In honour of our exclusive release of the world-renowned Beetle Chair in four premium upholstery options, The Conran Shop is delving into the minds of design duo GamFratesi, to examine their design ethos and the unusual journey that led to the Beetle's creation.
The inspiration behind GamFratesi's Beetle Chair is evident in its name; informed by the shape and shell of the eponymous insect, the chair flaunts a rigid shell-like structure with elegant metal legs. Designed in 2013, the chair is the creation of Danish architect Stine Gam and Italian architect Enrico Fratesi, fusing the designers' respective experiences in Danish and Italian craft traditions, and is brought to life by premium Danish furniture manufacturer GUBI. Renowned for their experimental approach to design, the GamFratesi seeks to explore the subtle duality of function and beauty, finding inspiration in the most surprising places, such as the insect world, for example.
It might seem a strange starting point in the context of furniture design, but GamFratesi saw something in the beetle that others didn't. As they explain, "Insects are beautiful creatures of nature. Each element of their bodies has a specific function – a true encounter between form and function, distilled into the essential. We found inspiration for a chair that could be at once highly functional as well as beautiful."
GamFratesi found the anatomy of the beetle body fascinating; its structure comprises different plates separated by thin sutures. This external shell supports and protects the animal's body, and all these elements are seamlessly linked. The duo also notes that the diversity and adaptability of the beetle have seen it reimagined across a variety of forms, informing everything from ancient cultural myths to twentieth-century cars and British pop bands. The reason behind this, they believe, is that "by mimicking the finer details of nature with form, function, proportion or pattern, we can re-create biophilic human connections and healthy responses to the natural environment."
Thus, the chair's design reinterprets the characteristic elements of the beetles' body: rigid on the outside and soft within, while maintaining comfort and functionality. The form of the chair is created using laminated moulded veneer, while the seat is upholstered in a luxurious assortment of finishes, from supple leather to sumptuous velvet. The chair's two-part shell is made from one continuous curve, engineered to respond to the sitter via supported micromovements. All aspects of the form are designed with function and comfort in mind, whilst maintaining an aesthetic likeness to the pleasing shape of a beetle shell.
GamFratesi continue to seek inspiration from natural forms, particularly animals, to create their ongoing furniture collection. The Masculo Chair echoes the form of a bull, flaunting a distinctive sculptural back and broad armrests. Similarly, the Bat Chair, a close cousin of the Beetle, references a bat's wingspan, with an embracing shell formed from a continuous curve. The natural world is an unending well of inspiration, and GamFratesi have an impeccable knack of reinterpreting natural forms in the context of our homes.
The Beetle Chair's true value is in its versatility. Available in multiple iterations from dining chairs to lounge chairs, meeting chairs and even an outdoor edition, the adaptable form can be reimagined to suit any setting. The most recent edition to the Beetle family is the 'Quartet of Expressions', a texture-led edit of the classic Beetle Dining Chair in four premium upholstery options. Considering its short nine-year history, the chair holds an impressive record of continual adaptation and reinvention; we cannot wait to see what the next chapter of the Beetle Chair will bring.