“There comes a time in life, after achieving your objectives and watching the death of companies that had been your reference models, when you ask yourself where you should stake the next peg towards continued growth, and then, once again, you’re doubtful.” And the doubts that have tormented the nonconformist Francisco Andreu for over 50 years, wound up rendering him the driving force of the present-day company. “Looking back, I always have the sensation that I haven't achieved anything extraordinary. I think that maybe the best is yet to come,” he says, never to be daunted. “Overall, it is more and more difficult to launch a new product, design it. It's much easier to manufacture it, and much, much harder to create it.” His son Melchor, on the team that will govern the destiny of the company in the future, agrees with his father and shares in the same spirit. “The best is always yet to come.” Dissatisfaction, as mentioned before, seems to have been the authentic driving force of this company. “I don't know if it's a defect or a virtue, but I never feel satisfied. I thought life would never end and a long time ago I started to prepare for the transition from father to son. Life has been short for me. I have learned that a lot is just a question of working. And that challenges inspire, but they also weigh heavily on you. I'm satisfied, but not enough to feel really proud.” For the founder of the company, this is the bottom line. As for a chair, the only thing Francisco Andreu asks is that “it justifies its investment. That it is unique, and if possible, not too costly.”
A design has to be justified: it has to seduce, you have to feel identified with it – that is the condition now being added for new products by the third generation of Andreu, by Francisco’s son Melchor. Time and experience have taught them to stay ahead of the times: “I think in 15 years globalisation will reach the saturation point. China, then India, will stop being cheap. The same will happen as in Japan – from cheap it has now become the most expensive country in the world. And after Africa, then what? What will happen? Companies relocating will also have to redefine themselves.
I believe that a balance will then be found, in profitability and costs, and products will become local again. And so factories we have in Ukraine will produce for Ukraine, and a factory in the United States will serve that country. Local consumption will return, and with it, equilibrium.” Until the future comes, until those 15 years transpire, filling Francisco Andreu with renewed doubts, the company places the emphasis on up-to-date, elegant, intelligent, subtle design, from start to finish, plus all the cumulative experience and skills of the people working at Andreu, who all demonstrate that special kind of love and dedication that results in added value for every design appearing under the Andreu World trademark. The radical chair by the Argentine designer Alberto Lievore has become a kind of new standard of what the company can produce, and new designs by Lievore, Altherr Molina, William Sawaya and Mario Bellini are yet further examples of how a small-scale cabinetmaker can become a world company.
Journalist and Art Historian