<em>Photo: Alfredo Chiarappa</em>

Sitting in a Ferrari... while at your desk

Poltrona Frau's 'Cockpit' office armchair, inspired by the Prancing Horse's car seats, is a technical masterpiece

Words: Marco Romani

Imagine you’re sitting in a Ferrari even though in reality you're sitting at your office desk. This is precisely the wonderful sensation you get when you lower yourself into the ‘Cockpit’, the innovative new office armchair conceived and designed by Ferrari Design Center and made by Poltrona Frau at its factory near Tolentino, in the Marche region of central Italy.


Presented during the 2017 edition of Milan’s Salone del Mobile to mark the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Prancing Horse, the ‘Cockpit’ surprised everybody – including the executives of the furniture maker itself. It was such a global hit that there is currently an eight-week wait from the moment you order one to the moment it is delivered.

The sporty interiors of Ferrari cars inspired the design of the 'Cockpit'
The sporty interiors of Ferrari cars inspired the design of the 'Cockpit'

The chair - as its name implies - is inspired by racing car and aeroplane cockpits. It is undoubtedly the most advanced synthesis of the research and development centres of two Italian companies both of which boast a legendary attention to detail.


Ferrari and Poltrona Frau have worked together before, in 1996 when Maranello asked the furniture maker to handle the leather interiors of its production cars. Upon entering the Poltrona Frau museum, you immediately become aware of the deep and long-standing connection between these two 'made in Italy' brands. Taking pride of place in the factory's exhibition space - 'Interiors in Motion' - is a beautiful Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano from 2006, donated by Ferrari in 2012 to celebrate Poltrona Frau's centennial.


There were numerous challenges in creating the 'Cockpit'. From the beginning of the process, in April 2016, it was a race against time, explains Mirko Splendiani, head of the furniture maker's Product Innovation division. "We only had one year to do it," he explains, as it had to be ready by April last year.

Poltrona Frau craftsmen at work on the chassis of the 'Cockpit'<em> Photo: Alfredo Chiarappa</em>
Poltrona Frau craftsmen at work on the chassis of the 'Cockpit' Photo: Alfredo Chiarappa

There were production complexities, also, including materials sourcing, Splendiani says. The 'Cockpit' is made from materials including carbon fibre and Alutex, an aluminium-treated glass fabric, sourced from specialised companies that usually work with auto manufacturers and not home furniture makers.


Then there were design challenges, as the chair called for the use of components - from the rays that are inspired by Ferrari wheel rims to the levers used to move the armchair, whose shape recalls the paddle shifters on the side of the steering wheel of the Gran Turismo - that are made only for this chair and cannot be purchased elsewhere.


The 'Cockpit' is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Workers express their skills through exquisitely precise use of needles, scissors and small hammers. However, it is also a technical marvel. Underneath its beautiful exterior are multiple layers of materials: a layer of carbon fibre or Alutex, a layer of rigid polyurethane foam, a layer of soft polyurethane that acts as padding and the external layer of supple leather. 

A worker attaches the leather upholstery to the chair shell<em> Photo: Alfredo Chiarappa</em>
A worker attaches the leather upholstery to the chair shell Photo: Alfredo Chiarappa

Before being glued, the leather upholstery is placed on a wooden frame where it takes the shape of the armchair that – without stitches on its junctures – has a fluid and continuous form, even on its highly curved sides. The overall effect is a shape with solid areas and void spaces that emanates a sense of power, performance and sportiness: qualities that have always identified Ferrari.


There are models for various tastes. But for seekers of the truest Ferrari sensation, the President version of the 'Cockpit' - which stands taller, has an ‘aileron’ headrest with a Prancing Horse relief and a shape that recalls the seats of a sporty Ferrari - is a must.


All you have to do is sit back (at your desk) and enjoy the ride.