True values never die
CEO of Walter Knoll shares the secret of the German furniture company's success
For Markus Benz, the leading German furniture company Walter Knoll is a family-managed enterprise that continues to revolutionise its designs and retain its quality to fit the demand of present-day luxury lifestyle.
It was in 1993 that the centuries-old company was taken over by his family and ever since has become a top design leader in furnishings and upholstery for home and offices throughout the world.
As CEO, Benz is not new to facing challenges and pressures, but if there is one thing that keeps him going is the brand’s illustrious history.
“Walter Knoll is known as the furniture brand of modernity,” said Benz. “Founded in 1865 at a leather shop in Stuttgart, the company continues to make its mark in the history of furniture, creating classic and avant-garde pieces alongside modern designs.
“Today, Walter Knoll has grown considerably, becoming one of the leading manufacturers in the international lifestyle and luxury furnishings segment.”
Benz places priority in fostering close ties with his designers and architects, for the simple reason that they understand the company’s vision to use design as an expression of today’s international lifestyle. The intent is to develop furniture that embodies creative values that are understood and appreciated by all cultures.
Walter Knoll has worked with many renowned architects and designers from Vienna, Milan and London, including Norman Foster and Pearson Lloyd from Great Britain, EOOS from Austria, Ben van Berkel from the Netherlands, Kengo Kuma from Japan and Claudio Bellini from Italy. Apart from their creative side, there is a merging of each individual’s influences, ideas, experiences and know-how that makes each furniture line a unique composition of style and elegance.
If you are wondering what it takes for a company to reinvent itself through the years to stay in contention with its competitors, Benz might have just the answer.
“Once I was asked in an interview that if a book was written on Walter Knoll, what the title would be and why. I replied ‘True values never die’. Since the very beginning, Walter Knoll has shaped and influenced lifestyles.
“By preserving and reinterpreting true values, we continue to stay fresh. True values, for us, are values which are understood and appreciated in every culture. Mutual respect, confidence and responsibility govern our collaboration with architects and designers, customers and partners. Master craftsmanship, the very best of materials and lasting designs have shaped our products for almost 150 years.”
Benz says to stay on top of their game, it is important to remain true to their philosophy, which is simply to churn out fresh ideas, exceptional designs and cutting edge technology to complete the task in front of them. Each product is created with a special environment, “the look and feel of Walter Knoll”, that distinguishes itself from the rest. Attention to detail can be noted in the exquisite craftsmanship, he said, be it in their signature seams, sophisticated upholstery details or use of the finest materials.
To set up shop in a new country, he said it was essential to build and maintain communication between their partners and customers. Their year-long presence in Thailand is no different.
“We are lucky to have Chanintr Living as a partner here in Thailand. They are very capable and share a deep understanding of the design language found in furniture. In fact, we have known each other for much longer than the Walter Knoll’s presence in Thailand.
“For us, a market like Thailand and especially Bangkok is really attractive since Bangkok is a city with an international lifestyle and a strong tradition in craftsmanship. In these markets our brand is perceived extremely well, for people appreciate the excellence. I strongly believe that being successful here, is just a matter of time and investment and, most of all, of having the right people to work with.”
While sharing his preference in furniture, Benz said that he personally liked furniture with clear forms and straight lines, built by a master craftsman and with prominent designs.
“Thus, my home is furnished with classics,” he mused. “For example, my kitchen has a somewhat modern classic look. But most of all, I like my sofa “Grand Suite” from Austrian design team EOOS for Walter Knoll. For there’s nothing like falling on a cloud after a hard working day!”
As for what to expect in terms of up-and-coming trends in furniture designs, Benz said that furniture trends may continue to change through the years, but there are certain values that will always remain true and important to manufacturers, these include excellence in craftsmanship, maintaining the finest materials and sophisticated designs.
“Good designs capture the mood of the time. This comes from an inherent understanding of how people want to live.”