Interview with Francesco Rota about the sofa Uptown

Interview with Francesco Rota about the sofa Uptown

These values are the foundation and an integral part of the work of renowned interior and product designer, Francesco Rota.

“Simplicity, balance, tradition and functionality are the values that guide me when I design a product.”

In 1998, Francesco Rota opened his design studio in Milan. The collaboration with companies from different sectors can be traced back to his wide range of interests which are ultimately also the reason for his success.


Italian design on course for success

Since 2013, Francesco Rota has been working as a creative director at Lapalma. In 2014, he designed the modular seating system ADD which is is apt for various ambients and spaces of various character. What makes this piece of furniture stand out is that the square shaped seats and backrests can be combined in countless variations like a mosaic so that “ADD” can adapt to the architecture of every type of room. Francesco Rota was awarded an Honourable Mention at the Compasso D’Oro, an Italian industrial design prize, for this outstanding design. He also won a Red Dot: Best of the Best in 2016 in the Red Dot Design Award. His Kanji table, which he designed for Paola Lenti SRL, won a Red Dot at the same time.

However, the designer has not only created furniture, but also designed products for lighting and luminaires, showrooms, offices, residential buildings and events. His design is characterised by its clean lines with an elegant and timeless appearance. Numerous renowned companies such as L’Oréal Paris, Mercedes Benz, Alchemy and Martini & Rossi value his work because of his extraordinary sense of composition, colour and functionality.

Table Kanjii


Organically flowing lines: sofa Uptown

In this year’s Red Dot Award: Product Design another product by Francesco Rota has made it onto the list of winners. He impressed the experts with the modular concept of the sofa Uptown. In addition to its high functionality, sophisticated details and high-quality fabric upholstery, the sofa’s organically flowing lines, which give it a timeless elegance, were pivotal for the jury’s positive verdict. With its soft and inviting
shape, the Uptown sofa can be used in many different areas – regardless of whether in residential or public buildings – and completely independently of room size. The individual modules can not only be combined and arranged at will, but also be used on their own. The transitions are seamless. There is no clear demarcation between back and front, seating area and backrest. The sofa structures the space and invites
creativity, but also provides relaxation areas, as required.

We have talked to Francesco Rota about the Uptown sofa and the creative processes behind his work.

Francesco Rota Sofa Uptown Francesco Rota Sofa Uptown


Interview with Francesco Rota


Red Dot 21 (1): What was your inspiration for the design of the sofa Uptown?

Francesco Rota: Uptown was designed to fit in versatile environments, to introduce warmth with a simple gesture. I was aiming at creating an iconic piece with architectonic proportions that render it more like a sculptural object in a space rather than furniture. The concept was inspired by the perfect shapes we find in nature. In particular water stones which the elements shape into perfect ovals through time. We strived to represent that particular serenity and natural balance in a timeless piece that immediately evokes a sense of comfort.

Red Dot 21 (2): What was the process of development of the new design for the sofa Uptown? Please give us some specific examples.

Francesco Rota: For the project of Uptown the challenge was to create units that brought seats and backrests in a single architectural shape. The few modules were particularly created to provide flexibility for various compositions. Once the strategy was drawn up and the concept transformed into a 3d model, we went on to create prototypes and test out specific characteristics of the design such as modularity, ergonomics and comfort in simulations. The technical documentation was developed first in our studio and then with the technical support of the engineers at Paola Lenti. Finally, we focused on defining details such as the position of the seams that emphasise the lines of the product aesthetically and make it possible to remove the upholstery for maintenance.

Red Dot 21 (3): How do you approach a new project? That is to say, how do you get started when you receive a new order?

Francesco Rota: The general attitude is mostly the same – my designs are aimed at meeting a specific market need or are an answer to a particular social behaviour, simultaneously always striving to achieve great comfort and a visually pleasing appearance. Nevertheless, each response to a new project is unique. When requesting a new design, my clients trust in my ability to understand their brand philosophy and values and to use them as the foundation from which the concept starts. Thus, it always begins with a thorough study of ideas, techniques, finishes, etc.

Red Dot 21 (4): What do you think are the three most important things any room needs?

Francesco Rota: A soft piece that adds comfort – such as a nice sofa that creates the space for social interaction in one occasion or provides privacy in another; adequate lighting – the character of a space is very dependent on the light; and at last probably a nice set of speakers to play music on.

Red Dot 21 (5): Which of your favourite interior trends, colours or materials are you looking forward to seeing in 2018?

Francesco Rota: The truth is, I try to avoid trends. Most of the time I make my design proposals with regard to finishes and colours, trusting my intuition rather than following the current fashion. Sadly, many companies tend to bet on the trendy colours and materials which often result in repetitive designs lacking the element of surprise. In fact, what I look forward to seeing in 2018 is probably more variety and imagination.

Red Dot 21 (6): What are the biggest challenges in everyday life for a creative like you?

Francesco Rota: A big challenge for me is to separate work from leisure time. I find inspiration for new projects during my holidays and trips in things I see and photograph, in people I encounter, in new experiences. On the other hand, for me designing is a recreational activity, so it is hard to say where the borderline is. I am always on the go.

Red Dot 21 (7): What role does sustainability play for you? Please give us specific examples.

Francesco Rota: For me sustainability is about creating quality designs that last over time. To obtain that I always look for more synergy between design and industrial production in order to provide durable products that are cheaper and easier to manufacture. In a time as the one we live in, I believe timeless and long-lasting is the way to go.

Red Dot 21 (8): Please name a designer, who, in your opinion, has changed the world?

Francesco Rota: I don’t believe in design heroes, really. There are plenty of notable professionals in our field that have left a mark and have contributed to the general development of design proposing innovative solutions. However, it is the collective efforts that have produced real changes in social behaviour. Take Sony for example. By introducing the Walkman in the 80s they completely changed the way we experience music, it gave a soundtrack to our lives. It was the company’s comprehensive understanding of the market, the effective division of labour and strong design approach all together that delivered the successful formula.

Red Dot 21 (9): Which is your favourite museum?

Francesco Rota: A place I love visiting is Villa Necchi. It is a masterpiece of 1930s Italian architecture, hidden in the city centre of Milan. The interiors and the gardens are spectacular, full of decorative arts, paintings and period furniture. Totally worth visiting!

Red Dot 21 (10): What favourite event of the year do you definitely not want to miss?

Francesco Rota: An event that I never miss is naturally the Salone del Mobile, one of the most important design events during the year. Apart from the latest achievements in design that are on show all around the city of Milan in that particular week, I see Design Week as a social event as well. The opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues, impressions you receive from visitors of different countries and the collaborations with the press offer valuable feedback and inspiration.

Red Dot 21 (11): Where do you like to go on holiday?

Francesco Rota: The sea is my great passion. I love windsurfing and sailing. I like being at the seaside in Liguria, where I spent a great deal of my childhood. It is my little weekend escape destination. But I love travelling in general. In fact, I am quite often abroad. I spent a lot of time in Japan. It is a country and a culture that I deeply respect. And which each trip I make, I bring home new impressions and ideas that you can trace back later in my work.

Red Dot 21: Thank you so much Mr. Rota that you took the time to answer our questions.


By the way, you can find personal tips from Francesco Rota for visiting Milan in our article Milan, Italy- Designers’ Hotspots and also in the Red Dot Design App.

Posted on 25.09.2017

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