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The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023 with a musical fireworks display. In line with this cultural extravaganza, Germany’s largest privately-financed opera house is now showcasing its recently upgraded lounge area – furnished by Rolf Benz. An interview with CEO Dr. Ursula Koners and Artistic Director and Co-CEO Benedikt Stampa.

Congratulations on your 25th anniversary. Are you in the mood to party?

Benedikt Stampa: Absolutely. 25 years of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is something really special. Our whole team feels it. We’re enjoying the attention and are grateful and proud that we can work together with the major artists of our time. It’s always a huge privilege to put top-class, sensational productions on the stage in Baden-Baden and to surprise our guests time and time again. We’ve been doing that for the past 25 years. So yes, we couldn't be in a better mood.

From the many wonderful productions in recent years, are there any highlights that especially stand out?

Benedikt Stampa: There have been countless musical highlights in the eventful 25-year history of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. However, for us, the most brilliant and remarkable ones include the opera premières with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Easter Festival, which incidentally were also shown in New York as a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera.

What makes the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden such a special place, even in 2023?

Benedikt Stampa: Baden-Baden is a wonderful, historic city. It’s a glamorous and magical place that is steeped in tradition. Our programme offers an artistic platform for unforgettable cultural events in one of Europe’s largest opera houses. In other words, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is the ideal place for an extremely sophisticated way of life.

The celebrations for the 25th anniversary are in full swing. What can visitors to the Festspielhaus look forward to this year?

Benedikt Stampa: There are many different things to see and experience. There’s the première of the “Werther” opera by Jules Massenet, staged by Robert Carson, as part of our “La Grand Gare” Autumn festival, for example. That’s definitely a real highlight. Tenor Jonathan Tetelman has the title role, by the way, and he’s a real shooting star on the international vocal scene.

Dr. Ursula Koners: Don’t forget the exclusive guest performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra, directed by charismatic principal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who – incidentally – is also the musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The Philadelphia Orchestra is about to play three concerts with us, all of which are dedicated to the great Russian composer Sergej Rachmaninov. We’re really looking forward to these performances. The same goes for “The World of John Neumeier”. This electrifying dance festival will once again draw enthusiastic visitors from all over the world to Baden-Baden, just as it did last year.

Culture and design – a harmonious and timeless connection. Can you explain the long-lasting partnership between the Festspielhaus and Rolf Benz?

Benedikt Stampa: Presumably our partnership has lasted so long because neither side is looking for fleeting relationships and we both place value on stability, reliability and real added value. Both partners have similar standards and values, address similar target groups, and make no compromises whatsoever when it comes to quality. Rolf Benz is very aware of the unique nature of the Festspielhaus as a privately-financed concert and opera house. At the same time, we appreciate the outstanding design expertise that Rolf Benz has to offer, which enables us to give our demanding guests a perfect feel-good experience in every respect.

So which areas of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden have been furnished by Rolf Benz?

Dr. Ursula Koners: During the 2023 summer break, we completely modernised the exclusive Club Lounge in the Festspielhaus with furniture from Rolf Benz. However, we’ve been using Rolf Benz furniture in other areas for quite some time now. Mainly our Aida Café on the second floor, whose lounge-like character was a precursor of what was to become the Club Lounge. We hold our board meetings in the Aida Café, by the way. We enjoy the wonderful atmosphere in the room and we always feel very much at home there. Furniture from Rolf Benz is also used in the Aida Bistro and in the Aida Bar. Each area is individually designed and has its own “fans”. All of the areas that are furnished by Rolf Benz speak a common, unmistakable design language.

Benedikt Stampa: In the past, we’ve also had various “pop-up areas” here with Rolf Benz furniture. When the first Outdoor collection was released, for example, we had one of the new sofas in the foyer. The response to it was incredibly positive. It was the same in the Takeover Festival which takes place every year in February. As part of the festival, the entire foyer is equipped with furniture from the freistil range and staged as a feel-good lounge with background music. An offshoot of this is the freistil corner sofa for our young “Culture Club Gleis 1”. The stylish sofa is never empty at any event.

Culture and design – a harmonious and timeless connection. Can you explain the long-lasting partnership between the Festspielhaus and Rolf Benz?

Benedikt Stampa: Presumably our partnership has lasted so long because neither side is looking for fleeting relationships and we both place value on stability, reliability and real added value. Both partners have similar standards and values, address similar target groups, and make no compromises whatsoever when it comes to quality. Rolf Benz is very aware of the unique nature of the Festspielhaus as a privately-financed concert and opera house. At the same time, we appreciate the outstanding design expertise that Rolf Benz has to offer, which enables us to give our demanding guests a perfect feel-good experience in every respect.

So which areas of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden have been furnished by Rolf Benz?

Dr. Ursula Koners: During the 2023 summer break, we completely modernised the exclusive Club Lounge in the Festspielhaus with furniture from Rolf Benz. However, we’ve been using Rolf Benz furniture in other areas for quite some time now. Mainly our Aida Café on the second floor, whose lounge-like character was a precursor of what was to become the Club Lounge. We hold our board meetings in the Aida Café, by the way. We enjoy the wonderful atmosphere in the room and we always feel very much at home there. Furniture from Rolf Benz is also used in the Aida Bistro and in the Aida Bar. Each area is individually designed and has its own “fans”. All of the areas that are furnished by Rolf Benz speak a common, unmistakable design language.

Benedikt Stampa: In the past, we’ve also had various “pop-up areas” here with Rolf Benz furniture. When the first Outdoor collection was released, for example, we had one of the new sofas in the foyer. The response to it was incredibly positive. It was the same in the Takeover Festival which takes place every year in February. As part of the festival, the entire foyer is equipped with furniture from the freistil range and staged as a feel-good lounge with background music. An offshoot of this is the freistil corner sofa for our young “Culture Club Gleis 1”. The stylish sofa is never empty at any event.

What makes a successful lounge area in a large festival hall? What are the fine details that make guests feel really comfortable?

Dr. Ursula Koners: In terms of the Club Lounge, you have to remember that this room is available to our sponsors and patrons before and during events as a sort of business class lounge. For many guests, it feels like a second living room: a meeting point, somewhere they can relax, but also a place where they can look forward to what they are about to experience and – depending on the performance – sometimes also a place to reflect. The tastes of our visitors are just as versatile as these requirements. That’s why we felt it was particularly important to have a room that was contemporary and timeless with a functional design. We think this has turned out really well in the Club Lounge.

What is the collaboration process for such a refurbishment with Rolf Benz?

Benedikt Stampa: For the Club Lounge, we were in agreement with Rolf Benz right from the start: this special room urgently needed to be revamped. The previous furniture was simply too static and a little too heavy and masculine. It didn't match the brand image of Rolf Benz or that of the Festspielhaus. We had some very intensive discussions about the requirements for the room, the habits and preferences of our guests, the colour scheme and everything else that matters. Rolf Benz then gave us some initial designs based on these. This was followed by an intensive process of fine-tuning the designs, the furniture selection, the positioning and so on. We were really impressed by the colour schemes they suggested right from the start. They are timeless, classic and yet contemporary all at the same time.

Modernising the Club Lounge also resulted in some new seating arrangements. How did this change the atmosphere?

Dr. Ursula Koners: Previously, the room was dominated by heavy bar tables and two rows of armchairs. We have got rid this static structure and everything is more flexible now and the room feels much more airy and inviting as a whole. We deliberately selected the new furniture so that it can easily be moved around if necessary. This modernisation has made the Club Lounge feel considerably more flexible. The room is now much too nice just to use it before and during concerts.

What do you particularly like about the new arrangement? What are your highlights?

Benedikt Stampa: The furniture selection is especially good. We have combined lots of different Rolf Benz models but the Club Lounge doesn’t feel like a furniture exhibition. The wooden tables in walnut add lots of warmth and calm to the whole room. Sooner or later, everyone is bound to find their favourite place here. For some people it’s the bar stools, while for others it’s the dining chairs or even the cosy club armchairs next to the window that they prefer.

Dr. Ursula Koners: We both find these especially comfortable, which is why they are rarely free whenever we are in the Club Lounge.

What do you think makes a good design in 2023?

Dr. Ursula Koners: Personally, I’m a fan of design classics. That’s why I think that good design is timeless and unobtrusive above all else. To quote Coco Chanel: “Fashion fades, only style remains.”

Benedikt Stampa: For me, above all else good design means clarity of form and an elegant style combined with high quality and sustainably-produced materials.

Aside from the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, do you have a personal connection with the Rolf Benz brand?

Benedikt Stampa: I have to pass on that one. Somehow, Rolf Benz didn't quite reach me in Münsterland in the past. However, I’ve had a Rolf Benz seating group in my office for quite some time now, which is extremely popular.

Dr. Ursula Koners: I do actually have a Rolf Benz sofa at home in my office. I like sitting on it during my creative breaks, provided that one of my family members isn’t already sitting on it. It’s extremely comfortable and it’s deliberately positioned so that I can look over Lake Constance from the sofa. Here’s a little fun fact by the way: the designers, Norbert and Silja Beck, who regularly work for Rolf Benz, live really close by.

Can you think of a specific piece of furniture or object from Rolf Benz that you particularly admire? Do you have an absolute favourite?

Dr. Ursula Koners: In the “Rolf Benz World” in Nagold, I recently sat in the solid wood version of the 594 armchair. Together with the corresponding stool, it was incredibly comfortable. I’m trying to find the right spot for it in my own home.

Benedikt Stampa: I don’t have an absolute favourite. Not yet. But my wife and I are keeping our eyes open in any case.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us despite your very busy schedule. We wish you and your team a successful anniversary year for 2023 with plenty of unforgettable moments.


As well as the Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden has plenty of other attractions to offer. Here are some ideas for your next trip to the inspirational spa resort and city of culture on the edge of the Black Forest.


Porsche, DHL, Amazon, Zalando – the thriving metropolis in Saxony is attracting an increasing number of well-known companies. Even Rolf Benz will have a presence there and is opening Germany’s third ROLF BENZ HAUS in Leipzig on 15th November, 2022. We spoke to Managing Director and furnishing expert Thoralf Förster about his love for his home city, the future of the furniture industry and his enthusiasm for consistently good consultations.

Mr Förster, after Hamburg and Frankfurt, now Leipzig has its own ROLF BENZ HAUS with you as its Managing Director. How exciting have the last few weeks and months been for you and your team? What do you think about the result?

The whole process took us almost a year in total. We turned everything upside down and fundamentally redesigned everything. With the experts from Rolf Benz, we had qualified partners at our side with plenty of previous experience in this area. By working in tandem, we’ve created a wonderful atmosphere here. Everything goes together perfectly, from the furniture selection to the lighting concept and the rugs. We also have a huge material wall on which we can present all fabrics and covers. It creates a completely coherent overall picture. It’s really great. Such a project requires intensive dialogue and numerous decisions. Of course, we also looked at the other ROLF BENZ HAUS spaces and drew inspiration from them. It was important to me and my team that we identified with the store concept. That’s why we brought in lots of fresh ideas and sources of inspiration, so we could say with complete conviction: “Yes, that’s us. This is what we stand for.” At this point, I would like to say a great big thank you to my employees for their fantastic and tireless work over the last few months. And also, of course, to the Rolf Benz team for their positive and constructive collaboration. It was completely worth it. I found it simply fascinating to see how the individual pieces of the puzzle eventually came together to make up the whole picture. The result is simply delightful.

What do you hope for the new ROLF BENZ HAUS LEIPZIG?

I hope that the new overall concept will show off to an even greater extent the interior skills that we have accumulated over many years. I hope that the wonderful things that we have created here will soon become the talk of the town. I hope that plenty of interested visitors will come and take a look and go home feeling wowed. And, of course, I also hope that we make lots of sales!

Mr Förster, you were born and bred in Leipzig. What makes Leipzig so special? What benefits does Leipzig’s city centre have to offer retailers?

Our company, “Wohnberatung Krabbes”, is a traditional company that has always been based in the city centre. In precisely this location for 114 years, actually. Moving out of town was never an option. The wonderful city centre location with its varied shops and the whole district itself has a really special charm that offers customers a great, holistic shopping experience. The best thing about Leipzig is that although it’s a city, it’s still small and friendly. I love this city. Everything is close together and easily reached on foot. Even the football stadium isn’t on the outskirts of town but in a central location, only a 15 minute walk from the opera and the Cloth Hall. It has developed enormously in the last twenty years. In the communist era, everything was really grey, grim and gloomy. There’s good reason why people talk about “Hypezig” today. Leipzig has become a vivid metropolis that is attracting increasing numbers of young people. In the 12th century, Leipzig was one of the most important trade and business cities in Europe. We currently are on a really good path to restoring its former glory. In my opinion, Leipzig is the boom town of the East – and it feels really good.

Rolf Benz has been an influential leader in the furniture market for over 50 years. How do you explain the brand’s success?

Rolf Benz represents solid furniture that stands out with its fantastic appearance and high quality. Customers who choose Rolf Benz don’t want to buy a new sofa every two years but are looking for something really good that will last a long time. Timeless, durable and sustainable designer furniture with great seating comfort. This exceptional design combined with high quality, versatility and sustainability all go towards what makes Rolf Benz stand out. These very properties correspond exactly to our company’s philosophy, incidentally. That’s why we have been successfully working together with Rolf Benz since 1996. On this basis, we create living spaces in which you feel comfortable in the long term.

What do you like about working with Rolf Benz?

First of all, of course, the excellent quality. And again, durability and sustainability. Rolf Benz rarely takes products of out its range. They have been producing some items of furniture for twenty years and they still look just as modern as ever. Rolf Benz products are given sufficient time to establish themselves on the market. The subject of reliability is naturally also a key point for us as a retailer. With Rolf Benz, we can rely on processes running smoothly, from ordering to deliveries.   

What connects you personally to the Rolf Benz brand?

When I think of Rolf Benz, I think of many plus points. The appearance, for example, it’s simply incredible. Then there’s the solid craftsmanship and the sustainability aspect that I already mentioned. Superbly finished quality materials that you can enjoy for a long time. This fits in well with us, because the issue of sustainability plays a key role in our consulting services. As reputable interior designers, we don’t want to sell just anything to the people who come to us. We want to discover their true needs and requirements before finding the perfect solutions that will work for them in the long term. This requires intensive dialogue with our customers. A lot of heart and soul. And, naturally, products that keep their promises.

Which are your favourite Rolf Benz classics and what’s your top new product?

If I look at the classics, then it has to be Rolf Benz Mera. For me it’s the Swiss army knife of furniture! Sitting, slouching, lying and relaxing together with the family – the flexible configuration options make it incredibly versatile and flexible to suit your needs. It’s perfect for any situation. The top new product for me is the extravagant Rolf Benz Jack recliner that has a wonderful design and is also incredibly comfortable.

Do you think there is a typical Rolf Benz customer?

Perhaps, in the past, one might have considered a solicitor or a doctor as typical Rolf Benz clientele. However, I’m not in favour of putting customers into categories, it’s a bit out-dated in my opinion. Today, our society is much more diverse than it was twenty or thirty years ago. On balance, however, one could say that anyone who decides on a piece of furniture from Rolf Benz has good taste in interior design and places great value on quality and sustainability.

How do you feel about online shopping? How do you think the future is looking for stationary trade?

Essentially, online shopping is perfectly legitimate, especially for things that might not be available in the shop around the corner, or for products that you can choose easily without much assistance. However, for purchases where you do need some advice, stationary trade is clearly the better choice. You can clarify what you are looking for in an individual meeting, since customers aren’t always entirely sure about what they really need. As interior experts, we can offer valuable assistance by asking the right questions. For that reason, I definitely see a future for stationary trade in the higher-quality furnishing sector and not just a small future, but quite a large one.

What do you still find fascinating about the furniture industry?

I started out working in kitchen planning. Even back then, I was completely surprised and delighted by how visible results can be achieved within a relatively short space of time. There are only a few jobs that can say the same. Some architects never see their masterpieces during their lifetime, for example. That’s why in the furnishing sector, we have the advantage of being able to experience the results of day-to-day work relatively quickly. That’s what’s great about this job.

How do you think the furnishing market will change in the coming years, particularly with regard to the location of Leipzig?

It’s hard for me to gaze into my crystal ball, especially in light of the current complex global situation. However, at the same time I believe that “home, sweet home” is and will remain important to the German people. As a retreat from often stressful everyday life and the outside world that is becoming increasingly complicated. People want to be themselves at home and relax. That’s why the issues of interior design and planning will continue to be extremely important in our country. The aspect of sustainability will also become more significant. People are looking for items for their home that are better quality and longer lasting. Leipzig now has 600,000 inhabitants and is continuing to grow. There are increasing numbers of well-paid jobs. I think that we as a retailers will benefit from this positive development and increase in demand.


What’s your “sweet home” like, Mr Förster?

I work a lot, so it’s important that I feel good when I spend time at home. I live with my wife and our two children. We haven’t designed everything down to the last detail, but our home is practical, versatile and cosy. The centre of our social interaction is a nice big dining table with comfortable chairs. This is where the family gets together and talks over what happened during the day. After work, I find it easiest to switch off and relax in our little garden, or lying on our big sofa watching films in the evening with the family. And, of course, I love our kitchen. It’s also a central place where we meet up with family and friends.

Which item of furniture would you take with you to a desert island?

I’d much prefer to take my family with me than a great piece of furniture. But if I could take something with me as well, then I’d choose the Rolf Benz Jack armchair, simply because it’s so great for sitting on and relaxing. If I could have a nice Aperol Spritz as well, that would make it the perfect island experience.

No half measures

Interior designer Cord Glantz of Geplan Design has created a “temporary home” at the b'mine hotel at Frankfurt Airport. Here, guests can sit down on furniture by Rolf Benz. In this interview, Glantz explains the concept to the publishers of Stylepark.

Franziska von Schumann: Mr. Glantz, “Half measures are not our cup of tea” is your way of putting it. Tell me about your approach to hotel projects such as the b'mine.

Cord Glantz: In our line of work, it is extremely important to be involved from an extremely early point in the planning phase. For us, it is not the right approach to first start once the architects are finished with their part of the work. The building arises as an aggregation of rooms and besides, the b'mine has been designed on the basis of a module. One aspect of an interior architect’s planning is to determine the locations of certain functional elements, such as where the kitchen should be located within a building. For restaurant businesses what is then required is short walking distances, a room must be clearly arranged for staff to be able to identify guests’ needs. Such comprehensive planning is only possible if the interior designers are involved in the process from the outset. We can also assume responsibility for construction site management and take care of photographic documentation once everything is complete. In other words, in a project, it is important to offer the target group what it is looking for from the word go. In other words, not to do things by halves.

Robert Volhard: In our preliminary chat you mentioned that you had already designed the layouts for the hotel a number of years ago. What was it about this project that fascinated you?

Cord Glantz: I was approached by the developers of the “CarLoft”, which is now the b’mine, about a joint project more than ten years ago and during our collaboration the idea took shape for a simple building structure with only a few types of rooms. Small rooms offering everything that guests need. Rolf Benz furniture is durable and well thought out, which means that it fits the concept superbly. The b’mine in Frankfurt is the first hotel in the chain open and is globally unique.

Robert Volhard: Were there other reasons why you opted for furniture by Rolf Benz?

Cord Glantz: We analyzed the target group and looked for a brand that would fit in with it well and would, moreover, be recognized by it. Rolf Benz and b’mine simply go together well. High quality. An appreciation of those fundamental things and a love of details. Moreover, durability guarantees the sustainability of interior design. On top of this, as a manufacturer, Rolf Benz was able to respond very flexibly to our requirements.

Franziska von Schumann: What actual adjustments were made to Rolf Benz’s design for the b’mine?

Cord Glantz: Among other things, we altered the seat height of the chosen furniture. We wanted to position sofas and armchairs with their upholstery at completely identical heights opposite one another. Likewise, we had our own ideas about the color of the covers and the base. Indeed, we wanted the latter to be made of genuine walnut, not only to be stained. Rolf Benz was able to comply with all these special requests of ours. Very few furniture manufacturers have the capability for such things.

Robert Volhard: “It’s the fish that has to take the bait, not the angler” is a German saying that you are fond of using, in other words, the design needs to be tailored to the target group. Which bait do you have planned for which fish at the b’mine?

Cord Glantz: After we had identified our target group – largely younger business travelers – we conducted surveys in order to find out what is important for such people when it comes to a hotel. Security is an extremely important aspect, as is public spaces with a generous feel to them, spaces that are comfortable and offer the opportunity to exchange opinions at spur-of-the-minute meetings. Based on these findings we went for a seat height that encourages communication, as well as for colors and materials for the rooms such as flooring consisting of solid wood and walls made of reconstituted stone in the bathrooms. Moreover, the rooms boast multifunctional surfaces that are easy to clean and designed so that visitors can relax during their short stays, as well as being able to cope if they are in a hurry.

Franziska von Schumann: The location was bound to have been crucial to the concept.

Cord Glantz: Yes, being close to the airport is fundamental, although the b’mine concept is likewise structured such that it can be applied elsewhere, too. The various types of room will be used in other cities and there is practically no intention to allow for regional variations in design. Frankfurt and its airport in particular are the
European hub, which is why this open hotel concept with its international orientation is particularly suitable here. There will always be enough guests for good hotels, even during the pandemic.

Robert Volhard: How much were you able to contribute to the decision that the restaurant be located on the 12th floor and is also open to guests not booked in to spend the night at the hotel?

Cord Glantz: That was a joint decision. The restaurant on the 12th floor with its fantastic panoramic view and the fact that the premises are also open for spontaneous visits was important to us because the out-of-the-ordinary is such a part of the b’mine’s USP.

Franziska von Schumann: In the planning phase do you exchange opinions with your twin brother about the project or are your desks completely separate?

Cord Glantz:We are identical twins and studied together but for a certain amount of time our professional lives took different paths. When I assumed responsibility for Geplan Design my brother Rolf returned to the company. Each of us has his own projects but we also make a number of joint decisions for can always rely on each other in that regard, we have that kind of blind trust in each other and the same way of looking at things. When I leave a room and he comes into it instead of me, he could finish off my sentence. That’s what’s so great about it, because I know that he makes decisions on my behalf and I do things the way he would want them. Furthermore, we complement each other very well. I am more of a chaotic type but he lends things a great deal of structure.

Robert Volhard: “When design doesn’t work it isn’t actually design” – that is a motto of yours. What is it about Rolf Benz’s designs that works so well?

Cord Glantz: When design doesn’t do anything to improve on functionality it really isn’t design. When producing industrial design, the function is important and, in our projects, we try to highlight this focus. It is a challenge to bring aesthetics and function into harmony with each other. Indeed, architects Herzog & de Meuron once said ‘People talk about architecture when people are touched by something.’ I find that a pleasing statement, one that also applies to the b’mine. After all, with our work, we are attempting to use light, materials and color to create a pleasant mood, one that will appeal to the guests.

Robert Volhard: On entering the hotel’s restaurant, the impression is that you have also thought about the acoustics aspect.

Cord Glantz: Yes, the restaurant’s ceiling is highly effective in acoustic terms, that was very important to us. When the acoustics aren’t right, the guests only stay for a short time and possibly don’t order that second bottle of wine. In the bedrooms and meeting rooms the acoustics are extremely important, as well. The reverberation time is measurable and, when rooms have long reverberation times, they are perceived as cool, however much effort is invested in their creative design. For this reason, acoustics must always be included in the interior design planning.

Franziska von Schumann: The b’mine hotel offers “car lifts”. In other words, vehicles are only separated from the guests’ beds by a pane of glass. At the same time, as guests, people do not want to get the feeling that they are sleeping in a garage. How did you deal with that particular problem?

Cord Glantz: That was primarily an architectural issue, after all, the car is parked on the loggia, on the terrace in front of the actual room. The façade has been acoustically insulated and people are not aware of ambient noise. The terrace itself is extremely sheltered so as to offer people plenty of space. The double door construction means that the smell given off by the car’s engine does not permeate the room. The “CarLifts” are practical. Firstly, because I no longer need to carry all my luggage up to my room from the underground garage and have everything permanently within my reach. Moreover, underground garages are usually confusing, their lighting design is not good and they don’t have a pleasant atmosphere. With the “CarLift” I can park directly in front of my room, get out into the fresh air and am right where I want to be. Thirdly, the elevator runs through the entire building. In other words, people could be presenting a car in the conference area on the 11th floor.

Robert Volhard: You have been an interior designer since 1993 – what would you say is particularly fundamental to a hotel’s facilities?

Cord Glantz: I think that in future we will be building hotels in a much more modular way. This will make it easier to manage construction speed, construction quality and ecology because a product can then be manufactured differently at the factory from the way that it can on the construction site. For me, individual trends are not of critical importance, because, as an interior architect I design the kind of rooms in which people should still be able to feel at home in two years’ time. As I see it, there have only been two trends in recent years that will make a real impact on a hotel design – the first, getting back to basics and the second, the search for a private authenticity. What is important is to be able to create the kind of result that fits in with its environment as a matter of course. And this is something that we have been able to achieve at the b’mine, together with Rolf Benz.

Author: Anna Moldenhauer, Stylepark
Picture gallery: 1,2,4 | Photographer: Jörg Puchmüller, Stylepark
Motive 1, picture gallery 3 | Photographer: Alexander Huber


The refurbishment: a strong team performance. The result: a complete success. The newly designed ROLF BENZ HAUS on the site of the former Union Brewery on Hanauer Landstraße brings the Rolf Benz product world completely to life over 700 square metres. We met Kris Leonhard and Christian Ahrens who manage the store as a duo and are also a team in their private lives.

Congratulations on the new ROLF BENZ HAUS. How did the refurbishment go and what do you think about the results?

Christian Ahrens: Thank you. Redesigning the store was quite a challenge. We had two very intensive weeks with lots of people who were working hard in the background and who handled everything really professionally. We’re super happy with the results.

Kris Leonhard: Fortunately, the store was able to stay open while the work was being done. We were really pleased about that. Especially now that there are fewer Coronavirus restrictions and people just want to buy new furniture for their homes. We’re really grateful to everyone who was involved.

What makes your location on Hanauer Landstraße in Frankfurt’s Ostend district so special?

Christian Ahrens: There couldn’t be a better location for a ROLF BENZ HAUS in the Rhein-Main region. In the past, the Ostend district with its old industrial and brick buildings was better known as a party area. Today, it’s home to plenty of pop-up stores and ateliers. Some luxury apartments have been built here. In addition, the European Central Bank has relocated to Ostend from the inner city, bringing new people to the area and changing the pattern of trade. We are close to the city but have excellent transport links at the same time, just two minutes away from the motorway. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

What does the new ROLF BENZ HAUS Frankfurt stand for? Does it have a main focus?

Christian Ahrens: We’re really trying to present the whole Rolf Benz world here, in a way that – I think – is unique throughout the Rhein-Main region. We are showcasing established Rolf Benz furniture systems as well as many new products with enough space so they can really stand out. Everything is nice and open and accessible. It really brings the furniture to life, in all of its facets. This means you can examine the furniture from different angles and perspectives. In this way, all aesthetic aspects and different model and cover variations can be appreciated to their full effect. Everything is presented as visibly and tangibly as possible. I think that’s the biggest advantage that we can offer our customers here. A really special shopping experience that really stands out.

You make a good team in both your private and your professional lives. Who’s responsible for what in the store?

Kris Leonhard: Christian primarily looks after the administrative side of things. He has excellent knowledge of all product-specific and technical details and always has the answer to any conceivable question. I mainly take care of matters relating to interior design. My strengths lie in finding the perfect combination of colour, materials and space. We complement each other really well and often advise customers together.

Christian Ahrens: Teamwork is essential if you want to successfully manage a store like this together. Of course, our customers naturally pick up on how we interact and the image of a unit that we automatically present. We’ve noticed that this is well-received, especially when we advise customers. Our special partnership enables us to provide intensive and comprehensive advice that highlights different aspects.

The keyword there is partnership: how long have you been working together with Rolf Benz and what makes this cooperation different?

Christian Ahrens: We’ve been working with them for a good seven years. Our partnership has continued to intensify during this time. Continuity in terms of our contacts at Rolf Benz in Nagold has meant that we’ve built up a great mutual relationship of trust over time and have even become good friends. Communication with Rolf Benz is exemplary. As a result, projects can be implemented effectively, smoothly, quickly and professionally. Just like our recent refurbishment.

How do your customers perceive the Rolf Benz brand?

Christian Ahrens: Rolf Benz is an established brand with a unique reputation. For our customers, Rolf Benz is a guarantee of “Made in Germany” quality, substance and continuity. Anchoring these attributes in the consciousness of the general public – over decades – is a huge achievement that other brands can only dream of. Regular clients of Rolf Benz tell us time and again that they have pretty much spent their whole lives with Rolf Benz. Their emotional loyalty to the brand is correspondingly strong. For us as salespeople, this is especially convenient since it means we don’t have to explain Rolf Benz any more. That’s a really unique situation that we’ve never come close to experiencing with other furniture brands.

Kris Leonhard: People of all ages know and trust Rolf Benz. People always tell us that their parents used to have Rolf Benz in their living room. You can sense their respect and fundamental trust in the brand. Of course, the aspect of sustainability has come to the fore in recent years. The desire to buy something that will last for a couple of decades is obviously becoming more important.

Rolf Benz has lots of new products in the range. What’s your personal favourite?      

Kris Leonhard: That’s a difficult question, there are so many wonderful products. We have recently started selling Rolf Benz KUMO in store and I think that sofa is really great, it’s my new favourite model. I really like organic forms in general. I also like a soft seat. I love the feeling of being cocooned when I lie on the sofa. That’s exactly what KUMO offers so perfectly. I think Rolf Benz KUMO is simply wonderful.

Christian Ahrens: I completely understand why Kris is so enthusiastic. Rolf Benz KUMO is a really great sofa. That’s why it’s right at the front of the store. I’m also really looking forward to the new MEG armchair that’s coming soon. It’s an armchair that looks incredibly elegant and has some great functional features. A perfect enhancement to the Rolf Benz range. People have already started asking us about it. They are also eagerly awaiting the new Rolf Benz JACK armchair. I’m really excited about these two pieces of furniture.

The Rolf Benz range now includes numerous products for different types of lifestyles. In your opinion, does the typical Rolf Benz customer exist?

Kris Leonhard: No. Just like there’s no such thing as the classic Rolf Benz sofa. Here in Frankfurt, the customers who are interested in Rolf Benz furniture couldn’t be any more diverse. Fortunately, the Rolf Benz range provides sufficient scope for individuality and caters for a wide variety of requirements. But, of course, we’ve noticed that quality and longevity are important factors for Rolf Benz customers.

Christian Ahrens: And good design too, naturally. But otherwise, every customer and project really is different and deserves individual, impartial advice. We’re really happy about the diverse customer base here in Frankfurt, since we love variety. What a horrible thought: selling the same grey, off-the-peg sofa over and over again to the same grey customers. I think it’s really refreshing when you meet a customer and you have no idea where the journey will take you. With such an extensive range and so many options for individualisation, it’s always great fun to find the right interior design solution together. We've got the right customers. We’ve got the right range. And we really want to inspire our customers with extraordinary ideas.

Stationary sales versus online shopping – why should people come and visit you in store rather than on the internet?

Kris Leonhard: It’s incredibly important to try out products, to experience them and to feel them, particularly when it comes to furniture. You can feel the different materials here in store, you can discover the colours and structures. You can sit on sofas, armchairs and dining chairs. You get a feel for the product and for what you like and what feels good. That’s something that you simply have to try out. You can’t do that on a screen. Of course, we are happy to advise people beforehand, either online or over the phone, but buying something blind on the internet isn’t a good idea – at least not for furniture, anyway.

What fascinates you about selling furniture?

Kris Leonhard: Interacting with customers, the versatility of the job and meeting people with very different tastes. I find it incredibly exciting to find the right combination of aesthetics, practicality, requirements and comfort. Those are the aspects that I really enjoy. That’s why I wake up every morning full of energy and look forward to my work. In situations where we advise people, we gain a deep insight into the most private areas of their lives. A certain amount of mutual trust is required for that. I see that as good encouragement.

Christian Ahrens: Our furniture planning helps to shape a fundamental aspect of people’s homes and lives, sometimes for the next 25 years. That requires plenty of know-how, experience, finesse and empathy. But it’s always super exciting and so much fun.

Imagine you are stranded on an island together. What piece of furniture would you like to have with you?

Kris Leonhard: I’ll give you three guesses... I’d choose Rolf Benz KUMO, of course! I could sit down on it comfortably to watch the sea and I’m sure it would be great to sleep on as well.

Christian Ahrens: That’s easy: definitely a huge NUVOLA corner sofa between eight and twelve metres in size. I’d be able to snuggle up and enjoy the island to the full. Since our living room is a bit too small for the sofa, spending some time on an island sounds pretty good to me.

How is your home furnished?

Kris Leonhard: Our personal luxury consists of two relatively small apartments. In our main apartment, the focus is on a spacious open kitchen with a big, inviting dining table. That’s where we like to eat, have fun, meet friends and family and spend wonderful evenings together. It’s a charming apartment in an old building with high stucco ceilings and wonderful old wooden floorboards. The furniture is relatively low-key and reserved so that the rooms can make an impact. The dominant colours are clean white and oak and the decorations are also somewhat reserved and pragmatic. Our second apartment is very small with 35 square metres and we use it as a cosy retreat. There are plenty of places to sit and lie down on various levels and lots of little details made from different types of materials – it’s a cosy oasis of well-being that we’ve put our heart and soul into. You could say it’s our own little island right in the middle of the city.


Thank you very much for talking to us. We wish you lots of success with the newly designed ROLF BENZ Haus, hope that you continue to enjoy working as a team, and wish you good fortune in advising your international clientele. 


Beck Design are Silja and Norbert Beck, one of Germany’s most successful (married) design team. Their latest sofa creation, Rolf Benz KUMO, features consistently organic curves, offering uncompromising seating comfort without any corners or edges. The sofa range, which is available in many different variants, premièred at the Rolf Benz Hausmesse in autumn 2021 and was a real visitor magnet. We talked to the designer duo about their love of craftsmanship, the symbiosis between their personal and professional life and the inspirational power of nature.

Silja and Norbert, you’ve been working with Rolf Benz for a long time now. How did this collaboration come about and why do you work so well together?

Norbert: We’ve been collaborating with Rolf Benz for over 20 years. The first opportunity to present a design for an extending table arose back in 1997. The table was launched a year later and that was the start of it all. I always look back fondly at those early days. At the time, Rolf Benz himself sat down with me at the table and talked passionately about the DNA of his brand. It was a really special time.

Silja: Rolf Benz has continuously developed and regenerated itself over the years. We’ve always enjoyed being part of that process, right up to the present day. We’ve formed a very close and trusting partnership over the years which we greatly value. It’s undoubtably also because at Rolf Benz, with all of their innovative spirit, there were always clear principles that were never negotiable, such as their high quality standards when it comes to product design, for example. That connects us with the Rolf Benz brand and is a sort of common denominator.   

Among the products you have designed for Rolf Benz to date, do you have a favourite item of furniture?

Silja: I personally love the classic Rolf Benz MIO sofa. It’s such a cosy sofa and there’s a reason why it’s been in our living room at home for many years. But I think that the new Rolf Benz KUMO sofa creation and the new Rolf Benz NOA chairs are really great, too.

Norbert: I don’t think I have an absolute favourite item. But my favourites definitely include the Rolf Benz 50, Rolf Benz MIO and the new Rolf Benz KUMO sofa ranges. In other words, sofas with character.

About Rolf Benz KUMO: what’s so special about it?

Norbert: Rolf Benz wanted an organic sofa range. That’s why we made sure that the outer sides of Rolf Benz KUMO flow into each other harmoniously and smoothly. The individual elements in each combination follow defined, curved lines. These lines are designed in such a way that the sofa can be positioned in the corner of a room but also away from the wall, that is, completely free-standing. We wanted to make sure it looks good wherever it is: in spacious, light-filled lofts as well as in smaller rooms. That’s why we consciously avoided upholstery that was too firm. Rolf Benz KUMO is a symbiosis of organic form and precise lines. It creates an airy and elegant look.

Silja: But what’s the point of good design if it isn't comfortable? That’s exactly what the inserted backrest cushions provide: sublimely comfortable sitting comfort. And that’s why the name suits it so well. “Kumo” is the Japanese word for cloud.

Did you face any particular challenges when designing Rolf Benz KUMO?

Silja: One of the biggest challenges was definitely working out the organic lines, with the fluid transition from the backrest to the seat. And, in fact, this required a lot of skilful craftsmanship during production. But there was another challenging aspect as well. According to the brief, all individual elements should also be able to stand independently in a room. That wasn't exactly easy, but it turned out surprisingly well in the end. The relaxation islands in their different sizes and versions in particular are virtually predestined for a strong solo appearance. The interaction between the individual elements can then create very attractive face-to-face scenarios.

Talk us through how you went from the briefing to the presentation. How do you do this?

Norbert: It’s a lengthy process. Everything is put on the table during a detailed briefing discussion. This includes the style of the sofa range, for example. We discuss which leather or fabrics should be used for the covers. We talk about which price category the sofa range should fall into. And of course, we examine the target group carefully.

Silja: Once all important points have been discussed with the design management team at Rolf Benz, that’s when we have a think about things from all possible angles. We usually spend a couple of days doing this.

Norbert: The first phase of approaching the design is sometimes also the most difficult. You’re constantly going back and forth, exploring different options. It involves a lot of research. We create preliminary sketches and work out the initial details with which the product can be characterised later on.

Silja: And eventually you get it: the magic moment when you suddenly think “That’s it!”. From that point on, the workflow is a bit more regulated but that doesn’t mean that our work becomes routine or any less exciting. Quite the opposite: Norbert starts building intricate models while I look in detail at the systematics of the sofa range.

Norbert: Lots of hard work will have been done by the day of the presentation. We will have worked out the design principle and clarified the feasibility of the details. This enables us to present extremely realistic models and layout plans which make a good and above all clear basis for discussions. 

You both attach great importance to modelling. Why is it so important to you?

Silja: There are different ways of visualising an idea and showing how you approach a design. Norbert and I both love craftsmanship, that’s why we usually decide to build a model. The feel and the real 3D experience of a furniture model can’t be beaten, in our opinion, nor can the complex rendering. Our hands-on models aren’t just well received at presentations, they also give us the necessary assurance about proportions and feasibility.

Norbert: In actual fact, there are also practical reasons why we prefer building models. A key advantage is that you often face the same challenges during the model-making stage that can be critical during the manufacturing process. To make our models as realistic as possible, we use professional woodworking machines, metalworking machines, a coating machine and, of course, various sewing machines in our studio. Our 3D printer is always useful as well.

You live near to Lake Constance. How important are your surroundings for your work as designers?

Silja: We feel really at home in this rural region and enjoy being close to nature. A sense of peace and mindfulness has grown from this that gives us the strength for our creative work. It’s our personal way of life that somehow feels harmonious and good.

You live and work together under one roof. How does that work out so well for you two?

Silja: We always felt a great need to shape our environment to suit our terms. It’s really difficult to draw a line between work and leisure. But we don’t want to do that either, which is why we can sometimes both be found in the workshop or office on a rainy Sunday afternoon. We do avoid discussing business in our living room. That was really important to us while our kids were still living with us but we usually stick to this agreement even now.

Norbert: Don’t underestimate the enormous amount of time that we save from being so close to work. We have a 5 second commute – very few people can say the same.

What makes your design stand out from the crowd? What’s especially important to you in your work?

Norbert: Durability is an overused term, but we take it really seriously. People spend a lot of money on good furniture. That’s why they should also expect the furniture they buy to work perfectly and still look good even after ten years. We don’t want to create average upholstered furniture, we strive for high quality furniture with its own character. If you look at sofas such as Rolf Benz MIO, Rolf Benz 50 or Rolf Benz KUMO, you will soon see what we mean

Norbert, you were previously an arts and crafts teacher. How did you get into furniture design?

Norbert: I always liked making things as a child. My father was a professional carpenter and joiner so the conditions for this were perfect. I was interested in designing and building things myself long before I trained as an arts and crafts teacher. After nine years of teaching, I started my own business with my initial designs. My first design was a folding dining table that I made myself. We put it in the boot of our car and sold it to various furniture dealers. Eventually, I was contacted by the first furniture factory and I created various designs for tables, chairs, beds and shelves for them in the years that followed.

Silja, what are the advantages of working together so closely as a married couple?

Silja: The fact that you can always consult each other is certainly a major advantage. You can refine and develop ideas especially during the drafting process or when you are discussing new designs. Having someone else’s point of view can really help, sometimes. You can also support each other during every phase of the project. It’s a good feeling, especially when things are hectic and the pressure is on.

The current situation means that people are spending significantly more time at home. What influence does this development have on living?

Norbert: The amount of time that people have been spending at home recently has certainly made them more aware of their surroundings. The need to make our homes nice and cosy has grown significantly, as has our willingness to spend more money on it. Whether that will continue to remain in the long term remains to be seen.

What do you think about the issue of sustainability?

Silja: It’s really important to us. We try to make our work as sustainable as possible. In the first instance, we focus on durability when it comes to form and appearance and we take great care to ensure that our products are modern but not modish. Our designs avoid the use of veneered or composite materials wherever possible. Individual substances are easier to segregate and recycle later on. We no longer use energy-intensive materials such as aluminium for purely decorative purposes and use them only where it really makes sense to do so, for structural reasons, for example. When choosing our clients, we also ensure that they take the issue of sustainability seriously and into consideration. Rolf Benz has demonstrated its exemplary commitment to sustainability and naturally we are very happy about this.

Norbert: We try really hard to keep our ecological footprint as small as possible. Our solar power system generates the same amount as our entire annual electricity requirement, including our electric car.

KUMO means “cloud” in Japanese. What makes you feel like you’re on cloud 9?

Silja: I’m definitely on cloud 9 in our home and garden. I really enjoy being there.

Norbert: I have to agree. And sailing. It clears your mind wonderfully for new ideas.

Thank you, Silja and Norbert. We wish you continued success, a fair wind and smooth sailing!

→ More information about Rolf Benz KUMO


Central, modern, attractive – after more than 10 years in the Stilwerk store in the Port of Hamburg, the ROLF BENZ HAUS moved to the new Stadthöfe district in the western part of the city in November 2021. Managing Director Alexander Raab has been working successfully in the furniture business for 35 years and is an enthusiastic furnishings expert. We spoke with the former Stilwerk co-founder about his redesigned Rolf Benz flagship store, the advantages of Hamburg city and the future of the furniture industry.

Mr Raab, you and your team have had quite a few busy weeks. You opened the new ROLF BENZ HAUS in the Stadthöfe district on 11th November, 2021. Are you happy with the result?

Absolutely. The presence of the Rolf Benz brand here in the new Stadthöfe district is really great. From experience, there are always some little jobs that need to be done for such an opening, and a few things still have to be finely tuned. But with the new ROLF BENZ HAUS, we were very, very close to hitting the 100% mark right from day one. Our visitors have been very impressed.

What do your customers expect in the new ROLF BENZ HAUS?

A unique Rolf Benz brand experience in a showroom that is approximately 400 m2, a size that is unparalleled in Europe. Of course, it’s certainly also related to the fact that there are some really impressive buildings here in the Stadthöfe district with extremely attractive retail spaces that are significantly different from the usual standard floor plans in retail. At every corner, you get the feeling that the property developers worked with great sensitivity and feeling for the architecture. The shops and retail spaces that are gradually opening up here in the Stadthöfe are definitely more than worth a visit for locals and tourists alike. It’s a remarkable area with plenty of style and charm.

It sounds like the perfect location...

It is. It’s really great. The Stadthöfe district in the western part of the city is located between Neuer Wall and Große Bleichen. These are the two streets in Hamburg with the highest-quality retail offering. Anyone looking for luxury and designer brands will find them here. The new ROLF BENZ HAUS fits in perfectly with this illustrious neighbourhood. In the past 20 to 25 years, many businesses turned their back on the city for cost reasons and moved out to the suburbs and the countryside. We are currently seeing a clear return to Hamburg’s inner city. I have every faith in this city location for the next 10 to 20 years, especially because providers of premium interiors are basing themselves here. This brings in attractive clientele, allowing high-quality furnishers to mutually benefit from each other.

The store concept for the new ROLF BENZ HAUS originates from Hamburg interior designers “Labsdesign” who also supervised the renovations. How well did you work with them?

Labsdesign did a damn good job and provided a fantastic design. The design studio has been a guarantee for success for Rolf Benz for years and stages our showrooms all over the world. Let me put it this way: if Labsdesign can manage to create impressive Rolf Benz flagship stores thousands of miles away in Asia, then they shouldn’t have a problem doing the same here in our wonderful Hanseatic city. After all, the Labsdesign team was quite literally playing at home. The interior architects’ office is just 10 minutes away from the Stadthöfe, so the conditions were as good as they could be. Our constructive cooperation with Labsdesign was based on trust. They are absolute professionals who don’t just have a knack for challenging product and spatial installations, they also have a thorough understanding of the retail sector’s requirements. And the necessary pragmatism. Ultimately, as a businessman, I don’t want to open a gallery, I want to sell high-quality products to my clientele in an attractive presentation space. We are more than happy.

You are Hamburg born and bred. What do you like about the Hanseatic city? And as a furnisher, what makes Hamburg so attractive?

Yes, Hamburg is my city. I live here, I work here. And, fortunately, there’s plenty of good business here. There has been lots of investment in new, high-quality building projects in Hamburg in recent years. Let’s take the HafenCity area as an example. Each new apartment building with between 40 and 60 residential units generates new potential customers for the furnishers in the inner city. The momentum in Hamburg’s housing market means that demand for exclusive interiors is growing simultaneously. We have all benefited greatly from this development in recent years and I’m certain that it will continue in the future as well. In short: we are in the right place at the right time.

Rolf Benz has been one of the pioneers of German design culture for over 50 years. Why do you think the brand is so successful? Why do people choose products from Rolf Benz?

Keep up with the times, all of the time - I think this saying from a Rolf Benz slogan hits the nail on the head. On top of that, the Rolf Benz brand is very well-known. Our clients are familiar with only a very few brands in the furnishing sector. In Germany, if you ask people about brands in the upholstery segment, Rolf Benz is usually the first one they mention. The brand stands for high quality, continuity and good, modern design that is “Made in Germany”. A name that people simply trust, and with good reason.

Sie arbeiten seit Jahren erfolgreich mit Rolf Benz zusammen. Was schätzen Sie an der Kooperation?

Die Verlässlichkeit und die Kontinuität. Auch und gerade auf Ebene der Geschäftsleitung und im Vertrieb. Die Unternehmensführung legt Wert auf eine langfristige Entwicklung der Marke. Und damit auch auf Kontinuität im Umgang mit den Kunden und Designern sowie in Sachen Produktentwicklung. Durch die gezielte Zusammenarbeit mit namhaften und international erfolgreichen Möbeldesignern wie Werner Aisslinger, Sebastian Herkner, Christian Werner oder auch Toan Nguyen hat sich das Sortiment in den letzten zehn Jahren enorm weiterentwickelt. Man hat neue Wege beschritten. Das hat sich aus meiner Sicht wirklich gelohnt. Die Kollektion präsentiert sich mit einem zeitgemäßen, frischen und modernen Look. Ist aber immer noch 100 Prozent Rolf Benz.

Wie würden Sie Ihren Wohnstil beschreiben und welche Rolf Benz Modelle passen besonders gut dazu? 

Mein Zuhause ist geprägt von einem sehr behaglichen, lässigen Luxus. Meine vier Wände sollen der Entspannung, der Ruhe, der Gespräche und der Lektüre dienen. Der Hochlehner Rolf Benz 594 von Sebastian Herkner und die Rolf Benz Outdoor-Kollektion YOKO von Toan Nguyen gefallen mir persönlich außerordentlich gut. Das ist Design auf absolutem Top-Niveau. Es sind Produkte wie diese, die dazu führen, dass seit einigen Jahren auch italienische Wettbewerber immer öfter auf dem Rolf Benz Messestand vorbeischauen. Das war nicht immer so. Eine großartige Entwicklung. Man darf gespannt sein, was da noch alles kommt.

Gibt es aus Ihrer Sicht die typischen Rolf Benz Kund:innen?

Die typischen Rolf Benz Kundinnen oder Kunden gibt es aus meiner Sicht nicht. Dazu ist das Angebotsspektrum inzwischen einfach zu facettenreich. Rolf Benz bietet mittlerweile ja eine riesige Produktauswahl: loungige Relax-Wohnlandschaften, hochwertige kubische Sofa-Klassiker, außergewöhnliche Multifunktionsmöbel, Stühle, Esstische, Betten und sogar eine Outdoor-Kollektion. Was aber alle Rolf Benz Kunden verbindet: sie schätzen die Marke und die hohe Produktqualität.

Das Thema Nachhaltigkeit ist in aller Munde. Wie stehen Sie als Einrichtungsexperte dazu.     

Unsere Kundschaft zahlt gutes Geld für gute Qualität. Langlebigkeit spielt hier eine ganz entscheidende Rolle. Gerade die Produkte von Rolf Benz sind von Haus aus für eine intensive und langjährige Nutzungsdauer ausgelegt. Wenn zufriedene Rolf Benz Kunden nach 15 bis 20 Jahren wieder zu uns kommen, um sich eine neue Rolf Benz Garnitur zuzulegen, dann gibt es aus meiner Sicht keinen besseren Beweis für Nachhaltigkeit. Im Übrigen bin ich davon überzeugt, dass die von Rolf Benz eingesetzten Materialien – von den Stoffen über die Gestelle bis zur Polsterung – einer Nachhaltigkeitsprüfung bestens standhalten.

Stichwort Online-Shopping. Einkaufen übers Internet wird immer populärer und hat in den letzten beiden Jahren zusätzlichen Schub erhalten. Welche Benefits bietet der stationäre Handel im Vergleich zu Online-Shops?

Der stationäre Einzelhandel bietet drei entscheidende Vorteile. Erstens: Das haptische Einkaufserlebnis. Unsere Kundinnen und Kunden können bei Rolf Benz zum Beispiel aus bis zu 200 Stoff- und 80 Lederausführungen den für sie passenden Polstermöbelbezug auswählen. Zweites: Man kann auf seinem Wunschmodell ganz real Platz nehmen und intensiv Probesitzen – oder auch Probeliegen. Das kann kein Online-Händler bieten. Und drittens: Wir befinden uns bei Rolf Benz in einer Preisklasse, in der die Kundschaft eine kompetente Rundumbetreuung erwartet. Vor dem Kauf, beim Kauf und nach dem Kauf. Diese vollumfängliche Betreuung bieten wir im stationären Einzelhandel. Da kann ein Online-Shop nicht mithalten. Hinzu kommt, dass sich immer mehr Menschen eine ganzheitliche innenarchitektonische Beratung und Raumplanung wünschen. Das erfordert nicht nur jede Menge Expertise, sondern auch eine intensive Auseinandersetzung mit den kundenspezifischen Lebensbedingungen, Anforderungen und Erwartungen. Die Informationen, die ich als Verkäufer im direkten Kundenkontakt von Angesicht zu Angesicht gewinne, kann ich dann entsprechend verarbeiten, um bedarfsgerecht auf die Kunden zu reagieren. So machen wir den Unterschied.

Sie sind ein renommierter Einrichtungsexperte und genießen in der Branche fast schon Kultstatus. Was fasziniert Sie am Möbel-Business und was ist Ihr Erfolgsrezept?   

Ich bin jetzt seit 35 Jahren im Möbel-Business aktiv. Was mich bis zum heutigen Tag begleitet ist meine Neugierde. Die Neugierde auf Kunden, auf Hersteller, auf neue Produkte. Aber vor allem auf die Menschen, die damit in Verbindung stehen. Und die sind in der Branche wirklich toll! Das war schon früher so und ist heute nicht anders. Mein Erfolgsrezept heißt Bauchgefühl. Auch darauf kann ich mich zum Glück bis heute verlassen.

Wie wird sich die Möbelbranche in den nächsten Jahren entwickeln? Was ist Ihre Prognose?

Ich sehe zwei Entwicklungen. Zum einen glaube ich, dass der klassische Stückeverkauf immer mehr über das Internet laufen wird. Zum anderen wird aber auch die Nachfrage nach kompetenter Planung und Beratung wachsen. Wir haben es in den letzten Jahren zunehmend mit einer Kundengruppe zu tun, die gezielt eine innenarchitektonische Beratung sucht, sich gerne professionell begleiten lässt und sehr offen ist für neue Inspirationen und Ideen. Die Anbieter müssen sich entscheiden, ob Sie auf einen Stückeverkauf über die Ausstellung und das Internet setzen oder den Fokus auf Beratung und Planung legen. Diese beiden Bereiche können übrigens wunderbar nebeneinander existieren. Der Kuchen ist groß genug.

Herzlichen Dank für Ihre Zeit, Herr Raab. Wir wünschen Ihnen und Ihrem Team viel Erfolg und weiterhin ein gutes Bauchgefühl bei allen aktuellen und künftigen Projekten.


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.