Sebastian Herkner knows a lot about iconic design. Perhaps the most obvious evidence to support this is the new high-back seat, Rolf Benz 594, by the “Designer of the Year 2019”. The comfortable seating furniture with a finely balanced curved back, firmly upholstered seat shell and pleasantly soft seat cushions looks like a hug in furniture form. We met the award-winning designer in his studio in Offenbach and talked about inspiration, sustainability and life and work during these Covid-19 times.

Sebastian, you designed the Rolf Benz 909 dining table a year ago. Your new Rolf Benz 594 armchair has just been launched. How long did it take to develop it and what was your biggest challenge?

We worked on the armchair for a year and a half. The biggest challenge was definitely the unusual shape of the armchair. Right from the start, we wanted to create an iconic piece of seating furniture. Rolf Benz wanted a high-back seat with a unique look, an unmistakable design. You have to feel your way with that sort of task. You start by drawing, you make a few sketches and then you sit down at the computer. Working with the artisans and prototype engineers on site at Rolf Benz was especially crucial here.

The form finding was a multi-stage process. We made lots of real, upholstered prototype models with lots more drawing in between. Sometimes, we even drew directly on the prototypes with marker pen! Take a bit off here. Add a few degrees there. Change the contour here. Of course, the computer helps with all that. But ultimately, you have to experience the actual object with all your senses, quite literally you need to “sit with” the armchair for a while. Walk around it. Perhaps even kneel in front of it. Look at it from different perspectives. And gradually, you get that little bit closer to the final armchair. It’s a really exciting process but it’s time-consuming.

In your opinion, where does the armchair look best and what is it especially good for?

Rolf Benz 594 is a real all-rounder. It can be staged in many different ways and adapts well to different rooms and usage scenarios. It can be used as a standalone piece of furniture such as a cosy armchair for reading and relaxing. Or it can be positioned in a group of chairs, in an open plan office, for example, or a hotel lobby. For meetings, interviews or for small talk.

Which combination of materials do you like best for this armchair? Do you have a personal favourite?

That’s a difficult question, there are so many options. The armchair can be individualised in many different ways. However, since we have lots of concrete at home, the base frame made of natural oak would look really good. For the cover, I would probably go for something more structured or fluffy. I think bouclé is great, for example. Or even velvet. That also makes the whole thing feel lovely.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I find it really easy to find inspiration. I'm really curious and I’m observant. You have to be very open to pick up on different stimuli. It can happen anywhere. Even in your normal everyday life, you can always notice something exciting and suddenly discover a wonderful colour or an unusual combination of materials, for example. I also find inspiration in the studio. In the archives, or while talking with my team. In museums or on trips, too, of course. And sometimes, it also helps to watch craftsmen as they work to find new solutions. You simply have to remain open.

Are there any role models who have particularly influenced you and how you work?

I find it difficult to list certain designers or people. You quickly forget one or other of them. That’s why I prefer to refer to the artisans who so cleverly realise our designs behind the scenes. All of them at Rolf Benz do such amazing work and their know-how is incredible. It’s knowledge that has been passed down from generation to generation. That’s what I think is exemplary. We are extremely fortunate to have master craftsman training here in Germany. It’s a valuable cultural asset and I really appreciate it. 

Many successful designers move to Berlin. You, on the other hand, opened your design studio in Offenbach 13 years ago. What makes Offenbach the perfect location for you?

Offenbach might not be one of the most attractive cities, admittedly. It was more a case of love at second sight. It’s a small city. It’s manageable. But I feel happy here. It’s my home. My friends are here. On top of that, Offenbach is a very multicultural city and therefore full of inspiration. It has lots of great shops and restaurants with different cultural influences, all within a very small space. But of course, Offenbach has a convenient location right in the middle of Europe and it’s close to an airport. I’m very fortunate that I travel a lot. I can quickly get to Rolf Benz in the Black Forest by train. I can go on a day trip to Venice. Or to a trade fair in Paris. That’s a huge bonus. But, of course, things have changed a great deal thanks to Covid-19. These days, I’m on the phone more often or approve things over Skype or Zoom. That also works pretty well. It’s meant that I have got to know Offenbach again in recent months. The farmer’s market and the great things it has to offer, for example. That really adds to my quality of life.

You travel the world a lot. Did any country particularly fascinate you on your travels?

Travelling is a privilege. I really enjoy it. When I was a child, going Christmas shopping with my parents in Stuttgart was always a highlight. Today, the circle has widened a little, and I occasionally travel to Taiwan or Columbia. It’s incredibly inspiring. But I don’t think it matters how far you travel. What’s more important are the people you meet and what’s specific to the area. When I travel, I want to discover what’s special. The B-side of a city, just like a record. That’s what’s exciting. It could be in Taipei, or in Ulm. You don’t always have to go as far away as possible. Just have a good look around, wherever you are. Covid-19 is currently giving us all a chance to completely rediscover our surrounding area. I’m taking that opportunity.

What distinguishes creations by Sebastian Herkner? What’s important to you?

I pay special attention to materiality, colour, quality and craftsmanship. I notice that quality and longevity are becoming more important to people again. Sustainability is gaining in importance. This is good. I don’t want to make products that are trendy and then thrown away after 6 months. I want to make products that last. Life-long companions that would ideally also make subsequent generations happy. This also means products that can be repaired or, in the case of seating furniture, reupholstered. Our resources are becoming scarcer. We have to think differently and keep sight of the whole process. That’s what I think is so great at Rolf Benz. They still manufacture on site in the Black Forest. On other words, short channels, and of course, sustainable quality.

In your designs, you interpret characteristics from different societal and cultural contexts and create artefacts with a unique personality. Which observations went into the Rolf Benz 594 armchair?

Everyday life is becoming increasingly hectic. We run from A to B and don’t really take any notice of our environment. Our work processes are becoming faster and faster. We are attached to our cell phone, laptop and tablet and life is increasingly digital. Tactile experiences are becoming obsolete. Our high-back seat is a response to this development and is intended to be a place where you can retreat. Something real and tangible. The keyword here was cocooning. A place you can sink into. A place to sit back and arrive. To dive in and breathe deeply. Somewhere you can relax, contemplate, have a quick power nap or read a book – but of course, it’s also a great place to check your e-mails or surf the net. If that’s what you want to do.

Your list of awards is incredibly long. How does it feel to be “Designer of the Year 2019” and how important are titles and awards to you?

Of course, it’s an acknowledgement. Especially for the team. For the company. For the effort. For all the work that goes into product development. But I prefer it when I see my products on Instagram, for example, with the hashtag #SebastianHerkner. Then I can see where the products ended up. The context they are used in. Who treated themselves. Or even who saved up for it because they absolutely had to have the product. The background stories are exciting, and that means much more to me, actually. It’s also great when I go to a hotel and suddenly find one of my tables. Those are the best moments for me.

What do you like doing when you’re not creating pioneering designs?

Creativity is my passion. That’s why I don’t really think of work as a job. It’s more of a privilege. I get to do something that I really like doing. The variety is exciting. It’s not as if I’ve been working for 8 hours and come home feeling completely exhausted. Everything’s much easier when you can do something that you enjoy.

Can good design change the world?

Changing the world doesn't necessarily require good design. But a designer has a pretty big responsibility. They can influence how things are used. How we recycle them. For me, personally, it’s got nothing to do with creating hip products that lie on the shelf for a season and end up on the rubbish tip two years later. I think that we, as designers, have a certain responsibility, As a result, we can certainly also help shape the world a little. Less, but better. Buy less, choose better. I think we can change the world with that. Of course, designers alone can’t do that. But we can, of course, provide an impetus, encourage discussions and contribute towards making the world a little better with responsible design.


Kantstraße 17 in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg has been the premium address for exclusive furniture, selected design products and high-quality lifestyle items since 1999. The stilwerk concept store, located right next to Berlin’s Ku’damm, showcases 40 shops to a demanding, design-conscious public. ROLF BENZ HAUS was there right from the start and has been attracting visitors ever since. The store has just been extensively refurbished. We talk to long-standing manager and experienced interior design expert Alexandros Chomatopoulos.

Mr Chomatopoulos, the past few weeks have been particularly eventful for you and your team. Are you pleased with the results of the refurbishment in ROLF BENZ HAUS Berlin?

Yes, very. It was really worth it. We’ve made all sorts of changes, you could almost say we’ve turned the business inside out. The individual living scenarios are much less disjointed now, and we have consciously designed any that still are to make them less obvious. This makes everything feel much wider, more open and spacious, highlighting the loft character of our business. That’s a real advantage for our furniture. I have to say, I really like our new look.

How has the redesign been received by your customers?

Initial customer responses have been unanimously positive. The refurbishment took place while we were still open. We worked intensively on the store’s new look for two weeks, inspired by the international ROLF BENZ store concept. Our customers weren’t especially disturbed by the refurbishments, quite the opposite: sometimes I had the impression that many of them wanted to pick up the paint roller and join in. Lots of customers were really interested and wanted to know exactly what was going on. Very occasionally, people were afraid that we might be closing, but we were always able to clear up this misunderstanding quickly. We’ve been based here as ROLF BENZ HAUS in stilwerk in Berlin for 21 years. We are the international flagship for the ROLF BENZ brand in Germany’s capital, as it were, and will continue to be so in future. The only difference is that these refurbishments have made us even more attractive to our customers.

ROLF BENZ has been one of the pioneers of German design culture for over 50 years. How do you explain this success?

“Made in Germany” is still an important factor for many customers. The company’s background in the Black Forest is also highly esteemed, I think. What’s most important is certainly the extremely high quality products that ROLF BENZ has been reliably providing for decades. Let me give you an example: time and again, we have customers come to us who bought a ROLF BENZ sofa 15 or 20 years ago. The furniture is still in good shape and doesn’t even need to be reupholstered. They just want to have a new cover. The sofa is still perfectly functional, even after so many years. ROLF BENZ fits in perfectly at a time when sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Of course, the timeless ROLF BENZ design is also a significant factor contributing to the company’s success, not to mention first-rate functionality. Sofas from ROLF BENZ are never just “sitting machines”, they are perennially elegant.

The ROLF BENZ range now includes an enormous product selection for diverse lifestyles: relaxed living areas for relaxing, cubicsofa design classics, flexible multi-functional furniture – and even chairs, dining tables, beds and accessories. Do you think there’s a typical ROLF BENZ customer?

No, I don’t think so. That might have been the case before, older people often came to buy high-quality ROLF BENZ furniture for their living rooms. But you can’t make sweeping statements these days. In my view, ROLF BENZ with its versatile range now appeals to a wider audience and different age groups. Of course, ROLF BENZ also picks up on certain trends, but the furniture is never over-the-top trendy. You can always see the ROLF BENZ signature clearly in every item of furniture. In any case, all ROLF BENZ customers have high standards when it comes to quality and design. It’s precisely these customers that are attracted to stilwerk in Berlin.

Do you have a favourite product, Mr Chomatopoulos?

Let me think about that, they have made so many incredible products.

If you’re asking me about my current favourite, then that’s obviously the ROLF BENZ LIV sofa system from Italian designer Luca Nichetto. It really is fabulous. International design at the highest level. Not only is it exceptionally elegant, it’s also incredibly flexible. I get really excited about it.

How would you describe your personal style of living?

My living room has a desk, media furniture, a sofa and a cupboard. That’s it. Less is more. That might sound a little trite, but it’s really important to me and that saying sums up best how I feel. What I really don’t need is a crammed-full apartment. I prefer individual, high-quality pieces of furniture that I love. So I’d rather go without that third side table or fourth lamp and prefer to have those things around me that I really want to keep for a long time.

Thank you for the inspirational conversation, Mr Chomatopoulos. We wish you and your team continued success in the newly designed ROLF BENZ HAUS Berlin.

Pictures: Sandro Jödicke | whitedesk


Some things are nice to look at. Some things are practical. And some things are both: nice to look at and practical. The Rolf Benz 908 valet stand clearly belongs to the latter category. Whether used as a lamp holder, a stand for the dressing room or wardrobe, or as a holder for scarves or bags, it always looks exceptionally elegant whatever its role and can easily stand on its own as a sculptural piece of art. The dapper all-rounder is based on a design by the Cologne-based design studio kaschkasch, founded in 2011 by Florian Kallus and Sebastian Schneider. We spoke with the two trained carpenters and product designers about their work, their love of craftsmanship and the future of interior design.

Hello Florian, hello Sebastian. Tell us, how did your cooperation with Rolf Benz come about and what is it based on?

Florian Kallus: We’ve been in contact with Rolf Benz for many years and we regularly discuss our work and new ideas. Companies like Rolf Benz – with their in-house production – are always a blessing for us as designers. It’s fantastic to experience and accompany the craftsmanship at the German site. Our collaboration with Rolf Benz is lots of fun. The prototype meetings are always extremely productive and very friendly as well. The details that we discuss in these meetings can be tried and tested immediately, which is a great advantage. When we presented our design for the valet stand Rolf Benz 908, the people at Rolf Benz were immediately enthusiastic – we could get started more or less right away.

Sebastian Schneider: We always try to find partners who are on our wavelength. Partners who share our appreciation of good design and how we always try to get the best result out of each design. With Rolf Benz, we felt that they were the right fit from the very beginning. We were immediately impressed by the company’s high quality and professionalism.


Where does the inspiration for your work come from?

Florian Kallus: For me personally, anything can be a source of inspiration. A good conversation, a sudden thought, interesting architecture, a detail in road construction or an artist’s work. For the valet stand, we were inspired by Pablo Picasso and his one line drawings. That’s a very strong series. After seeing those drawings for the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Basically, free art is a rich source of inspiration for me. Although it is usually very different from design, there are still some parallels.

Sebastian Schneider: It’s pretty much the same for me. Sometimes I find inspiration in normal everyday things. For example, when I inspect the rubbish bin in the pedestrian zone closely and everyone around me is wondering, what on earth is he doing? Sometimes I’m inspired by Florian, if he shows me a sketch of a mirror, for instance, and I spontaneously see a lamp in it. And sometimes the specific work process creates inspiration, if a project takes a completely different direction than intended. However, design work is much more than inspiration. Ultimately it’s also craftsmanship. Little by little you have to work towards your goal – that’s how it is for us, anyway. Inspiration by itself isn't enough. You don’t just have a good idea and the rest takes care of itself, it’s not that simple.

Florian Kallus, Design Studio Kaschkasch

„For the valet stand, we were inspired by Pablo Picasso and his one line drawings. That’s a very strong series. After seeing those drawings for the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. “

The keyword here is versatility: thenew furniture range Rolf Benz 931 (coffee table, shelving, serving trolley) and the valet stand Rolf Benz908 are extremely versatile and can be used in different ways. Does an object always have to fulfil several functions for you?

Sebastian Schneider: No, sometimes that can even have a negative impact on a design. Generally, though, function and user friendliness play a central role in our designs and we often discuss this in the team. I like multifunctionality, but only when it’s done subtly and casually.

Florian Kallus: I think that a chair isn’t just a chair. Depending on how you use it, it can also be a valet stand, a bedside table or a doorstop. That’s why I consider multifunctional furniture to be desirable.

Where would you use Rolf Benz 908 or Rolf Benz 931? Are these pieces of furniture intended for a certain furnishing style?

Florian Kallus: I think the valet stand works almost anywhere in the home, whether that’s in a walk-in wardrobe, a bedroom or a living room – there are no limits to how it can be used.

Sebastian Schneider: The boundaries between different living spaces are becoming more and more blurred. Today, the dining room, living room and kitchen are often in one and the same room. Different living styles are increasingly being combined. And in these times of working from home, even the office chair can be found at the dining table. Furniture from the Rolf Benz 931 range is extremely flexible thanks to its rollers, so it can be moved easily from A to B. I don’t see it being used in a special location or in a specific environment. The furniture should be used wherever its owner feels is right and where it looks good.

Quarantine, contact restrictions, working from home – people have spent significantly more time at home in recent months. To what extent does this development change our homes? What does thefuture of interior design look like?

Florian Kallus: That question was on our minds even before the pandemic. I personally think that rooms will become even more versatile in future. Even though I can easily think about designs while sitting on my sofa, I believe that clearly defined rooms – such as our studio – help one to stay focussed. I wouldn’t want to compromise on that by any means. As is so often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. One thing’s for sure: it will become even more flexible but remain just as exciting, in any event.


Pictures: Thomas Wiuf Schwartz

Chic in Japan
ROLF BENZ goes Tokio

Pushing, shoving, grumbling? Not in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s good that the Japanese are so exceptionally polite and disciplined, especially since the streets of Tokyo are pretty overcrowded. With a population density that is twice as high as that of Berlin, the Japanese capital is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. As many people live in the metropolitan area of Tokyo as in the whole of Canada: over 38 million. It’s not just people who are crowded into Tokyo’s fashionable luxury district, Aoyama. The density of select fashion and interior labels is also remarkably high.

The Who’s Who of international luxury brands

Discerning shopping fans will find everything their luxury-loving heart could possibly desire in Aoyama and the neighbouring district of Omotesando. The top-class shopping experience is surrounded by urban planning highlights from renowned architecture greats such as Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma and Fumihiko Maki. Added to this are cultural hotspots such as the well-known Nezu Museum or the Blue Note Tokyo jazz bar. The elegant shopping district was enriched with another attraction on 24th January 2020: a ROLF BENZ flagship store, the first on Japanese soil.

Stylish living environments “Made in Germany”

ROLF BENZ presents stylish living environments that are “Made in Germany” over 300m2. The store concept is based on a design by Studio Labs Hamburg, a long-standing partner of ROLF BENZ. The imposing flagship store isn’t only intended for well-heeled individuals, its target group also includes architects and designers who are from or work in Japan. The utmost importance is attached to individual advice. Store employees who were specially trained in Nagold assist customers with all matters relating to their project plans. They are always extremely polite and courteous, naturally. As Japan-like as in all ROLF BENZ brand stores throughout the world.

ROLF BENZ IMM 2020 virtual tour.
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imm cologne 2020
New living ideas for the new decade

New Year’s resolution: more mindfulness. Easier said than done. After all, it feels like the world is turning at supersonic speed in 2020 already. The new decade of the 21st century has only just begun yet the first international furniture fair of the 2020s has left visitors breathless once again.

imm cologne 2020 was attended by 1,233 exhibitors and over 128,000 visitors from all over the world, and ended in the Rhine metropolis on 19th January. But what does the enormous show for the international furniture sector leave behind? Countless impressions. Exciting sources of inspiration. And the gratifying recognition that many furniture manufacturers have once again thrilled the public with avant garde thinking and progressive design.

Yet again, Rolf Benz was a breath of fresh air in the cathedral city with initial furniture concepts for a new era. Here’s an overview of the highlights.

Black Forest quality and Italian chic

At the international furniture fair in Cologne, the Rolf Benz stand was a must for anyone looking for trendsetting living areas. Not least because of its visionary Living Concept, Rolf Benz LIV. Even before the trade fair, Rolf Benz LIV won the Stylepark Selected Award for imm cologne 2020 which serves as an important trade fair guide.

Consisting of modular sofa elements, shelving and coffee tables, Rolf Benz LIV exudes cosmopolitan attitude with a touch of luxury. The Living Concept, which was premièred in Cologne, was created together with Italian design office Nichettostudio. “We wanted to create a sofa system that adapts to the multiple requirements of contemporary living rooms. It should offer endless possibilities so the right combination can be found for every situation,” explains designer Luca Nichetto. The ultra-flexible sofa system combines geometric precision with relaxed comfort. Seat cushions, sofa backs and side sections can be individually configured while integrable shelving offers versatile design options.

A coffee table that harmonises perfectly with the new sofa system was also presented in Cologne. Rolf Benz 901 picks up skilfully on the geometric design vocabulary of Rolf Benz LIV and is available in a square or rectangular version in two heights. The Rolf Benz 902 side table, which can easily be moved with one hand, also fits in perfectly with the overall image, presenting itself as a flexible everyday companion in any area of the home; just like Rolf Benz 902 it offers table tops made of natural stone or clear glass.

Deluxe dining

The hunger for new dining concepts was also satisfied at imm cologne 2020. The cosy yet elegant Rolf Benz 600 shell chair and its almost sculptural table equivalent, Rolf Benz 929, catered to the discerning public’s taste. Design duo Hoffmann & Kahleyss from Hamburg were responsible for designing the attractive dining ensemble.

The designers gave the classic shell chair a new, unique look whilst ensuring consistently high levels of ergonomic comfort. The seat shell is available in umbra grey or anthracite plastic – or alternatively in five possible colour variants covered with full-grain leather – and comes with stitched seat and backrest cushions. The shell can be combined with a fixed or rotating wood or metal frame as required. Different cover and frame versions provide plenty of freedom to express your personal taste.

Just like the Rolf Benz 600 shell chair, the Rolf Benz 929 dining table is a real showstopper. The table top is available in solid wood or natural stone and comes in three sizes. The table column made of perforated metal in umbra grey, black or steel (matt finish) has a subtle transparent impact and conveys a charming sense of lightness.

Performing art

Let’s go from supper to servant. Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s line drawings, the valet stand which Cologne-based design studo kaschkasch designed for the Rolf Benz Accessoires collection can almost pass as a modern work of art. The Rolf Benz 908 flexible servant is available in three different finishes and consists of a single skilfully bent, well-proportioned steel tube. The two ends of the tube are located in a solid steel base. Whether it is used as a blanket or lamp holder, as a stand for the dressing room or wardrobe, or as a holder for scarves or bags, the flexible servant successfully performs all of its tasks with grace whilst always cutting an exceptional figure.

We’ve made a start. What else will the 2020s have to offer when it comes to interior design? We will remain mindful and keep you informed.

Universal Beauty

Luca Nichetto is one of the most sought-after designers in the world. Hardly any other designer stands for modern comfort like the Venetian residing in Stockholm. Now he has designed the “Liv” sofa system for Rolf Benz. We met him in his studio for this interview.

Fabian Peters: “Liv” was premièred at imm cologne 2020, a new sofa that you have designed for Rolf Benz. This name has a special significance for you doesn’t it?

Luca Nichetto: Absolutely! "Liv" is actually the name of my daughter. "Liv" also means "life” in Swedish. The name seemed especially appropriate because our sofa invites you to really live with it.

Rolf Benz introduced an ultra-modern sofa system last year with its "Addit" product by Werner Aisslinger. What are the company’s hopes for "Liv"?

Luca Nichetto: "Liv" should fit in with completely different user habits. Rolf Benz wanted a sofa system that works anywhere in the world and in almost every environment. In Scandinavia for example, sofas are traditionally relatively high, whereas in Italy people prefer them to be lower and more casual. Both should be represented by "Liv".

Was there something like an underlying concept with which you approached this challenging task?

Luca Nichetto: During the design, it was especially important for us to take full advantage of the strengths of Rolf Benz. We wanted to develop a modular system that combines German engineering skills with a touch of Italian design. In addition to the unbelievable quality of craftsmanship, we were especially fascinated by Rolf Benz’s ability to offer its customers almost every conceivable configuration of a piece of furniture. We’re familiar with this concept in the automotive industry perhaps, but I’ve never seen it with a producer of upholstered furniture before. I suspect that it’s unique worldwide.

"Liv" can be configured in virtually any size. Can the sofa in all its variations still create something like a uniform aesthetic effect?

Luca Nichetto: Above all, "Liv" should create a sense of lightness. The sofa should almost seem to float, nothing about it should be heavy or bulky. For me, the design was less about aesthetics and more about conveying a feeling. "Liv" should exude precisely the comfort that you feel when you sit on it, whether that’s as a seating landscape in a 200 m2 living room in a villa in Miami, or as a two-seater in a luxurious micro-apartment in Hong Kong.

Designing a sofa that’s equally at home on every continent and which can be delivered in an almost unlimited number of combinations – isn’t that "Mission Impossible"?

Luca Nichetto: Yes, it is a bit "Mission Impossible"! (Laughing) But as a designer, I’m always trying to create something that pleases people all over the world, and I think that’s a good ambition. After all, it pushes me to work as hard as I can to achieve my goals. I think that every designer needs this self-belief, the belief that they can create beauty for everyone. Ultimately that’s the point of my designs – irrespective of how many versions of them are available – that they reflect my personality, my experiences and my beliefs.

What is the significance of the technical and craftsman expertise at Rolf Benz for your design?

Luca Nichetto: This knowledge is one of the key requirements for our designs. We could only design certain details such as the legs and the metal frame in this way because we knew that the necessary expertise was available at Rolf Benz to produce such parts with maximum precision. For me, these elements clearly show typical German quality consciousness, which should be just as recognisable from "Liv" as the Italian designer’s characteristic style.

How important are colour and materials to you?

Luca Nichetto: The choice of colours and materials are central to my design process. I can’t imagine developing a design without having established these two points beforehand. For me, colours and materials are never interchangeable.

One of the most remarkable things about your designs is a distinct flair for colour. How did you develop the colour scheme for "Liv"?

Luca Nichetto: I believe that nature is always the best designer. A close friend of mine, the photographer Massimo Gardone, takes wonderful pictures of flowers. A few years ago and together with the Scandinavian Colour Institute, we developed a range of colours from his nature shots, on the basis of which we have been developing our designs ever since. For "Liv" we wanted the colour scheme to convey a sense of warmth which is why dark red and ochre tones feature heavily.

You have designed other pieces of furniture in addition to the sofa.

Luca Nichetto: Along with the upholstered elements, we have designed two tables that pick up on the sofa’s design vocabulary and materials. Our coffee table rests on a frame that is derived from the sofa’s supporting construction. A smaller side table, which also has a metal frame, adds a more playful note to the collection. I always try to enrich a large piece of furniture, such as the sofa in this case, with smaller designs that put a different spin on the design idea.

And the sofa itself can be enhanced with add-on elements.

Luca Nichetto: That’s right! You can enhance "Liv" with storage shelves. They can take the place of the armrest or the backrest. The insertion plates made of natural stone or glass – the same materials that we also use for the table tops – make the shelves visually appealing. These add-on elements create a space for your books, iPad or even your child’s dummy. With "Liv", it really was our intention to create a sofa system that can be tailored to almost every aspect of life.

Author: Fabian Peters, Stylepark
Picture gallery 1: James Stokes, Stylepark
Picture gallery 2,3,5: Sandro Jödicke, Whitedesk 
Motive 1, picture gallery 4: Alexander Huber


Whether it’s armchairs, sofas, coffee tables, city villas, country houses, concept stores, restaurants or hotels – the relentless “labsdesign” design studio can’t be pigeonholed and surprises us time and again with its unusual ideas. The latest trick from the multi-award winning designers from Hamburg is their own photobook called “Boatmovie”, a tribute to timeless furniture design and a declaration of love for the Port of Hamburg.

“In addition to our commissions, we’ve been taking time out for our own photo and art projects every now and again,” explains studio founder Sebastian Labs. “At some point we had the idea of staging some of the furniture that we’ve designed for ROLF BENZ in an entirely new context and to get some fresh Hamburg air. So we packed the furniture items onto our studio’s barge and criss-crossed the Port of Hamburg searching for spectacular locations. Also on board were the ROLF BENZ 641 armchair, the Rolf Benz 945 upholstered footrest, the ROLF BENZ 384 and 394 lounge armchairs, and THE ROLF BENZ 985, 927, 923 and 933 coffee tables.”

“The port area, with all its diverse, authentic and sometimes almost poetic unrefined edges, is an element of our creative work,” says Gunther Kleinert from labsdesign. “We like using our barge to change how we look at things and to come up with new ideas outside of the office. As part of the Boatmovie photo project, we chose to stop off at locations where you might not expect to find chic designer furniture. Restaging the furniture items often required some acrobatics and physical strength!” says Kleinert.

We think it was worth the effort and are looking forward to the next catch of fresh ideas from the Hanseatic City.

Hotel Fritz Lauterbad
Urban Soul meets Black Forest

When it comes to stylish design hotels, you automatically think of vibrant metropolises such as Berlin, Munich, Hamburg or Frankfurt. But Freudenstadt? Very few people would think of this peaceful little town in the Black Forest. That will change, Steffen Schillinger must have thought to himself when he bought the out-dated “Waldhotel Zollernblick” in Freudenstadt-Lauterbad back in 2016 with the aim of realising his vision of a hotel that combines big-city design with Black Forest comfort.

Under the banner of “Urban Soul meets Black Forest”, the building complex transformed itself within three years into a modern flagship hotel that meets the highest design requirements both inside and out. The hotel was opened under the new name “Hotel Fritz Lauterbad” in July 2019. We spoke to Hotel Manager Steffen Schillinger about thinking outside of the box, how he feels about his native Black Forest and his exclusive partnership with ROLF BENZ.

Mr Schillinger, in your industry you are regarded as “the wild one”. Why is that?

I honestly don’t know how I got that name. Perhaps because of a press article on a previous project, the Berghütte Lauterbad – an outing and event location that we opened in 2014. Just like in the “Fritz”, we thought out of the box with the Berghütte and surprise our guests there with a mix of the traditional and modern. However, I can really identify with the role of “the wild one”. I’m not someone who rehashes classic ideas. I get ants in my pants and just love going off the beaten track to try out something new and do things differently.

You’ve proven that impressively with your new Hotel Fritz Lauterbad. How did you get the idea of “Urban Soul meets Black Forest”?

Right away I knew that the hotel needed a fresh start with a sustainable concept. The idea of “Urban Soul meets Black Forest” came to me on a hotel scouting tour. I looked at lots of different hotels for inspiration, in Austria and in Switzerland but also in cities such as New York, Paris and Amsterdam. I collected all sorts of impressions on my tour and loads of photos. It just clicked at some point.

What do you mean by “Urban Soul meets Black Forest”?

Our concept is aimed at design-oriented guests with a penchant for an urban lifestyle and beautiful nature. I personally love the city and lived for a long time in Cologne and Frankfurt. I like the urban attitude to life and good design. But I also like the Black Forest. A lot. So why not combine both city flair and rural tranquillity? That’s exactly what  we offer our guests in the “Fritz”.

You’ve partnered exclusively with ROLF BENZ for the interior design of the “Fritz”. How did that come about?

I had the idea of having a partner who would furnish the whole hotel with high quality and stylish furniture early on. I got talking to the managers during a Rolf Benz event at our Berghütte and I told them about the plans for our new hotel concept.

At ROLF BENZ they were immediately full of enthusiasm. We hit it off right away. Together we thought about the best way to implement the “Urban Soul meets Black Forest” concept in terms of design. At some point I saw some images of the ROLF BENZ stand at the furniture fair in Milan. These hit the nail on the head, reflecting exactly what we were looking for. From that point we started selecting furniture, colours and materials. We signed everything off in December 2018 and finally assembled the furniture in mid May 2019. That was a great feeling!

What do you associate with the ROLF BENZ brand?

Just like our hotel, the name ROLF BENZ stands for top Black Forest quality. The items of furniture from Nagold are incredibly stylish, timeless and uniquely comfortable. They have models that have been popular for decades. Real classics. Lots of my acquaintances and relatives also have ROLF BENZ furniture in their living rooms. Some of them are donkeys years old but today they still look as modern as the day they were bought.   

You weren’t only responsible for the interior design, you designed the hotel’s logo and corporate design as well. Have you always been so creative?

I used to draw a lot when I was a little kid. I’ve always been a visual sort of person and I’ve always had a thing for design and architecture. If I wasn’t a hotelier, I’d probably have my own design or architect’s office.

You come from a family of hoteliers from the Black Forest that has been managing the well-known Wellnesshotel Lauterbad for many years. How’s it going working with your parents?

My parents are exemplary doers, creators, thoroughbred gastronomes and hosts. I’ve learned a huge amount from them and I’m still learning. We work well together as a team of three, we consult closely with each other and make important decisions together. It was like that when we were planning the “Fritz”. They are gradually handing over more responsibility to me because they want to travel more for one thing. Nevertheless, they are still very active and present. They love working in the business and looking after the guests and that’s great. I’m enormously thankful to them for that.    

Your guests can recharge their batteries at the “Fritz” in peace and quiet. How do you relax?

That’s not so easy at the moment. Although things have quietened down a bit since we completed and opened the “Fritz” at the end of July, I’m still working flat out on operational issues. If I need to get some rest now and then, I go into nature and take photographs. That has a really calming effect on me. I’m planning to go on a hiking tour with my girlfriend soon. Hiking boots on, mobile off and simply enjoy the peace and quiet. That grounds me.

WOW as far as the eye can see

The “Fritz”, which has been furnished exclusively with furniture from the ROLF BENZ and freistil ROLF BENZ brands, offers a total of 70 rooms and studios – optionally with a forest or panoramic view. At the core of the hotel is its glass lobby that combines the listed old building with the modern new-build. The seat and lounge furniture are arranged as islands and their colour corresponds to the surrounding landscape: the walls and furniture have earthy and natural tones, from green to copper and sludge.

The rooms and studios accommodate swivelling versions of the Rolf Benz 684 armchair, the freistil 173 armchair, the freistil 175 sofa and the Rolf Benz 8480 and Rolf Benz 973 coffee tables. Different versions of the Rolf Benz 650 are used as a desk chair and in different versions in the bistro bar, in the restaurant and – in a stackable design – in the conference room.

Rolf Benz ADDIT
Genesis of a Favourite Place

With Rolf Benz ADDIT, Tina Bunyaprasit and Werner Aisslinger have developed a progressive, modular sofa system with iconic potential and once again demonstrated their visionary spirit and technical expertise. The innovative sofa landscape opens up completely new perspectives for individual living and shows the Rolf Benz brand from an unusually playful side without losing any of its characteristic clarity. Working closely together with Rolf Benz, the two designers from Berlin have succeeded in formulating a response to our hyper-individualised times in the form of a sofa, if you will.

We spoke to the two designers about the creation process from their assignment to the sofa’s première at the Salone del Mobile 2019.

Phase 1: from the briefing to the design

Ms Bunyaprasit, Mr Aisslinger, how do you as designers approach such a task? Where do you start?

W. Aisslinger: First of all, we received an extremely detailed and really good briefing from Rolf Benz – with precise specifications but enough leeway for our own ideas at the same time. That’s the basis of our work. Ideally, you would then leave the briefing to sink in for a while. The initial idea sketches follow on later.

T. Bunyaprasit: It can help to think about what you would actually like. What’s still lacking perhaps in this sofa world and what you would like to bring into that world. Ultimately, such a commission is always a great opportunity to fulfil your own wishes.

What inspires you?

W. Aisslinger: We travel a great deal. Naturally, this is also reflected in our different commissions and projects. We also live in a very inspirational city. Every day is an inspiration in Berlin. It’s often enough simply to walk through the neighbourhood. As a designer you soak up your environment and what you see or experience flows into your own work.

T. Bunyaprasit: Inspiration can be many things, including looking back on the past. Childhood memories, for example. You can reminisce and question what you previously experienced. When it comes to sofas, well-being and this feeling of security play an important role. That’s where looking backwards can be really useful.

What was the idea behind Rolf Benz ADDIT?

T. Bunyaprasit: It was about developing a sofa system that serves as a universal favourite place, taking all facets of modern everyday life into account. The system sees itself as a type of modular system. You can combine different types of components as you like. This special flexibility gives the whole thing something really personal.

W. Aisslinger: We wanted to create a favourite spot. A collage world. Your own personal cabinet of curiosities. A place where things accumulate that originate from your own life or are part of the modular system. We’ve been thinking about collages for a while. We’re not trying to build monochromatic style collections, but bring together different materials, worlds and surfaces. As designers, we think of ourselves as a kind of DJ who mixes the whole thing up so that it works both for end customers and for the Rolf Benz brand.

Phase 2: from paper to implementation

How does the idea materialise?

T. Bunyaprasit: We draw a lot of sketches. We create them not just in the traditional sense at our desk in the studio, but also spontaneously on a serviette during lunch in a restaurant, for example. At the start everything is pretty scrawly. But then we go relatively quickly to the 3D program to outline pretty realistic proportions. Everything is created digitally on the screen first of all and then implemented analogously using real models.

W. Aisslinger: Since a sofa is usually free-standing in a room, it has to look good from all angles. Including from the back. We can use our software tools to check that carefully. Rolf Benz then builds the samples on that basis. So actually everything moves relatively quickly from the 3D computer phase to real volume models.

How do you proceed when selecting materials? What do you look for in particular?

T. Bunyaprasit: We collect lots of materials and have a large materials warehouse accordingly. This gives us the opportunity of combining different materials as the fancy takes us and experimenting with their look and feel.

W. Aisslinger: Honest, authentic materials are particularly important to us. Nothing artificial. Glass, stone, fabrics, leather – and beautiful textures. The finishes are very important, so whether something is matt or shiny. Or grainy. It’s a mix. And, of course, the know-how and world of Rolf Benz plays a crucial role as well. In specific terms, that means: Which materials are available? What does the latest fabric collection look like?

Phase 3: team work on the prototypes

What happens in the prototype phase?

W. Aisslinger: It’s a really exciting and symbiotic moment. There’s a reconciliation between the Rolf Benz brand and us as the design team. During the prototype phase, we sit down together with the engineers and developers and carefully examine everything. Where does the visual appearance take priority and where does construction count? Are there any possible savings potentials without impacting the quality? Questions like these need to be answered in the team during the prototype phase.

T. Bunyaprasit: For me, the prototype phase is the most exciting phase. You finally have the real sofa in front of you, you can touch it and sit down on it. You can often see lots of potential for optimisation immediately.

Which tests does the prototype have to withstand?

T. Bunyaprasit: First of all you walk around the sofa and assess it from top to bottom. You touch it. Sit on it. You also let yourself fall onto the sofa to see if it feels good. And then you also consider whether it’s the right size.

W. Aisslinger: It has a lot to do with ergonomics and seating comfort, of course. But in the case of ADDIT, it was about showcasing effortlessness and further development. However, Rolf Benz did explicitly ask for something progressive and bringing all this together was a considerable challenge. But after all, that’s precisely what makes our job so appealing.

Phase 4: from prototype to production

What’s special about the production phase?

W. Aisslinger: What’s exciting at Rolf Benz is that everything is entirely made in Germany. We’re talking here about the highest processing quality. Ultimately, it’s a matter of implementing this high quality requirement down to the last detail. Each individual seam is considered carefully: Is this the right and best-possible solution? Where does the seam start and where does it end? Then you look at the construction elements such as metal intersections and shaping. This is where you finely tune the design and it’s especially fun. Particularly with a top-class partner such as Rolf Benz who is extremely well-versed in this regard and places great store on ultimate perfection.

T. Bunyaprasit: Handcrafted perfection is becoming increasingly important. It’s great when one has the opportunity to achieve this high quality craftsmanship consistently right down to the smallest detail, as was the case here with Rolf Benz.

Phase 5: the finished product

What are the design highlights of Rolf Benz ADDIT?

W. Aisslinger: Rolf Benz ADDIT offers a whole range of great highlights. The superbly manufactured cushions with their great seams and their pleasant volume for excellent seating comfort. Or the elegant platform that makes the sofa look like it's floating. Then there’s the underlying frame with its plug-in options for small side tables or shelving, for example. After all, ADDIT isn't just a sofa. It’s a whole landscape. A big, well thought out modular system that is playful, friendly and inviting.

T. Bunyaprasit: Another special feature is the system’s effortlessness. It’s a relatively light piece of furniture with comfortably soft cushions. It doesn’t just look cosy, it is cosy. It’s a landscape that can grow progressively. There’s nothing static that could prevent personal growth. The whole system has a pleasing sense of airiness that enables its owners to think in a different light.

Rolf Benz ADDIT consists of which components?

W. Aisslinger: Rolf Benz ADDIT is made up of the sofa, armchair, small side tables, plug-in trays, free-standing side tables, shelving options and a finely coordinated rug collection. It will be followed by additional elements. The modular system will continue to grow and offer new possibilities. We want to continue building on the ADDIT world together with Rolf Benz. It’s an exciting project.

At the end of this long development process, what was your greatest challenge? What was the most fun?

W. Aisslinger: Interpreting the high Rolf Benz quality in such a light and airy and relaxed way was a challenge that was unbelievably fun at the same time.

New frontiers in Milan

New trends, new designs, new living concepts: at the Salone del Mobile Milano trade fair, the irrepressible creative enthusiasm and innovative strength of the international furnishings and furniture sector can be seen in all their glory. The 58th edition of the popular classic trade fair involves all sorts of surprises – once again proving that the story of how we live is nowhere near over, but is constantly being rewritten and updated by ambitious designers.

Lots of news and a true innovation

Of course, Rolf Benz is once again full of surprises and, with its new, outside-of-the-box products, makes it clear that “made in Germany” with world-class design is still a force to be reckoned with. Take the new, super modular Rolf Benz ADDIT sofa landscape from Werner Aisslinger and Tina Bunyaprasit, for instance. It is an example of a new living philosophy that focuses resolutely on the personality of the residents and offers the greatest possible design scope. Rolf Benz ADDIT views itself as your absolutely and universally favourite place within your own four walls. The sofa as a conversation area. As a home office. As a media point. As a play area. As a haven of peace. As a family meeting point. In short: all aspects of life are played out here. The additive components of the domestic "playground" are shelving, brackets and trays, as well as optional coffee tables and rugs that coordinate with Rolf Benz ADDIT.

Notwithstanding its multi-functionality, a dining table with space for the whole family to meet is and remains a cultural achievement that can’t easily be replaced. This doesn’t mean that dining culture can’t evolve, however. Once again, Rolf Benz has thought outside of the box. To the Far East. The result? Voilà: the sculptural-looking Rolf Benz 986 dining table with optional rotating tray. The round table is made entirely of high-quality natural stone and pays homage to Chinese cuisine. Based on a design by This Weber, it will certainly attract plenty of admirers, not only in Asia.

And yet something else is in the limelight. It’s a real innovation. A highlight – or rather two – with which Rolf Benz is literally penetrating new spheres at the Milan Furniture Fair and starting an entirely new chapter: for the first time in the company’s history, a separate bed collection is being presented in the name of Rolf Benz SLEEPING.


An award-worthy good night’s sleep

Rolf Benz SONO and Rolf Benz TONDO are the names of the new bed series that from now on will stylishly accompany people seeking peace and quiet through the night. Rolf Benz SONO comes from Beck Design, while Rolf Benz TONDO is a creation from Labsdesign. But wait a moment…TONDO? Wasn’t there something like this? That’s right: the TONDO bed is an evolution of the sofa with the same name, which premièred three years ago in Milan, winning the "best of the best", the highest prize in the "ICONIC AWARDS Interior Innovation" in 2017. These are the best requirements for an award-worthy good night’s sleep.

A bed like a hug

Whether placed near to the wall or free-standing in the room, the down-to-the-floor Rolf Benz TONDO bed makes a good impression in any situation. Its loose back cushions mean you can comfortably lean against it while sitting upright. The curved headboard even enables you to sit next to each other. The innovative "cuddle lounge" is available in three widths and two lengths and also as a box spring bed or as a classic version with mattress and slatted frame. If you can’t get enough of the superbly casual appearance, you can add the wonderfully corresponding occasional furniture to your bedroom: the Rolf Benz 917 seat bench, the Rolf Benz 916 bedside table and the Rolf Benz 907 valet stand complete the ensemble.

Perfect craftsmanship

The first thing that you notice about the Rolf Benz SONO designer bed is the headboard with its elaborate diamond-shaped pleating. Yet despite its appealingly subtle opulence, the bed appears weightless and elegant, not least thanks to its inset delicate legs. Like Rolf Benz TONDO, SONO is also available in three widths and two lengths and also as a box spring bed or with a mattress and slatted frame. In addition to the bed, Beck Design has created the Rolf Benz 918 upholstered bench which also has sophisticated pleating. It’s just a shame that your eyes are closed as you sleep…