Objects with potential
On the gravity of tradition, hybrid furniture items and updatable design: in conversation with Thomas Wagner Mike Meiré explains what he feels is most important when repositioning long-standing corporation Flötotto.
Flötotto Systemmöbel GmbH
Am Ölbach 28
T: +49 5241 9405 414
F: +49 5241 9405 555
Flötotto from 1906 until the present – a family with an entrepreneurial spirit
Since Heinrich Flötotto founded the company in 1906, the Gütersloh-based Flötotto firm has undergone a process of continual development to become one of the best-known of German furniture brands. Today, more than a third of the German population knows the name of the traditional company, which, since 2008, has been headed by the founder’s great-grandson Frederik Flötotto, representing the fourth generation of the family to lead the company.
From a cabinetmaker’s workshop to industrial production: due to an early move into industrial production, in the 1940s, the company quickly developed to become a large furniture producer. Heinrich’s sons Franz and Fritz then joined the company. While Franz continued to produce domestic furniture, in the 1950s, Fritz started to develop ergonomically designed office and school furniture. In 1952, he patented the innovative pagwood ‘Formsitz’, which later became known the world over: a seat shell for chairs, made from beechwood veneers soaked in phenolic resins and fused under high pressure and temperature – basically a wooden seat shell offering the qualities of plastic. The Flötotto Formsitz has sold more than 21 million units.
Between 1969 and 1991, the family’s third generation took over. Franz’s sons Franz, Elmar and Hubertus, as well as Fritz’s son Reinhard, independently of each other developed different areas of the business, which were all related to the production or retail of furniture for the private and public sectors.
In the 1970s, a pioneering design was developed at Flötotto that today still shapes the brand’s strong image: the Flötotto Profilsystem is a sturdy-yet-flexible design that has become a classic. At the same time, Flötotto was one of the first companies to sell their furniture directly to private customers, thus entering into new forms of distribution.
After a period of expansion during the 1980s, followed by financial troubles during the 1990s, the company came back on track towards the end of 2007 when the Elmar Flötotto Holding Company acquired the trademark and production rights to the Flötotto brand. Since 2008, Flötotto Systemmöbel GmbH has acted under the umbrella of the family-led Elmar Flötotto Holding Company. As an established institution in the international design business, the Holding company has proven its entrepreneurial and design capabilities with its Flötotto, Authentics and Sitting Bull brands.
Flötotto and the future: a company moving forward
The continuous development of innovative and flexible furniture is Flötotto’s highest priority. A team of international designers tackles questions such as: how will we live, work and learn in the future? And how can Flötotto co-create the future of living, learning and working, taking into consideration issues such as ergonomics, ecology and sustainability? To this end, in 2011 alone, the company invested more than 3 million euros in the latest production technologies and in product development at its Delbrück-Westenholz site. In 2012, with the development of the PRO line of chairs in cooperation with the designer Konstantin Grcic, Flötotto has reconnected to its successful tradition of producing school furniture.