Sitting in Cologne
Sit down. Take a deep breath. Recharge the batteries.

Greetings 2017! Have we met? No sooner has the new year begun than the to-do list bubbles up again, threatening to swamp our brains with stress hormones. New jobs, resolutions and projects get mixed up with all the things we put off or didn’t finish last year. And before we know it, we are back in the hamster-wheel of our fast-paced daily life.

Stop! It’s high time you put a halt to this daily stress. Take a city break for instance – that will widen your horizon, open up new perspectives and bring us closer to ourselves again.  Let’s give ourselves a little time to relax, expose ourselves to new impressions. In Cologne for instance. This cathedral city on the River Rhine is second to none when it comes to large German towns with chilled cheerfulness. As it says in Article 2 of the “Constitutional Law of the Rhineland“,”Et kütt wie et kütt.“ (What will be, will be.)

We visited the metropolis on the Rhine during the IMM Cologne 2017 International Interiors Show 2017 and took the opportunity to look round for the best public hotspots where you can come down to earth. We can reveal places in the Cheerfulness Capital – apart from the Exhibition Hall where you can try out the latest Rolf Benz seating – where you can sit and relax, or switch off. Sit down, slow down, listen to your inner voice and enjoy the very special laid-back atmosphere of this city of a million people. Try the statue of Albertus Magnus in front of the main building of the University of Cologne.

Seating for the soul

What would Cologne be without its landmark, the cathedral of Cologne? It’s purely and simply unimaginable. It’s not surprising that the steps in front of this magnificent building are such a popular place for tourists and locals to sit. As you sit at the feet of the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, you get the best view of the colourful crowds milling around the station.  If you want to get away from the hubbub, you’ll find the interior of the cathedral the perfect place for inner reflection – or you could go to the Domforum, the Visitor Centre of Cologne Cathedral, where you’ll find space for contemplation and meditation as well as a wide range of information, including details of talks and events.

The cemetery of St. Bartholomew in the Ehrenfeld area of Cologne is a perfect place to snatch a few moments’ peace in the manic hustle and bustle of your day.

The new Rhine Boulevard is an especially relaxing place. It is a 500 metre flight of steps that gives you a magnificent view of the Cathedral and the historic Old Town of Cologne – on warm days you can happily und sit here and relax late into the evening.

You get wonderful views from the Cologne Triangle: at more than 103 metres high, it is the second highest skyscraper on the right-hand bank of the Rhine in Cologne. Its wide viewing platform gives you a spectacular all-round view of the Cathedral, the town and the surrounding area. Talking of views, as your gaze wanders over the sights, your thoughts can wander too – try this in the historic panoramic restaurant “Bastei” right on the bank of the Rhine. It can be hired for special festive occasions.

If drinking a good cup of coffee is the thing that makes you relax, you should make for the Van Dyck Rösterei and Espressobar which was awarded the international prize for architecture, the “AIT Award” in 2012. But before our city break morphs into just another to-do list, we’d better stop, and enjoy our aromatic espresso. In peace.

DESIGNERS’ SATURDAY
Creative Summit Meeting

Welcome to the design metropolis of Langenthal! Every two years, this community of 15,000 inhabitants in the Swiss canton of Bern is transformed into a creative hotspot for forward-thinking product design and a meeting place for the international design industry over a weekend in November. The time finally came on 5 and 6 November 2016. The 16th Designers’ Saturday summoned designers to a meeting and over 15,000 design-savvy visitors came, saw and experienced some exceptional presentations by 70 renowned exhibitors.

The Designers’ Saturday was launched in 1987 by leading Swiss design companies and is different from other exhibitions, as reflected by its exhibition concept. The showground is not the sterile setting of a multi-functional exhibition centre but rather the authentic production environment of the local design industry. The exhibition is held at locations where well-made everyday designs are created, day by day. Such as the production hall of wood manufacturer Hector Egger, one of the six exhibition locations in Langenthal. Rolf Benz celebrated its premiere at the 16th Designers’ Saturday here with a notable brand presence.

The labyrinth of Langenthal

The focal point of the presentation of this premium manufacturer from the Black Forest was the theme of the ‘labyrinth’. Visitors to the exhibition were offered a varied voyage of discovery through a 50m2 large wooden box. The labyrinth-like route (cul-de-sacs included!) led through various different colour zones, drawings, reflections, lettering and discovery corners featuring visionary items of furniture from Rolf Benz. The exhibits were masterful reinterpretations of solid wood pieces and connected with the exhibition site. These included the 580 armchair and 944 bench, both inspired by origami as well as the 965 solid wood dining table which surprises with its unexpectedly light design. At the centre of the labyrinth, the so-called ‘Green Zone’, visitors could take a breather on the bench, soak up their surroundings and take a souvenir selfie with the photo box.

The products from the Rolf Benz collection presented at the Designers’ Saturday came from the Munich design studio ‘formstelle’ which is characterised by its established carpentry expertise and which never ceases to create a stir in the industry when paired with the craftsmanship and upholstery expertise of the Rolf Benz brand. “As an exhibitor at the Designers’ Saturday, we were able to show visitors that we do not ‘just’ create top quality sofas but also produce furnishing designs of the highest calibre. In Langenthal we deliberately presented designs which extend far beyond the present with their forward-thinking look,” says Jürgen Mauß, Chairman of the Board at Rolf Benz AG.

Peace has now returned to Langenthal. This charming small town has returned to being a normal community in the Swiss Mittelland until the next Designers’ Saturday takes place in November 2018.

Sitting in Milan

Welcome to Milan! The world-famous and important “Salone del Mobile” show, at which we presented our latest products in Hall 5 alongside the most illustrious Italian furniture companies, brought us to this wonderful city and stole our heart. During the time we spent in the Italian metropolis, in keeping with our theme, we went looking for the most beautiful places to sit – and we weren’t disappointed.

It is not only the city’s famous monuments – such as the sculpture of the influential journalist Indro Montanelli in the Giardini Pubblici park, or the staircase monument by artist Aldo Rossi on the Via Croce Rossa – that invite passers-by to sit. The breathtaking architecture of the “Fondazione Prada” museum is also a seductive invitation to withdraw to the courtyard with an after-lunch cappuccino. Inside the museum, in contrast, we were completely captivated by the sitting and speaking android who, as part of the current Goshka Macuga exhibition “To the Son of Man who Ate the Scroll”, gives a monologue constructed from numerous excerpts of seminal speeches.                       

The well-known steps down to the washrooms of the Café-Bar Luce at the Fondazione Prada were designed by director Wes Anderson and lead one to a place where each of us sits at some time during the day. We also felt invited to sit at the San Sepolcro church which was built in 1030. Sitting there in silence, we listened to what the historical building had to tell us.

There is plenty of sitting to be done above the city’s roofs as well. The restaurant Ceresio 7 impresses not only with its fabulous view but, in addition to culinary highlights from the kitchen, it also boasts two rooftop pools that create a magnificent ambience.

On our way home, we made a short stop in rainy Lugano where we set off our new Rolf Benz 650 chair to best effect in a picturesquely idyllic setting.

A partnership that covers all bases

 

Tradition, style and 100% "Made in Germany" – you don't have to look too hard to spot the common ground shared by Rolf Benz and rohi. The two companies have been working together for four decades. Why they complement each other so well is easily explained: good upholstery needs covers that are equally durable and elegant.The artisan textile manufacturer rohi was established over 80 years ago and is today managed by the third generation of the founding family. Based in northern Bavaria, the company designs and produces high-quality woollen fabrics for premium furniture manufacturers such as Rolf Benz. But not exclusively so: airlines, opera houses and theatres also rely on the know-how of these fabric experts. To continually re-invent oneself and yet still remain true to one's principles and also be successful – only a few companies manage to achieve this. rohi and Rolf Benz are among them.

Katrin Hielle-Dahm

„In the new creations we reach through a plastic , relief-like appearance , which appears bulky and soft at the same time.“

INTERVIEW WITH KATRIN HIELLE-DAHM, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND HEAD OF THE ROHI DESIGN TEAM

You design and produce high-quality fabrics for Rolf Benz, most recently including the Rolf Benz TIRA sofa and the Rolf Benz 580 armchair, which were presented at the Milan Furniture Fair. What is so special about your current fabrics?

With all our fabrics, it's important to us that they are full of character and personality. In our latest creations, we achieve this with a sculpted, relief-like effect which looks both voluminous and soft. Its appearance changes between matt and glossy depending on the lighting – this makes the fabrics vibrant. The new range of colours is broad and extends from soft natural shades and warm, homely colours through to exciting contrasts. All our fabrics are subject to a fundamental prerequisite: they have to be low-maintenance and durable.

What do you draw inspiration from when developing new fabrics?

Exchanging ideas is very important when it comes to inspiration and creativity. Our team of designers travel around the world a lot, visit international trade fairs, talk with colleagues across the globe, and always try to keep their finger on the pulse. At the same time, our designers works closely with our sales team, with both departments passing on externally sourced ideas internally.

Which colours will be popular in 2016?

Muted, finely gradated natural shades convey calm and a sense of having arrived – this continues to be popular for domestic interiors. Deep, rich shades such as night blue give interiors style and elegance. Luminously intense, almost brash colours inspired by nature are also proving popular, however. rohi likes to incorporate these contrasts within a single fabric. For example, we will combine a muted shade with a luminous coral, pink and orange.

Velvet reloaded

We declare an end to the dark Middle Ages! In their place, we herald in a return to the ideals of Antiquity, and focus on the light, the beautiful things in life - this is what the Renaissance stands for (French for rebirth), which began to dominate Europe from the 14th century onwards. It's no coincidence that this is the very epoch in which velvet was invented. It is an elegant, shiny material which catches the eye, which begs to be touched and which magically creates a pleasant sensation on the skin every time it is touched.

The major cities of northern Italy became the centre of European velvet production. It was thanks to the Industrial Revolution that this elegant material, which back then was exclusively fashioned from silk, finally became accessible to a wider public. Today, high-quality velvet is mainly made of cotton. Manufacturers of high-quality furniture such as Rolf Benz appreciate this renewable raw material both for its sustainability and for its naturalness. The company uses only the very finest-quality cotton from Italy, the birthplace of velvet.

In times gone by, pomp was the thing. Costly velvet was an expression of aristocratic superiority, and the exclusive preserve of the clergy and nobility. Understatement? No way! Whether it was clothes or interiors - it had to be velvet. And lots of it. There were then also times when velvet was 'out'. Too ostentatious, too pretentious. This prejudice was also levelled at this fine material in recent decades. But now velvet is reclaiming its place in our living rooms - with a new look, yet still luxurious and sensual. A style offensive on velvet paws, accompanied by clear and straightforward design.

Andreas Lechner, Director Marketing ROLF BENZ

„When this sensually luxurious cover material is combined with a few select materials such as wood or metal, it creates an elegant yet light material symbiosis.“

SHOWING YOUR COLOURS

Velvet radiates a special aura - it is unique. And it expresses something about its owner: that they have taste and appreciate the exceptional. This material is experiencing its come-back in a new look and with fresh nuances. Muted natural shades such as beige and brown look elegant. A more powerful dark red or orange give furniture something sensual. And green tones - especially in darker or muddier nuances - exude an invitingly casual vintage look. Numerous boutique hotels and international interior stylists currently swear by it. Our recommendation: simply choose your favourite colour! After all, it's only about one thing when it comes to your own home: the feel-good factor.

VELVET MEETS UNDERSTATEMENT

The fact that velvet can quickly become overbearing is particularly evident in Baroque furniture. What counts today is authenticity, and this is achieved through straightforward design and clear proportions. When this sensually luxurious cover material is combined with a few select materials such as wood or metal, it creates an elegant yet light material symbiosis. A typical characteristic of velvet covers is their iridescent surface, which creates a vibrant look. It's truly in the eye of the beholder: depending on the lighting, the colour looks either lighter or darker in its nuances.

Grand, ancient ideals combined with the possibilities of a new age – the velvet revolution is well underway. The North Italian weavers of the early modern age would have been thrilled.

The two creatives behind Formstelle

Interior architecture, corporate identity, product design – these form the focus of the work done by designer duo Claudia Kleine and Jörg Kürschner. With their design business "formstelle", which they founded in Munich in 2001, the two professional engineers develop innovative solutions for people and brands with discerning standards when it comes to conceptual, technical and creative quality. When Kleine and Kürschner get to work in their own model-building workshop, they always do so with a certain delight in experimenting. Their immediate and detailed engagement with the material and the emerging product always leads to exciting and unconventional results. An aesthetic example: the Rolf Benz 580 armchair, nominated for the 2016 German Design Award.

Jörg Kürschner

„The basic idea was the chair Rolf Benz 580 , to create a not too big upholstered furniture , which has a strong design statement.“

INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDIA KLEINE UND JÖRG KÜRSCHNER

What was the source of inspiration for the design of the Rolf Benz 580?

When we were looking for an incisive motif, one of the themes we hit on was that of "origami", i.e. the art of paper-folding. The origami crane in particular served as the formal leitmotiv when designing the Rolf Benz 580.  The elements of the visible wooden frame have the appearance of being folded. This creates an almost sculpture-like side view, which characterises the armchair's appearance and flows through it.

Where did the idea for the sophisticated details of the finish come from?

"Orinuno", the folding of fabric, played a major role in the upholstering and the look of the seams. We came up with a seam finish inspired by orinuno and which provides great flexibility in terms of the different seating zones. The folded seam details provide the upholstery with structure and divide it up into movable segments. This gives the seams a loose look which also promises a great degree of comfort.

In what ways can the armchair be combined?

The blend of wood and fabric or leather means that the Rolf Benz 580 can be presented in countless new ways, depending on the style of interior. There is no clearly defined recommendation in terms of a living space. It accentuates large seating scapes and also looks great by itself.

What armchair varieties are available?

The Rolf Benz 580 comes in two varieties: as a high-back and a low-back version. The high-back version offers even greater comfort thanks to an additional rib – especially when combined with the matching foot stool. Ideal for reading and relaxation.

Which materials are featured?

The wooden frame is available in stained and unstained oak as well as American walnut. The armchair is upholstered in leather or fabric. The new and distinctive woollen fabrics in the cover collection particularly emphasise the beautifully individualistic design of the Rolf Benz 580.

Minimalism, perfected

How many legs does the perfect coffee table need? In Pascal Bosetti's opinion, the answer is three. With the Rolf Benz 973, the designer has invented a flexible and functional table solution which also impressed the jury of the 2015 German Design Award.  

What's also impressive is the perfect craftsmanship, which you can witness in style in the making-of video. Fascinating close-ups show the viewer how robust blank leather, a chrome-plated piece of cast metal, painted sheet steel and legs of precious solid wood are melded together with all the skill of the true craftsman to create a perfect designer object. To put it succinctly: "Made in Germany" at its most beautiful, as Rolf Benz 973 is produced exclusively in Germany.

 

Between sitting and lying

We live in hectic times. Our daily lives are planned down to the very last detail. At work, one meeting follows the next, our inboxes are overflowing with e-mails, and the clock is constantly ticking on those deadlines. After work, it goes on: off we go to our language class, and then the gym. That's because a rolling stone gathers no moss, and the competition never sleeps – self-improvement is the order of the day.

A sofa seems like a relict from another time: a piece of furniture which exists only so its owner can put their feet up and relax. It is something which serves no specific purpose, something which is not targeted. In other words, the sofa has a completely different character to its down-to-earth relatives – the chair, which allows one to sit upright at a dining table or work desk, and the bed, which is only to be used at night and for sleeping in.

In truth, the sofa (the name derives from the Arabic word "suffa", meaning a bench for resting on) comes from a different age. Even the ancient Greeks had a type of furniture which was somewhere between a chair and a bed, and which they used when resting and dining. In Europe, sofas were manufactured from the 17th century onwards, initially for the aristocracy – who else had time for an extensive afternoon's rest?

 

THE EVOLUTION OF RELAXATION

In the early days, sofas were somewhat unimaginative in their form and design. But creativity and a spirit of inventiveness soon came to dominate: fine materials, adornments and elaborate details transformed sofas into truly eye-catching furniture. Their construction underwent constant development, as evidenced by the various variants such as the Ottoman, chaise longue and récamiere. And this evolution continues.

Sofas have long stopped being synonymous with luxury. But anyone who decides to go with a high-quality, stylish sofa will soon experience a sense of grandeur. This is exactly the aim pursued by the designers, constructors and upholsterers at Rolf Benz. The sofas must be aesthetically pleasing whilst offering the best possible relaxation, with optimal ergonomics and padding. They have to be true gems.

If only the modern world weren't so hectic. These days, are we even allowed to take time to recline on a comfy sofa, let our spirit wander and do nothing for a change? Yes! In fact, it's essential. Sometimes you just have to forget the world outside, take a rest, find your way back to yourself – this is exactly how to recharge your internal battery and gather your strength for fast-paced everyday life. So it's time to get on the sofa! And if you can't switch off: nowhere else is quite as comfy for using your smart phone and tablet than a good sofa.

Milestones of their age

The year is 1964. In the pretty town of Nagold in Germany's Black Forest, a professional upholsterer named Rolf Benz, inspired by the atmosphere of change in the air at this time, sets to work revolutionising the furniture market. The young entrepreneur scores a coup with his very first sofa and armchair range, "Addiform". The seat elements are completely modular and break with the traditional arrangement of seating furniture. Addiform is fully in keeping with the zeitgeist and goes down as a design icon in the annals of furniture history. And the success story of the Rolf Benz brand begins.

AWARD-WINNING DESIGN

Half a century on from Addiform, in the company's anniversary year of 2014, it presented the Rolf Benz 50 sofa at the International Furniture Fair in Milan: the piece is a successful further development of, and homage to, the classic Addiform. Visually speaking, Rolf Benz 50 draws on its legendary forebear. Yet with 50 years of research and experience under the company's belt, the new sofa stands out thanks to the luxurious comfort it offers when sitting, and to the innovative details of its finish, such as pleated quilt seams and extravagant felled seams. It also features a relaxation function, with an adjustable backrest angle up to 23 degrees thanks to a gas-pressured spring system. Rolf Benz 50 is available as a single, sectional or corner sofa. Flexibility is also the name of the game when it comes to covers: you can choose from over 200 fabrics and 100 types of leather. One year on from the première, it's clear – Rolf Benz 50 is itself set to become a classic. The sofa has now become an international best-seller.

Yet the name "Rolf Benz 50" stands for more than just a follow-up model of the Addiform: it's a complete living space, which includes not only the sofa but also an armchair of the same name; the Rolf Benz 955, 956 and 958 couch tables; the Rolf Benz GRANO carpet; and the Rolf Benz 950 floor cushion. These perfectly matched individual pieces come together to form an ensemble which takes the atmosphere of change from or company's early years and transfers it to the present era. The Rolf Benz 50 living space is thus not only the celebration of an anniversary, but also a new milestone. The Danish photographer Heidi Lerkenfeldt, one of the leading interior photographers, has shot the Rolf Benz 50 living space in style in Ibiza. She has created images which impressively showcase the special spirit inherent in this furniture.

And by the way: the Rolf Benz 50 sofa was nominated for the German Design Award 2015 and won the 2015 interior innovation award. 50 years ago, the winner would most likely have been the Addiform.