Rolf Benz – The world’s Best Sofa.
About Rolf Benz
50 Years of Rolf Benz
It is almost a hundred years ago since painter and photographer Heinrich Zille pronounced that “it is just as easy to kill a person with a home as with an axe”. Since 1964, the German firm ROLF BENZ has been doing its bit to radically reduce incidences of death by bad home furnishing. Because for exactly 50 years, ROLF BENZ has been producing sofas. Some say they are the most appealing sofas to be had since we humans discovered the physical pleasure of leaning back and relaxing somewhere between lying and sitting. Anyone willing to contradict? There is a reason why sofas from ROLF BENZ are to be found providing luxurious comfort in elegant locations the world over.
They may have conquered the world, but these highly prized zones of relaxation originate from a tiny, peaceful spot on the edge of the Black Forest by the name of Nagold. Here, fifty years ago, a young designer realized that while everything relating to furnishing may impact temporarily on our reason, it remains permanently embedded in our emotions. This is why with every individual sofa, the familiarity and popularity of the ROLF BENZ brand – now a household name in over fifty countries – is helping create that uniquely personal spot we spend a lifetime longing for. The spot in which we feel we have finally come home. A sofa from ROLF BENZ – for the past 50 years “the” place we all long for, the place we all belong. But why is it that it takes a sofa to create a “place of longing”? Or indeed: Do we need a sofa at all? The rational answer is a resounding: No! The emotional one is an equally vehement: Yes!
What is a Sofa?
True: we all need a chair, a table or a bed. But a sofa is simply so much more than either a chair, a bed or a table. Because it doesn’t fulfil a rational need, but an emotional one. This is the explanation for the relatively late advent of this particular form of furniture in our cultural history. It only came into being when we humans (could) allow ourselves the luxury of relaxation in the daytime.
This degree of luxury used to be the sole province of the nobility, first by placing a footstool in front of a chair, and adding the requisite padding. And
because, despite all the padding, this failed to provide the ultimate experience in comfort, this improvised combination evolved into chaise longue , the ottoman, the recliner and finally, not until the early 19th century, the sofa. The island of relaxation which taught us to daydream, and brought us the enjoyment of idleness, ease and leisure.
For 50 years, ROLF BENZ has been enticing people to dream, to dose, to relax, put their feet up, stretch out, collect their thoughts, relax, chill out, ruminate, snuggle, take time out, order their thoughts, or simply take a nap… However you want to put it: It is only on our sofa that we shed the stress of the day, feel at home with ourselves and really slow down. Making time stand still, letting the world pass you by – nowhere else can you achieve this but on a sofa. In the words of the poet Theodor Fontane, “there is nothing to beat calmness, quiet, a sofa and a cup of tea”. He was so right. The sofa does not fulfil a practically necessary function in our home, instead it is a place, an oasis of calm in our lives. It is encourages contemplation, tranquillity, self-discovery. It is the one haven where we can step away from the everyday practical thoughts and worldly worries that pursue us as we sit at tables and chairs and even as we go to bed. A sofa can set us free. It was precisely this realization that moved the freshly qualified young upholster Rolf Benz from Nagold in the Black Forest to found the company ROLF BENZ back in 1964.
Success since the “Sixties”
1964 was all about freedom, about breaking out from the dowdy drabness of fifties Germany under Adenauer. An end to the confines of fully packed living rooms, to standard lamps and kidney-shaped tables. 1964 saw the start of a movement embracing clarity and freedom of design. Neatly matching sets were out. The things which surrounded us divested themselves of superfluous fussy ornamentation. A new appreciation of space, of width and clarity took hold. Just a year before, Martin Luther King had formulated the words which expressed this new longing. His “I have a dream” speech reflected the aspiration for social freedom and the breaking down of barriers. The sentiment was echoed by John F. Kennedy in his famous 1963 Brandenburg Gate address: “Ich bin ein Berliner”. As the economic miracle unfolded and the Federal Republic of Germany saw full employment, it also learned the word: Leisure. The ZDF broadcasting company and the football Bundesliga were born. The Rolling Stones released their first LP in 1964 and the Beatles had five hit singles reach the top five of the US hit parade. Fashions by Courrèges or Cardin adopted a new geometric clarity of form. The Porsche 911 hit the streets for the first time in 1964, as did the “Pagoda”, or rather the Mercedes 230 SL. A fresh new wind was beginning to blow.
Rolf Benz the upholsterer had the foresight to read the signs of the times. The very first sofa and armchair range launched by the young company reflected the new longing for freedom and sense of space: the “Addiform” by ROLF BENZ. This was a concept which made a radical break with the traditional static three-piece suite format – sofa, two facing armchairs, coffee table. The elements of the “Addiform” were designed to be flexible, to allow arrangement in different combinations. What emerged were not conventional seating groups but “furnishing landscapes” which opened up free rein for the imagination. As the name implies, the “Addiform” concept envisaged the simple “addition” of elements. Chairs could be free-standing, they could be linked across corners to a corner table, joined to create a bench or sofa, arranged in a row with an adjacent coffee table in the middle or at the end – in short, the possibilities were endless. The sofa could even be folded out to create comfortable additional sleeping accommodation. For the first time, the “Addiform” gave our living rooms the scope to pursue boundless possibilities and us the freedom to think outside the box. “Addiform”: Simplicity, strict clarity, matter-of-fact design which has both visual appeal
and practical benefits.
Rolf Benz Today
Looking at it from today’s perspective, we can only wonder at how ROLF BENZ succeeded in so consistently capturing the spirit of that age with its new sense of space in a design that is both modern and timeless. The “Addiform” was a resounding success, a key contributor in the world of furniture to the German economic miracle that was unfolding in 1964, and a solid
foundation for the future of ROLF BENZ. Even in those early days, the company’s products lived up to the principle that the flexibility and mobility of the furniture we live with should equal the flexibility and mobility of our minds. Mobility and modularity were to be the
underlying themes at ROLF BENZ over the following years, embodied in its modular upholstered systems, featuring the “Benz corner” and then in 1969 the modular system “Variset” which were to spearhead the typical upholstered furniture landscapes of their age – naturally covered in brown corduroy.
With the advent of a new era of cool lounges and relaxation zones for the discerning, in 2003 the company launched its EGO as the ultimate “made to measure sofa”. Today, VIDA, ONDA or NEO still subscribe to the ethos of these highly complex modular ranges. Ranges that allow the creative customer the greatest possible scope for individualization, with the freedom to reconfigure and adjust the different modules to any specific living situation.
The computer industry with its ever more slender flat screens is not alone in creating a quiet revolution: clarity of forms and slender contours are transforming the furniture sector too. And yes, just as it did in 1964 with the “Addiform”, once again ROLF BENZ gives us the gift of endless possibilities in its own inimitable and elegant style. Its sofa ranges are designed to give every individual the freedom to think around corners, to line up in rows, to adjust and adapt, even to create our own ergonomy. Spearheading furnishing trends today are individually changeable, multifunctional sofas with adjustable seat heights and depths. Infinitely variable headrests, variably mountable and adjustable backrest and side cushions, depth adaptation – all these features invite us to find our very own favourite position for relaxation. The ROLF BENZ sofa has become the ultimate made-to-measure suit for our homes. Behind the somewhat innocuous term “system furnishing range” is in reality nothing other than the core competence which has distinguished the ROLF BENZ brand for 50 years.
Today we are seeing the merger of classical living areas into open-ended living spaces: we spend time reading books or magazines in the bathroom, we watch TV in the kitchen, and sleeping, working, living are no longer cordoned off in their own separate spheres. Because for the past 50 years, furniture, sofas and chairs from ROLF BENZ have been designed and produced for living spaces, not for living rooms or lounges. It is this that makes the name ROLF BENZ synonymous with comfortable sitting, perfect innovative design and superb hand-crafted quality “Made in Germany”.
In 2014, the international success enjoyed by ROLF BENZ sofas is due in large part to the farsighted management strategy adopted by ROLF BENZ AG & Co. KG since it became part of the wellknown Westphalian HÜLS Group of Companies (hülsta, Parador, RUF-Betten). It is this strategy which makes the company fit for the future and places it on three firmly established pillars. Firstly, ROLF BENZ is the furnisher of choice for the individual homes of a highly exclusive and discerning private clientele the world over.
Secondly, the company’s global project business has been successfully expanded over recent years. As mundane as this may sound, it means that practically every one of us will have touched the world of ROLF BENZ at some time somewhere around the world – without even knowing it. We will have sat on a ROLF BENZ sofa or a ROLF BENZ recliner somewhere at some time in a public or semi-public place. Maybe it was Copenhagen, maybe Shanghai, Baden-Baden or Munich, Amsterdam or Abu Dhabi. Perhaps at an airport or in a hotel? An embassy or an exclusive shop? No matter: We felt like sitting down – and ROLF BENZ was there. The world over! It is when you least expect them that things often tend to happen. So we may have made our very first acquaintance with Rolf Benz in a public place, because when we were in Singapore we were attracted by contours or the practicality of a coffee table, or because we fell head over heels for a couch or a recliner that was so comfortable and inviting in Johannesburg. An innocent flirt with ROLF BENZ. And as we all know, a little flirtatiousness in public can develop into a profound and passionate love affair behind closed doors.
The third pillar of the company strategy goes by the name “freistil”. The company management has succeeded in establishing a young, refreshing and uncomplicated brand designed to appeal specifically to the free spirits of the up-and-coming generation of furniture lovers. “freistil” has succeeded in using unconventional means to reach out to the target group of furniture consumers who are still enjoying the carefree, relaxed, no-ties existence. “freistil” is a teaser, in some cases even a starter drug to hook them into the world of ROLF BENZ.
Today, the company ROLF BENZ is headed up by Chairman Heiner Goossens. More of a creative entrepreneur than simply a corporate manager, this is a man with the courage to embrace the new and seek for broader horizons. Unlike much of the lamenting furniture industry, Goossens has the abiltiy to think outside the box. He understands that willingness to take risks is the only way to effectively minimize those risks. “The successful implementation of our three-pillar strategy has set our company on course for a successful future”, says Heiner Goossens. He is confident that ROLF BENZ “is on track to cope with the future challenges which await us in the national and international arena, which will ensure that we remain one of the most significant and desirable luxury furnishing brands in the future”. Words which carry the unmistakable ring of 50 years of responsible corporate ethics. No wonder: each individual item of upholstered furniture carrying the ROLF BENZ brand name is crafted by the joint effort of 430 employees with an unshakable belief in values which often
run the risk of being forgotten in our fast-moving world. Each sofa from ROLF BENZ is created out of “entrepreneurial sincerity”, of a dedicated “aspiration to produce quality made in Germany” and of “craftsmanship to the very highest standards”.
Made in Germany!
When we sit down on a ROLF BENZ sofa, then we can relax in the knowledge that we are sitting on a superb and exclusive piece of Germany at the very peak of its performance. This is why at the company headquarters Nagold, there is an unquestioning and uncompromising commitment that production will always stay firmly rooted in the nearby factory in Mötzingen. There is simply no question: The “Made in Germany” quality seal stands for performance and tradition, for technical innovation and artistic creativity. For ROLF BENZ and its customers, this seal is integral to the crash barriers lining the highway of consumerism. For decades, “Made in Germany” has stood as a globally understood attribute, more than simply an indication of the country of origin. It is about Goethe and Beckenbauer, poetry and football. “Made in Germany” equates with assurance, security and trust. And more: it is a commitment to the value of a product rather than its price. Consumers who are interested only in a bargain and who seek out the cheapest offers will probably fail to be touched by the aura emanating from the “Made in Germany” label. They will not realize that “Made in Germany” stands for a company’s attitude, shaped by its determination to provide solid German workmanship. There is no doubt that products which are “Made in Germany” are highly sought after and enjoy an excellent reputation the world over. Take only the best that every country has to offer: A glass of Italian wine on a German sofa is most certainly better than the other way around.
There is really only one way to understand how the essential ingredients dedication, expertise, meticulous care, a sense of responsibility and love of the product are all lovingly combined in the Mötzingen production plant – and that is by experiencing it first hand. The difficult manual craft of upholstery, naturally nowadays supported by the use of high-tech instrumentation, has been traditionally cultivated here for 50 years. The craftsmen here know that there are certain things machines simply cannot do. Every sofa, every item of furniture that leaves the Mötzingen factory after a development period of between nine months and two years is a tribute to the art of hand crafting. Even the warehouse at ROLF BENZ in Mötzingen is experienced by visitors as a haven of sensual pleasure, a place where the smell and feel of quality materials is enough to produce an unforgettable high. Ecstasy is strictly allowed here: the high bay storage compartments at ROLF BENZ house over 120 leather articles and 200 fabrics. All cut and sewn lovingly by hand. Preliminary padding takes place on frames produced exclusively by hand from German beech – because of its superb quality. The actual upholstery process is done by hand. Final inspection: by people. All this individual attention makes each and every ROLF BENZ sofa unique. And finally: The individual upholsterer signs his name against the finished item of furniture. To automation enthusiasts, these production methods may sound somewhat old-fashioned or even archaic – after all, there are machines to take care of production. Machines which punch, press, knock, cut and much, much more. It’s true! But the people at ROLF BENZ firmly believe that only people can develop and pass on expertise, and that the very highest quality furniture can only be produced by old-fashioned, genuine hand crafting.
PRIZE-WINNING DESIGN from ROLF BENZ.
Renowned freelance designers have been working hand in hand with the ROLF BENZ design department for 50 years to lend the nimbus of distinctiveness to perfect sofas, recliners and chairs. They work on evolving a form of styling which is in tune with the times but at the same time never ingratiates itself with prevailing tastes. It does not ignore international trends, nor does it trail along after them. The Design Awards which regularly find their way to Nagold are testimony to the company’s ability to design and build sofas which satisfy the human body and soul – instead of creating instant visual appeal at the mercy of changing fashions. The perfect sofa is more than simply form and function. What makes a sofa perfect is precisely the fact that nobody thinks to wonder about what makes it the perfect sofa.
Every item of furniture by ROLF BENZ undergoes a development period of between nine months and two years before it is finally rolled out to stun the collected trade public at key furniture fairs such as the IMM in Cologne or the Saloni del Mobile in Milan. Each individual sofa needs and wants to be owned by someone special. Elegant, luxurious, comfortable sofas and couches, chairs and recliners from ROLF BENZ make the journey from the small German town of Nagold on the edge of the Black Forest out into the world to owners who know just exactly what it is they want: Not to live in their living rooms but to occupy a space designed for living.