Florence (Italy), address Via dei Vanni 25, on a sunny morning I meet a smiling Francesco Celentano welcoming me, ready to tell me about the company Edenpark and the projects managed together with all the staff in an interview.
Outdoor furniture and design, with products and solutions from the best players on the market. Edenpark takes care of this in a nutshell. Francesco, the first question is a must, especially to know better the company. Where does the name Edenpark come from?
Edenpark was the result of a mix of names. At the beginning I wanted a reference to the park and to the concept of east park, the western part of Florence. Then, also comparing myself with my girlfriend and with the then partners, the idea of Eden came out: the garden, the world of outdoor in general, it was linked to the idea of beauty. And so Edenpark came out. Given the important vibrations of this name, we immediately thought of the apple for the logo, because it concretized the idea of outdoor furniture and above all of liveability outdoors very well. In other words, the thrill of a beautiful place.
Today Edenpark deals with outdoor, to the point of becoming a national reference point and beyond. What was the origin of the company?
It’s a very nice story how Edenpark was born and I wish any person in the world to experience a moment like the one I experienced on that occasion. Edenpark was born in Milan during two days of the fair where the market was already quite strange and battered. It was 2009 and there were crises, the first defections. My business partner and I went to Made (a fair in Milan), trying to figure out what to seriously consider to develop our work, because up until that moment we were assemblers.
At one point I found myself in front of a beautiful gazebo, by Il Ceppo company. Here I was struck by that object and I heard the product “scream”. And I understood what I could do. I had found the element that represented me in my way, in my spirit and in my energy. And from there it has been a perpetual motion.
So the key was the gazebo.
That’s right. We had a simple warehouse, nothing more. But thanks to that occasion we learned what beauty really was. From there, all the research on how to represent our energy, our vision and our vitality started. It all started in a few months, putting together a small 50 square meter shop representing 4-5 brands. At first, I didn’t even know commercially what I had to say, what I had to do, what discounts it was right to apply. I was so new to the market that I was a kind of “dangerous”. To start, I looked for those products that “screamed” in the same way as the first gazebo I was struck by.
Is this an aspect that you are still looking for today?
Yes, in every product I look for that feeling. And that’s what I ask all my staff to do as well.
So with the outdoor design it was love at first sight?
It was love at first sight. To the question “Where are you located?” I in my head I said “Exactly there!”. It’s said that luck is the ability of every single person to generate opportunities. But in a world where indoor was saturated and well represented, the office was saturated and well represented, the bathroom was saturated and underrepresented, only the outdoors was to be done. I had the intuition to find this commercial route. Outdoor design, at the time, in 2009, was made of wooden grills and gazebos with a PVC roof. Nothing else. Then in my research I saw that outdoor was increasing in northern Europe, in the hotel industry, in USA and in large centers that experience the outdoors. So I also found the contents to follow up on my initial idea. Before Edenpark there were Masoni, Frassinago di Bologna and little else. Here I have noticed that my idea of outdoor could generate value. Today Edenpark deals with design, trades, sells, is proactive and above all also promotes many events that involve people.
How is your relationship with the territory?
Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, not only in Italy. I think that before Edenpark it was little represented by a company, by an entrepreneurial project. Today I’m proud to say that Florence has been more beautiful since Edenpark has existed. With some locations that we will visit together today I will also show everyone why. Over time I have dealt with many far-sighted entrepreneurs who have tried to give something more to Florence, generating projects to live and see. The beauty that is represented in the beauty.
When did the Edenpark adventure turn from a bet to a consolidated company?
There is a year in particular and it’s 2014. One day I suddenly decided to cancel the rent of the space in which the old showroom was located, without already having a new space and having no idea where to go. I had 6 months to generate the future of Edenpark. I have created a zone of dis-comfort to try to move on to the next step.
So you have created a criticality for yourself.
Exactly. I could have looked for new spaces before giving the cancellation but I don’t know if they would have been right. I found this space after having seen so many. I got here and this space was screaming.
Like the gazebo!
Exactly, like the gazebo. Building an outdoor furniture shop in what used to be these walls was a beautiful vision. Maybe it was my biggest bet, I think it was a winning bet. And after that it was also upgraded to its best. So even the whole new part of the offices, where the guys actually express themselves today, was the next step.
Speaking instead of a topic very dear to the world of design, what is the relationship between Edenpark and sustainability? How do they talk to each other?
This is a good question, perfectly fitting in with the contemporary. We consider that the vast majority of companies today are totally focused on sustainability. A few years ago I found myself talking to Pedrali’s CEO, who gave me an illuminating speech on sustainability. We have reached a point of maturity and market awareness according to which it’s now essential to create products that are beautiful, comfortable but also disposable, recyclable and designed according to green dynamics. It’s essential not to place products on the market that will have problems being disposed of.
The products are changing but the role of the architect has also changed. How has Edenpark been able to embrace this change?
We have a special relationship with architects, I believe one of a kind. We have the desire to involve the architects in every phase of their projects. For us, architects are friends, in the true sense of the word. A friendship, however, completely disinterested. We interview architects, discuss training with them, organize paddle tournaments, promote networking and culture meetings about outdoor that in my opinion have entered their personal history. We have involved figures such as Marc Sadler, Roberto Palomba, Alberto Lievore, bringing them face to face with the professionals. I think they are all beautiful activities, which generate a sense of family.
Is there a team of designers within Edenpark?
Certainly. We support architects, we are the company capable of developing their project.
How many projects have we been talking about since the birth of Edenpark?
So many. There are technical projects and sentimental projects, and I am obviously more attached to sentimental ones. But there isn’t actually a favorite. I like it when someone enters Edenpark and asks us how to rediscover a space outside. They are people who then thank you because they have re-appropriated that part of the house they no longer lived and which has now acquired an imaginable value.
What is your approach with the customer?
I always ask people a very simple question: are you investing or are you spending? Because if you are spending, I am one of the many opportunities offered by the market. But if you are investing, even a small amount, then I am the right person who can propose a project that is destined to last. Today, frankly, the outdoor design is destined to last, it’s disconnected from seasonality. Today tables, chairs and all the outdoor furniture remain outside all year round, also providing a visual frame for those inside. This applies both to private domestic spaces and to contract and hotel projects.
In short, the outdoors is another room in the house.
That’s right, this is the message I want to communicate: the culture of the outdoor and open spaces. Today, fortunately, large companies are lending us a hand by creating ad hoc collections for the outdoors.
Outside, the treasure chest of the most beautiful sensations is enclosed. The outside has always been a place of strong aggregation, spirituality and energy. Today I personally have more memories outdoors than indoors.
Is there a place in the world where you would like to embellish with your intervention?
I have so many dreams that it’s really difficult to indicate just one place. A few months ago I was given the opportunity to work on the project for a chair donated to Pope Francis. And I realize that sometimes opportunities are generated in the snap of a finger. I don’t know where the job will take me, but I always hope it finds me ready. Italy is so beautiful to furnish that furnishing Le Fontanelle in Pianella is as rewarding as furnishing La Rinascente, Gucci Garden or Mollura in Modena. This is the culture of the outdoor.
Always put people first. How many people can the Edenpark family count on?
We are 16 young people, boys and girls. For my part, there has been an evolution. Those who met me a few years ago today find a totally different Francesco. A little because I had the luck and the intuition to start building the figure of Edenpark, and a little because I did a training course, also in managerial terms, which I liked so much that I decided to have it done by all my guys. “I have chosen you once, you choose me every day” is the phrase I say to them most often. Outside of my reality, I notice little attention to personal relationships between entrepreneurs and employees. It also happens in architecture studios, too much gap has been created between the architect and those who throw their lives away for the success of a project. This is one of the reasons why we invested in the “Colazione da Edenpark” network and training events: to try to raise the architect’s awareness of the fundamental importance of the staff. There is not only a need for great architects, but also for great studios, made up of people. Many architects took advantage of our meetings to also start personal growth paths of study. We all need great people.
Article in collaboration with Edenpark Firenze