When Hannah Norman of The Luxury Channel meets Simon Firullo, the designer behind Paradisi bespoke furniture, what comes across most vividly is his abundant passion for his work. “I’ve always loved furniture. It is inspiring, certainly older furniture” he says. An interest in his product notwithstanding, Simon’s strong design background has ensured the furniture he is producing has a strong engineering quality to it. This is Simon’s first foray into furniture production, and he’s currently produced two of his many designs – one is a tub chair, and the other, a much bigger, curved chair – but plans to roll out more designs this year. “I’ve got designs for lights and a design for a table that spans five metres,” he tells me. “But there’s no support in the middle; it’s just four legs.” That isn’t the only thing in the pipeline. “I’d love to make a little nest of tables that I’ve got a design for,” he confides. “It’s a nest of three, and it’s very, very clever.”
It would seem the only way is up for Paradisi. Strong aesthetics are reinforced – quite literally – by the strong materials used to make the furniture. Simon’s preferred materials are carbon fibre with titanium or aluminium, traditionally used in Aerospace and Formula One cars. “There are companies making carbon fibre furniture, but it’s never actually been combined with aluminium metal in the way that I have – and certainly not with titanium. That’s unique.” Paradisi’s bespoke chairs have beautiful leather seating, and striking, titanium bases. I suggest they could be seen as works of art, rather than items of furniture. Whilst Simon is happy to agree, he’s quick to point out that furniture still has to serve a basic purpose. “Once you’ve got an idea, you still have to come up with something that functions,” he says. “So whether it is a work of art, it is still a functional chair.” So on to carbon fibre – what inspired him to work with such an expensive material? Turns out, it is something that has resonated with him since childhood. “When I was a child, I went to a motor show with my father and I remember seeing a car made of carbon fibre – this was the future. I remember it so clearly, and I thought it was fantastic. So I’ve always been fascinated by it,” he tells me. “Basically, it’s a really expensive floppy material. But once you’ve added epoxy resin to it, it changes to this incredibly light, incredibly strong material – but what you can do with it is amazing.”
The chairs certainly are just that. With signature cut-outs incorporated into every item Simon has designed (because “that’s my look”), the style is iconic enough to be instantly recognizable as Paradisi. Although Simon admits he could have worked with far cheaper raw materials, he believes it wouldn’t have resulted in such unique pieces of furniture. It stands to reason that if you start off with costly materials, your end product is going to be more expensive as a consequence. However, the designer is keen to defend his decision to do this. “It’s all about the quality and attention to every detail,” he explains. “I hate that attitude of ‘that’ll do.’ It’s not for me. If you’re going to do something, do it properly. If something needs lining up, then line it up. If you can be accurate to within a micron, then do it, as that’s the way it should be. Underneath the seat are all of the details that you don’t see, but it’s all been as beautifully designed and machined and fitted as the top. If you take the seat off the tub chair, the finished leather work is just perfect. It’s beautiful and the same distance all the way around, and it’s actually on a carbon fibre base, so it’s not on an old piece of wood or a throwaway piece of something.”
Future options, he says, could include different metals. “As much as I love titanium and aluminium, there are different metals out there – gold, for instance – it’s all possible. I think it would be fascinating to do something in brass, I think it would be fascinating to do something in copper – pretty much anything that’s unusual. But the key is carbon fibre.” I point out that people don’t realise how much of an engineering skill you need in order to make such pieces of furniture. “Oh, a huge amount,” Simon affirms, “from the CAD side, the drawing side, the design side, and then to work out how to do it and get it to look fantastic.”
But for anyone in any doubt, it isn’t just his own work that Simon is passionate about. Throughout our interview, he comfortably name-checks designers whose work he admires. “Philippe Starck has produced some fantastic stuff, Tom Dixon has produced some fantastic stuff but so has Vico Magistretti, who designed the ubiquitous monobloc plastic chair,” he says. “I like Le Corbusier and Ludwig van der Rohe. The George Nelson pretzel chair is really cool. I love the tulip chair that was designed by Eero Saarinen – just stunning!”
For more information about Paradisi furniture, or to contact the designer for a consultation or commission, go to www.paradisi.co.uk or e-mail Simon directly at email@example.com.