Jan has now gained almost 20 years of experience in his profession: interior design and furnishing of office buildings.
Jan grew up in the Rhine-Main area. On his several stations across Germany, he completed a carpentry apprenticeship and then studied wood technology. His interest is mainly in architecture and design. Therefore, he switched from the technical side to sale and then to consultancy.
After 10 years in interior design consultancy, nearly three years ago, he joined Walter Knoll, one of the world’s leading brands in the high-end segment.
QX: Jan, a few years ago you decided to join Walter Knoll. What drove that decision?
Jan: Right from the very beginning of my career in 1999, the reliable quality and stringent design of the brand has captured me. At the time, the two classics Vostra and 369 had a great revival and in many projects that I was allowed to accompany, they were placed. In my almost 20 years in the contract and office furnishing industry, I have had Walter Knoll in my portfolio all the time. I have always loved Walter Knoll furniture and have been able to convince my clients to spend a little more money on much better quality and good design.
That's why I knew Walter Knoll and Walter Knoll knew me. So it was obvious to become part of Walter Knoll. To be honest, there are not many brands of similar value in my industry.
QX: Walter Knoll has been around since 1865. What’s the secret ingredient for this enduring success?
Jan: More than 150 years of experience in leather and wood let Walter Knoll produce furniture with the highest standards of quality and precision, mostly handmade, with the best values of “Made in Germany”. But there is more than know-how. It is passion that characterizes the employees.
That's why we've defined 5 qualities that are the substance of our brand and personality: creative, excellent, sensual, archaic, humane. The German terms are more catchy: S chöpferisch, E xzellent, S innlich, A rchaisch, M enschlich – SESAM.
Every visitor to our headquarters can feel that this is not just a marketing claim, but is lived by the employees.
QX: 150 years of creating living (and working) spaces and masterly craftsmanship: What is your personal highlight among the products?
Jan: Walter Knoll has so many products and variations, it's not easy to make a choice. However, our new Onsa Chair is the most comfortable lounge chair I've ever sat on. Remember: I have 20 years of professional experience, so that means something! Everybody is invited to test the comfort in our Walter Knoll Brandstore in Frankfurt. Of course, there is still a lot more to discover…
My second highlight are our carpets: the high quality in the design and the archaic crafts inspire me. These are not simple products, they are outstanding works of art! It is the absolute proof of how the close cooperation mentioned above can turn an idea into a great product.
QX: The Walter Knoll Board Room and Lounge form an integral cornerstone of the unique QX-Manor atmosphere and have become constant companions of the QX experience. Moreover, QX and Walter Knoll share the same passion in “designing relationships”. Which role do “relationships” play for Walter Knoll?
Jan: The one-line-drawing of the handshake, shown on the wall of the Walter Knoll Boardroom at QX-Manor, stands for mutual respect, trust and responsibility. These values characterize our relationship with partners and customers, architects and designers. As close as we work together with the architects and designers, so close is our cooperation with our customers. In my day-to-day work, 8 people in the project team support me to develop special, customer-specific solutions.
To give an example: Norman Foster is one of the most successful architects of our time. His buildings set standards worldwide for intelligent, extraordinary architecture. Foster received the Pritzker Prize and the Gold Medal for Architecture from the American Institute of Architects and was honored by the Queen for the title Lord Foster of Thames Bank.
The cooperation of Norman Foster and Walter Knoll began with the Berlin Reichstag. Since then, Foster has created several furniture-programs, including the Foster 520 armchairs, which are also part of the Walter Knoll Lounge at the QX Manor. This is reflected in the international projects of Foster + Partners, such as the VIP lounges at Hong Kong Airport.
Our customers confirm that this project work distinguishes us from competitors.
QX: End of September, 20th & 21st, a group of QX members will have the opportunity to visit you in Herrenberg. Can you provide us with a short insight with what to expect?
Jan: The Walter Knoll Brandland in Herrenberg tells the story of high-tech and craftsmanship, reveals an inspiring interior. It provides an insight into our corporate culture and allows to get in touch with the company. Reaching Herrenberg by train you are standing right across from our headquarter, a modern landmark made of glass, steel and concrete. You can watch significant parts of the manufacturing, the administration and the showroom at the top.
Every passerby can watch our upholstery at work, like a shop window
QX: Creativity is pivotal for your success. How does a company like Walter Knoll with such a long tradition stay innovative?
Jan: Walter Knoll has a very special and deep relationship with designers and architects. Not just in the recent past, but since the 1920s: the Walter Knoll furniture in the World Heritage Stuttgart Weissenhofsiedlung is witness to it.
Because new ideas and concepts are born of in-depth communication, intense processes and the clarification of ideas. Together, the search begins for the empty spaces, the gap for something which has never been. The right partners and long-term cooperation get you closer and closer to new solutions. A process which gains its strength from the synergy of design, product development and marketing.
The shared ability to analyze is one of the secrets of our success.
QX: And where do you personally get your inspiration from?
Jan: For years I have been interested in the art, architecture and design of the 20th century with a penchant for the International Style. I'm visiting all sorts of exhibitions and museums, read a lot and I am open to all topics. Sometimes it's the trivial thing that get me started thinking of new ideas.
All in all, I walk the world with my eyes and my ears open.
Another inspiring passion is hiking in the mountains. I walk 25-35 km on such a day, depending which heights to be done, whether in the middle Rhine Valley or in the Alps. After 1-2 hours my head is getting empty, everyday life is left behind and I can focus on the essential.
The great thing is that my two sons, 11 and 7 years old, are slowly discovering it too and accompany me.
QX: What is your Vanity?
Jan: Lying on the sofa and spend hours zapping through every kind of TV-program.
Thank you for the talk!