporary furniture and custom work is a joy to behold. His meticulous attention to detail and commitment to sustainable and locally made craftsmanship has seen him in high demand, opening not one but two studios in four short years.

Photographed by Alex Reinders, stlying & artistic direction by Bek Sheppard.

Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

A necessity, but one of the hardest decisions Crea admits to having to make, was to open a second studio in Melbourne. “Being separated from the workshop is something I am still adjusting to. I am so used to looking over everyone’s shoulder, which is part of what you do when you are smaller.” Luckily Crea is able to oversee both studios simultaneously and notes: “You really have to have a great team behind you, one who shares that same vision.”

An Adelaide native, Crea always felt quite disconnected from the design hubs in Sydney and Melbourne and found that developing his brand and its style was a challenge. But being removed had its benefits. Rather than embracing interior trends, such as the Nordic style we have seen in recent years, the lack of distraction meant Crea was able to create his recognisable, signature style without being influenced by other design trends.

Designed for residential spaces, commercial spaces, and bars, the Mena Armchair finds the perfect balance between elegance, comfort, and support for all environments. Photographed by Alex Reinders, stlying & artistic direction by Bek Sheppard.

Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

Crea’s career began in Interior Design, a background that gave him a rare advantage, allowing him to develop an understanding of the entire project vision. This compound knowledge is evident in the inspired but functional pieces he creates.

When making something for any space, he directs his attention to the small intricate details and is committed to ensuring each of those details are exact. “My pieces come alive from close up. Those smaller details from afar do the job, but it’s the appreciation from up close.” Crea is a perfectionist at heart and his lack of compromise in his ultimate execution creates an impeccable result.

The Mena armchair’s lean profile gives it a light aesthetic, perfect for smaller spaces, but with its visual complexity, Mena also suits more open spaces. Photographed by Alex Reinders, stlying & artistic direction by Bek Sheppard.

The Mena Armchair can be extended to seamlessly integrate a removable metal ledge.

Crea’s tailored approach to furniture design comes from his understanding of space and the user interaction as well as the application. “I never design a product for sake of designing a product or add a detail just for the sake of it. It is all about the purpose and the feelings it evokes.”

“I sway between materials, depending on how I want the user to feel. As a designer/maker I can work with so many different materials. I work with solid timber, brass, stainless steel and solid surfaces like Corian. I spent a lot of time speaking with manufacturers and fabricators who graciously gave me the time and helped me understand the capabilities of the materials.” This deeper understanding of the surfaces he uses and how he can maximise their function and appeal allows Crea the ability to adapt them to any project.

Photographed by Alex Reinders, stlying & artistic direction by Bek Sheppard.

Family connections play an important role in Crea’s passion and determination for what he does. His father, a scientist, discovered a love of timber and decided to learn traditional woodworking methods resulting in his becoming a wood turner and carver, which sparked a keen interest in a young Franco. “I love working with solid timber.”

Not only inspired by his father, Franco always received support for his career from both his parents. “They knew it was a tough industry, but they know it makes me happy. I always gravitated towards picking up a pen or pencil and drawing. That was my sanctuary.”

Crea’s mother, also a talented creative, is the inspiration behind his latest release of the Mena collection, his first sofa seating collection. “The lines and how I wanted it to present itself – a lot of the inspiration was from my mum and how she always presented herself. It carries the trademark of contemporary elegance – it is an assertive, structured piece but soft and warming. Full of beautiful detail and technical execution.” Every aspect of the collection has been considered including the addition of a functional and detachable metal ledge that can be added to the timber arm, allowing the user easy access to a phone or beverage.

The Ekta Shelving Unit designed by Franco Crea, serves as either a bold, theatrical sculptural element, or as practical storage for treasured objects. Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

“A sofa and armchair were always something I wanted to design, but I wanted it to come naturally to me – I didn’t force it. I wanted a tribute to the craftsmanship in Australia. The quilting is done by hand here in Australia. It’s beautiful to think that level of quality is done here.” Integrated into the hand-crafted elements Crea has combined technology. This technology also helps with efficiency, using concealed fasteners that are magnetic and unscrew with a magnetic tool. This offers unrestricted access to the frame, which for transit means these can be freighted without damage and increase the product lifespan, as they can also be reupholstered with ease.

The Mila Table by Franco Crea - purity of materials and classical proportions result in the Mila table’s understated yet stunning elegance. Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

The Mena Armchair is a functional piece that suits multiple environments: as a standalone chair in a residential setting, in bars, and in waiting spaces.

Crea is also conscious of environmental impact, so the timber arms are manufactured during his other projects to minimise the wastage. This also unifies his collections as the timber detailing works back with the existing collections.

Losing his mum last year helped him gain some perspective, especially given the impact his mother had on his success. “My parents brought me up in a humble lifestyle but encouraged us to follow our journeys. It was always the little things we appreciated – we used to look forward to the little things, little experiences that I treasure. We were taught the small things were everything and would always mean more. It was instilled in me, making the small things count.”

Fully-upholstered, the Mena Sofa exhibits its own powerful, connective design language, with strong lines, sharp geometry, diamond hand-stitched quilting, and stunning chamfered profiled timber arms. Photographed by Alex Reinders, stlying & artistic direction by Bek Sheppard.

Industry ‘Open House’ with Franco Crea

Over two nights, Franco Crea is opening his Melbourne showroom to provide the opportunity for design professionals to meet Franco and view his furniture design collections up close.

If you’re interested in attending, fill out the registration form and attend one of the nights.

Dates – Wednesday, 23rd of May & Thursday, 24th of May

Times – 6:00PM – 9:00PM (both nights)

LocationFranco Crea Melbourne Showroom – 259 Swan Street, Richmond

Luxury and elegance, teamed with the highest quality manufacturing and hand-finished upholstery, ensures Mena’s complex design gives you exactly what you want in an armchair: beauty, and everyday comfort and support.