Gao Guqi is a young furniture designer who has gained increasing popularity in the last few years. Once a graphic designer, then coffee shop owner and furniture designer, Guqi was born in North Eastern China and has lived all over, from Xiamen to Shanghai. He eventually landed in the capital, where in 2010 launched his own furniture brand FNJI. Despite his many moves and changes, the concept of home was always significant.
Nature, simplicity and authenticity are at the core of his creations. His idea of home is a warm and cozy environment; a place of intimacy, relationships and comfort—free from the complexity and the worries of the outside world. With those beliefs and feelings fueling FNJI, the collection is made up of high-quality contemporary furniture that has a touch of Chinese tradition. Everything is made of hard wood, a durable material which gains character with age and can last for generations. The brand name itself (in Chinese “fanji”) embodies the idea of simplicity and a fusion of nature and the “slow life” philosophy which is the very essence of Guqi’s pieces.
Since 2008—when Guqi opened his Drawer coffee shop/home in Xiamen, until moving to Beijing and his open-home experience “FNJI Living Room”—he has wanted to showcase his creations in a way that would engage the audience and really let them connect to his pieces; to the experience of feeling at home. With that as his motivator, “Nature Bred, Nourishing Home”—a project recently hosted by Beijing’s UCCA—was born. “I’ve been showcasing my furniture at UCCA store, and so I came with the idea of something that could create a more emotional connection between my pieces and the visitors, and therefore came the idea of a play,” he tells CH.
For five days, UCCA became the stage of FNJI’s play, and Guqi’s furniture made up the set. SIx sets surrounded the audience with the spotlight moving from one to another, highlighting family scenes topped with humor. Among the scenes were a marriage proposal, a kid leaving home to fulfill his hopes in the city, a worrisome old man and a young couple moving into a new home. Of the unique concept, Guqi says, “It was just a raw idea. We started from scratch; simply discussing it with friends. I first got my director friend Lilie Matsumine on board and then we needed a script. I’ve always read Master Ao’s weibo [microblog] with great pleasure, so I got in touch with him and he agreed to help”.
The whole exhibition came to life with the great support from a network of friends—from the actors to catering and costume design. Guqi credits the success to the generosity and warmth of a community—something that truly encapsulates home.
Photos by Alessandro De Toni