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
Boffi Solferino showroom entrance, Milan; photo Filippo Pincolini.
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
PHC basin made with Corian®, design Piero Lissoni; photo Tommaso
Sartori, courtesy of Boffi.
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.
Aprile kitchen with Corian® worksurfaces, design Piero Lissoni
and CRS Boffi; photo Tommaso Sartori, courtesy of Boffi.
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
Minikitchen design Joe Colombo (edition with Corian® worksurfaces);
photo Tommaso Sartori, courtesy of Boffi.