Johanna Grawunder interview: “Experimental design and Art Design are the drivers for the entire industry”

3johanna_grawunderThe Trendboard has been talking about the end of design icons. What does that mean for interior design?
Yes, that’s something we discussed, but I don’t think it’s as absolute as that. In my opinion, there will always be iconic design. Because whether or not an object has cult character depends on the design itself and not on whether it’s marketed using that particular label. Many things are designed without a single thought being given to their symbolism, but they manage to capture consumers’ imagination at a certain moment in time all the same, so they come to represent a certain zeitgeist. What has really changed is people’s need to fill their homes with designer items as if they were toy chests. That attitude has gone slightly out of fashion.

Johanna Grawunder: architect, interior designer, member of the imm cologne trendboard

Johanna Grawunder, member of the imm cologne trendboard, photo: Koelnmesse; Lutz Sternstein

Johanna Grawunder isn’t easy to pin down. She builds houses, designs interiors and creates classic industrial products for clients like Boffi, Flos, B&B or WMF. But above all, she creates exclusive furniture and lighting for galleries in Europe and the USA, often integrating LEDs and seemingly dematerialising the forms.

For her, light is an important medium for designing the interior as part of the whole. Nor does lighting always have to be a stand-alone item, believes Johanna Grawunder. Integrated into furniture, it’s simply there – and takes on a whole new quality.

The architect from California began her career in Ettore Sottsass’ Milan studio in 1985 and was involved with some of his most prestigious architecture and interior design projects.

Walter Knoll’s secret of success: Looking with designers for something that has never been done before

MYchair; Design: Ben van Berkel; Foto: Walter KnollWalter Knoll (exhibitor at imm cologne 2010, 19.-24.01.2010), one of Germany’s oldest manufacturers of upholstered furniture, cultivates a close partnership with designers and architects – an approach that is key to the company’s success. “New products evolve out of thorough communication, immersing yourself in processes and clarifying ideas. We seek out gaps together, looking for the right opening for something that has never been done before,” says CEO Markus Benz.

Benz, head of the Herrenberg-based company since 1993, sets great store by communication. It is a recurring theme that is also reflected in the company’s products. Take the Ameo lounge chairs by Austrian design team EOOS, for instance: they are ideal for relaxing with friends and putting the world to rights. The island-like swivel chairs can be turned to face one another for a conversation or away from the crowd for a moment of reflection, open to new perspectives. Or Living Landscape – another EOOS design. The sides and back turn with the seat and change their position.

Comfort at the imm cologne: Upholstered Furniture between Vintage and Fjord Feeling

Sunrise, Design Kati Meyer-BrühlInternational experts agree: when it comes to relaxing furniture with majority appeal, Germany’s upholstered furniture manufacturers are important innovators. In terms of ever more sophisticated comfort functions, new upholstery creations like the dinner sofa or environmentally compatible seating ensembles of the kind created by talented designer and EU award-winner Kati Meyer-Brühl, Germany is the benchmark for upholstery producers the world over.

Upholstery hub imm cologne
From 19-24 January 2010, trade visitors from all continents will be able to see this innovativeness for themselves at the imm cologne. Sofa manufacturers from Wervik to Singapore will be vying with German manufacturers to make their mark in the Cologne furniture fair’s biggest sub-section, the “Comfort” segment in Halls 5, 6 and 10.

Dirk-Uwe Klaas, Association of the German Furniture Industry, on consumers’ changing mentality

1furniture_exportThe average German only replaces his sofa with a new one every 8-12 years. Don’t you sometimes wish there was a scrapping incentive for furniture too?
We in the furniture industry aren’t calling for subsidies – we just want equal treatment for all sectors. Instead of getting people to scrap their cars, the politicians ought to be scrapping taxes for normal citizens and SMEs so they’ve got more money left in their pockets and budgets at the end of the month – money they can use however they see fit.

The imm cologne’s Trendboard is anticipating a return to more quality consciousness as a response to the economic crisis. Is “real” quality actually still affordable these days?
We’re living in a time when people are refraining from quick consumption again so yes, you could say people have started to change their mentality. They’re becoming more sensitive to how we use the world’s resources and looking for things that promise value and durability again. That’s why there’s an increasing demand for sustainability and value in our industry too. For earlier generations it was normal not to follow every furniture or clothing fashion or go along with every new style that came out. Then there was a period of rapid and changing consumption. The pleasure was often short-lived and the products interchangeable.

How malleable is a brand? Questions & answers with Oliver Kleine, Leonardo

leonardoIn recent years, the brand with the white clouds in its emblem has evolved from a glass and giftware provider into a modern lifestyle brand. Today around 80 percent of the German population know LEONARDO, the 1972- registered lifestyle brand of the Glaskoch company from Bad Driburg where, since its opening in May 2007, the LEONARDO glass cube has been giving the brand a constructed architectural face. This year CEO Oliver Kleine celebrated the company’s 150th anniversary.

Remarks by Gerald Böse, CEO of Koelnmesse GmbH, about the planned international kitchen trade fair in 2011

Gerald Böse, Vorsitzender der Geschäftsführung der Koelnmesse GmbH
Gerald Böse, Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse GmbH

Ladies and gentlemen,
thank you for coming to this press conference in order to find out at first hand about the current status of our initiative to create a new international kitchen trade fair.
I would also like to thank Mr. Hans Strothoff for giving us the opportunity to present our results to date here at the MHK Forum in Enger. We purposely chose this location in order to save you a long trip.

After extensive and intense talks with companies in the sector, we’ve received numerous expressions of interest from renowned German manufacturers of kitchen furniture who support the concept of holding an international kitchen trade fair in 2011. That’s why it’s my pleasure to announce to you today that the first part of our mission is accomplished. There will be a kitchen trade fair in Cologne in January 2011!

Statement by Hans Strothoff (BVDM) about the planned international kitchen trade fair in 2011

Hans Strothoff, Foto: privat
Hans Strothoff, President of the Federal Association of Kitchen, Furniture & Furnishing Retailers (BVDM)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin with a few remarks about the concept presented by Mr. Böse. I am delighted that we now have a blueprint that will ensure the continuing presence of a major international furniture trade fair in Germany. The establishment of one’s own kitchen trade fair, which is held every two years, in parallel to the imm cologne – that is really the only way to go. Here, it is important that fitted units, sinks and fittings are also represented, because these items are inextricably linked to the kitchen and constitute an essential part of the added value of a kitchen. From the perspective of both the dealer and the customer, it is absolutely essential that they should be presented alongside kitchen furniture.

It is my firm belief that the kitchen sector will be strongly represented in Cologne in 2011, more strongly than has been the case for many years. Following my discussions with manufacturers, I am confident that around 90 per cent of German production volume will be represented in Cologne. All of these discussions were very rewarding, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the companies involved for the open and constructive atmosphere in which these talks took place. They were also marked by a pronounced sense of responsibility for the sector as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is especially the dealers – and, by that, I mean German trade dealers of kitchen and interior fittings – who need a strong trade fair. And they need one here in Germany. A trade fair at home provides important signals and new stimulus for domestic consumption. A good example of this is Frankfurt’s International Motor Show, the IAA. Despite its very poor sales figures, the automobile industry is enjoying a huge media presence right now. By increasing access to our trade fair for the end consumer – through three open days for the public – we will guarantee a much greater media interest. And this interest will also be boosted by the various supporting programmes.

Facts and figures on the situation of the German furniture industry: Home styling is in – buying furniture too?

Dirk-Uwe Klaas, CEO of the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM)

For Dirk-Uwe Klaas, CEO of the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM) in Bad Honnef, it’s obvious why home styling has finally been discovered as the latest hot topic: “People spend approx. 340 days a year in their own home. That’s why an increasing number of people are coming to see home as a place for self-fulfilment. Nowhere else can you indulge your own tastes as freely as in your own four walls.”

Cars instead of sofas – a lean period for German furniture manufacturers
But even if home styling has become a cult – is it actually still possible to make money with furniture in the face of shrinking private budgets and the massively subsidised bargains available on the automotive market right now? At first glance, the German furniture industry’s half-yearly figures indicate a resounding “no”. With sales of 7.6 billion euros, German furniture manufacturers were an alarming 13.8 percent or 1.2 billion euros down on the previous year’s figure.

However, in view of the unique economic situation right now, any serious answer to the profitability question must take account of figures from earlier years as well. Back in 2008, for instance, the results painted a very different picture: furniture producers ended the year with growth of 1.6 percent. Although there was a slight decline in domestic sales, this was more than offset by export growth of 4.3 percent as compared to the previous year.