Design Principles: Compositional Balance, Symmetry And Asymmetry
ince launching a furniture design studio in 2006, Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi have split their time between Denmark and Italy. Although their growing business,requires a wayfaring lifestyle, they’ve found ways to keep themselves grounded thanks to the daily rituals they engage in while traveling and the time they set aside for family.
Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi have managed to achieve a lifestyle many of us only dream about: The founders and designers behind the furniture studio GamFratesi travel regularly between their hometowns of Pesaro, Italy, and Copenhagen, Denmark. While the couple often misses the comforting rhythms of daily home life with their three-year-old son, Frederik, traveling has been a fertile ground for creative inspiration. Their designs, though rooted in the stark and practical Scandinavian tradition, incorporate conceptual elements that add a touch of playfulness to their minimalist aesthetic. Running a young company keeps Stine and Enrico busy, but they still make it a priority to carve out time for friends, family and lingering over scrumptious breakfasts each morning. We spoke with Stine and Enrico about how their family stays in the present while hopping between homes.
What kind of families did you grow up in? Were there any life lessons your parents passed down to you?
Stine: We grew up in two very different environments. We recently found an old black-and-white photograph of Enrico’s father at the age of six, sitting in a workshop while his father made shoes for postwar survivors. We inherited a sense of discipline and a pure dedication to our work from him, as well as the knowledge that everything is possible if you’re committed and put in the work. We also found a photograph of my father at age 30 when he had long hair and was climbing a tree with his guitar. We got the freedom to dream and express ourselves without boundaries from him. These are two very different lessons, though both are equally important to us.
What are some of the differences between the Italian and Danish approaches to life?
Enrico: The Danes are true masters of creating intimate and welcoming domestic spaces. Perhaps this is due to the adverse Scandinavian weather conditions that force them to stay indoors all the time and encourage them to create warm and inviting home environments. They have a knack for adapting their homes to accommodate natural light, have a great eye for color and know how to bring aspects of nature into their everyday lives. In Italy, people seem to gravitate more toward gathering in communal areas such as large city squares rather than staying inside. More attention is paid to quality and developing these spaces rather than focusing on interiors. That said, we sometimes come across interesting historical interiors that mix unexpected styles and objects with sophisticated design solutions.
How do the work ethics in Denmark and Italy differ?
Stine: When we’re in Copenhagen, we allow ourselves to linger over breakfast in the kitchen, making conversation and enjoying the food and each other’s company. This is less common in Italy, where morning meals usually consist of a quick espresso and a croissant at the bar. The Italians prioritize lunch instead and tend to spend a long time partaking in this meal.
Please tell us a bit about your weekday morning routines at home: Do you have any personal rituals?
Enrico: I’m quite grumpy in the morning while Stine is calm and very good at gathering the family around the table for a wonderful, cozy breakfast. Our days often begin with homemade bread and cookies, fresh juice and chatting and playing with our son, Frederik, before we start our day. Stine loves mornings as she feels like she has the entire day in front her. I’m more partial to evenings as they feel like the calm after the storm of the day’s activities. How do you like to spend time when you’re at home?
Stine: Listening to music, preparing some nice food in the kitchen, reading books and playing with our son. Our home is located above a busy street and we enjoy people-watching from our window. We also like going on long walks around Copenhagen if the weather outside is nice.
What are your after-work hobbies?
Stine: We’re lucky that our work is also our passion and that our hobbies are all somewhat art- or design-related. Many of them become inspiration for our work, such as reading or listening to good music. We love these art forms for their expressive abilities and how they’re able to convey a wealth of emotions in just a few words or notes.
How do you like to spend your weekends?
Enrico: Apart from certain situations where an imminent delivery forces us to work, we devote our weekends to the family, experiencing the city and meeting friends. We’ve hoped for and have been working toward having nonworking weekends for so many years, but we’ve only recently achieved this goal.
How often do you host dinner parties?
Enrico: We love having our friends over to our house for fortnightly meals. We often serve a simple, family-style meal made using a small selection of high quality seasonal ingredients. Lunch is often Danish-style and consists of bread and an assortment of Scandinavian root vegetables. For dinner, we like serving well-made Italian pasta with a slow-roasted tomato sauce.
What are the most important components to running a business?
Enrico: Passion and patience.
What do you enjoy most about traveling?
Stine: It’s always been an integral part of our working process. We used to have more freedom and flexibility in the early stages of our company, but growing business opportunities in Copenhagen have required us to establish it as our primary work base and Pesaro as a refuge for when we need some time away from the city. We allow ourselves to make the trip to Pesaro when things get too hectic. It’s a lovely city nestled between the sea and the hills. Everything is within walking distance and the rustic buildings provide a welcome contrast to the highly stylized and modern architecture you find in Copenhagen. It’s essential for us to maintain a strong relationship with each location, and each has a special place in our hearts.
Are there any simple traditions you try to preserve when you’re traveling around in different cities?
Stine: A key part of our everyday routine is valuing the little things and individual moments in the day. We try to implement this philosophy regardless of where we are in the world.
What do you miss most about home when you’re traveling?
Enrico: We miss our son like crazy when he’s not with us. We don’t long for any material things when we’re away, though we do miss the everyday routines that come with being in your own home, such as walking around barefoot in the kitchen or preparing a bowl of yogurt and muesli and enjoying it on the couch while chatting for hours. The first thing we do after returning from a long trip is to whip up something to eat, often a dish that’s simple and homey.
How do you strike a balance between the time you spend at work and the time you spend with friends and family?
Enrico: While the fact that we’re self-employed means that we invest tons of passion, dedication and time into our work, family comes first. We’ve had to make many personal sacrifices over the years for the sake of our business, but we make it a point not to let work compromise family time.