Simplicity is underestimated. Especially when it comes to design, and Gianfranco Frattini knew it. The Italian designer was inspired by simplicity in his forms and lines. But nothing is simple in his creations, not even in the Kyoto coffee table. Frattini used traditional materials to create furniture that looked simple. However, each of his pieces featured the latest technology and innovation. After all, Frattini collaborated with avant-garde companies such as Bernini and Cassina.
Another Italian designer who appreciated simplicity was Pierluigi Ghianda. Everybody knew him as the “poet of the wood,” just like Frattini was the master of this warm material. That’s why the partnership between the two was successful. They shared the same vision and concept, guided by passion and innovation. The Kyoto coffee table only proves the two designers’ connection.
The Specs of The Table
Made of beech and ebony wood, the Kyoto coffee table dates back to 1974. This series focuses on the interlocking of the furniture. The top features 1681 squares with hundreds of interlockings at a 45-degree angle. The legs of this table can be moved and assembled to fit any space or need. Pierluigi Ghianda used his unique touch in the embossed motifs he created in the ebony.
It’s the perfect combination of Japanese elegance and Italian artisanship. The Kyoto coffee table has no decorative details because wood is the main character. Every interlocking element and joint exalts the raw material in this piece of furniture. It looks simple, but the technique behind this table is masterful. It shows both designers knew and recognized the characteristics of wood. Even better: they appreciated the material’s beauty.
Frattini and Ghianda produced a coffee table filled with beauty and technology despite not having CNC machines. And inspired by Japanese culture and traditional design.
The Story Behind the Kyoto Coffee Table
How was this table born? The two designers traveled to Japan in the 1970s. They wanted to study local artisans and bring their techniques back to Italy. They both benefited from this Oriental trip. In Japan, expert carpenter Ghianda found new tools to work and mold wood, tools that reminded him of the Italian craftsmen tradition. In the country of the Rising Sun, Frattini opened his creative mind to Japanese art and design.
Inspired and happy, the two Italian designers decided to collaborate as soon as they returned to Italy. Hence, the Kyoto coffee table showcases the abilities of both Frattini and Ghianda. Creativity and functionality meet in the Japanese aesthetic in this timeless piece, simple yet beautiful.
It was an instant success in the 1970s. It’s still a success nowadays. In fact, the Kyoto coffee table is part of the permanent collection at the Design Museum in Milan.
Plus, the Italian furniture company Poltrona Frau is reissuing this icon -this time, using CNC machines. This contemporary edition features solid beechwood with Canaletto walnut inserts. The reissue is available both in square or rectangular versions, and it features slide-off counterpoise legs, just like the 1974 edition. The coffee table features a black finish thanks to a black open-pore varnish and red lacquer for the legs’ tops, just like Frattini designed it.
Poltrona Frau respected the design of Frattini and Ghianda, and the 2020 Kyoto coffee table is the perfect mix of design tradition and modern skills and techniques. This is an icon of Italian design in the 70s, and it shows how Italian creators mixed old and new for a unique and alternative recipe. Add a bit of Japanese influence, and the Kyoto coffee table is done.