Photos by Jelka von Langen & Matthias Ziegler
Text by Petra Schmidt
When thinking about locations in Germany for ambitious young furniture companies, Münsterland, in the northwest corner of Westphalia, does not automatically spring to mind. Yet it is precisely here where the Stattmann Neue Moebel company, which is based in Ascheberg, to the south of the town of Münster, has made its home. The countryside is flat and the horizon wide. The houses are made of red brick and the region positively reeks of agriculture. The tractors chug along, ploughing precise lines in the fertile soil. This is where the company of carpenters has chosen to settle, in a hamlet in the midst of green countryside, far from industry and hipster cafés.
The fourth generation of Stattmanns are managing their company with local staff. Things might have just run their course, but the brother and sister team, the wood technician and master craftsman Oliver Stattmann and the designer Nicola Stattmann, realised their dream of owning their own furniture company where they combine design with craftsmanship. Since 2012, they have been producing their own collections of tables, chairs, benches, shelving and accessories. In just four years, they have managed to develop their brand into a well-known designer label noted for sustainable furniture. This is not merely on account of its classic straight lines and its elegance of design, but also for the clarity of the concept.
The company uses local woods from sustainable forests. The water-based wood stains are also environmentally friendly and the top-flight craftsmanship which distinguishes the finish is virtually unequalled these days. Precision dovetail joints render screws and glue obsolete and the open-pore surface finish allows the quality of the wood to shine through. Brother and sister do not design themselves, but have young designers like Steffen Kehrle from Munich, Sylvain Willenz and Marina Bautier from Brussels working for them under contract. These are designers who place an equally high value on the material as the Stattmanns. The company has just obtained a major order from Hamburg: tables and chairs for the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Time for a trip to the country.
How does a carpenter with a long tradition in Münsterland come to establish a furniture company?
Well, we had the idea some time ago. We had often spoken about how we might start our own furniture company and so I showed Oliver some furniture designs which I loved and we discussed the details. As a product designer, I was interested in the interface between craftsmanship and serial production. We had been making furniture for generations as carpenters. The products were individually crafted pieces, and of course, accordingly, they were rather expensive. We are taking a different path with our serially-produced furniture, which is still hand-finished by craftsmen and women, which is durable and will survive from generation to generation, but which is still affordable. These are not luxury products, but solid, functional furniture.
However, alongside our ideals, concrete economic considerations also played a part. I wanted an additional string to our bow, enabling us to make better use of our capacity and to fill any gaps in the order book. These days, even craftsmen and women have to be flexible and find new solutions.
Even though I live in Frankfurt, I feel very connected to my homeland and our family business with its long tradition of craftsmanship and everything that this signifies is particularly close to my heart. That’s why the future of the company is very important to me.
What aspects of design are important to you? What is your philosophy?
To us, good design means that the product possesses a certain obvious quality, but on closer inspection fascinates and inspires in terms of form and function. Clarity in combination with particularly constructive, innovative details that is important to us. Our pieces therefore feature straight lines; they’re honest, almost archetypal. The intention is for them to accompany people through life and feature in various rooms. The tables are suitable for mealtimes but can also be used as a desk. Benches, chairs and shelves have been designed so that they can be used in the kitchen, living room, hallways, offices and even in the bathroom.
Our furniture should become cherished pieces. The intention is for them to be passed on down through the generations, as was always the case with handmade products in the past.
How did you start? Did you call a few designer friends?
We got together and analysed the contemporary world of furniture. What’s happening? What do we want? What suits us? How can we make this project successful? The fact that we needed designers on the team who were already well-known and who knew all about furniture design was clear to us from the outset. We found designers who were good with wood, to whom lightweight construction was important and who were open to try something new.