Anna Moldenhauer, Stylepark, in conversation with Jörg Loew, burgbad

Specialist without airs and graces

burgbad is market-leading in the field of bathroom furniture and has shaken up the sector with the modular system “RGB” by Stefan Diez. What is behind the brand from the rural Sauerland region in Germany? burgbad CEO Jörg Loew visits Stylepark.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 10/18/2019

Anna Moldenhauer: Mr. Loew, you have been at burgbad since 2002. What does the company stand for in your opinion?

Jörg Loew: burgbad is a very young brand and we – in particular our Marketing Director Ms. Meissner – have given a lot of thought to how we differ from the established companies. Previously we were a conglomeration of brands, today everything is more concentrated and united under burgbad. We develop the genetics of the brand alongside that of the company. We want to be likeable, daring and to stand out. As we are a mid-sized company we don’t have a long and complicated decision-making structure. Moreover, the working atmosphere is good – as I found out from my first day here. We work under a lot of pressure and are very goal-oriented, but I believe that our collaboration is enjoyable. And that we are really lucky to deal with an attractive subject, namely furniture.

Anna Moldenhauer: Which criteria did you apply to selecting the designers burgbad collaborates with?

Jörg Loew: It was important to us that the designers stand for those values that are also an intrinsic part of burgbad. Especially with regard to authenticity and approachability. All our locations are in the countryside, the people there don’t have airs and graces, they are down to earth and straight forward. Basically, we are like an industrial manufactory. And we want our designers to also transport this spirit through their work for us. It’s essential we get on with one another.

Anna Moldenhauer: Has anything altered in your philosophy since you were taken over by the Eczacibasi Group? Has burgbad become more international?

Jörg Loew: Definitely. I would have no objection to us becoming more international, having a direct dialog with international colleagues is very important for us. We also have a strong standing in France. The complexity results from the individual composition in the product philosophy of the respective country. This is much more difficult than just assessing the colour preferences in a bathroom.

Anna Moldenhauer: Yes, I appreciate that. Openness and diversity are indispensable for interesting new developments.

Joerg Loew: That is the one aspect and naturally there are other very specific aspects. You can’t be competitive in the mid-range segment if you produce in Germany and simultaneously want to be a leader in Sweden. We have assembled furniture and you always transport a lot of air through the area. That's why locations outside Germany are so important to us. The factory near Paris only serves the French market. That also makes sense in terms of sustainability. Due to logistics, you have to overcome higher hurdles in internationalization.

Anna Moldenhauer: Aside from the location issue to what extent is sustainability a topic for burgbad?

Jörg Loew: It is important for us in all aspects, in other words the economic, ecological and social impact. It is not about how much more furniture we sell when we have an ecological certificate – but rather about making it as long-lasting as possible. We were the first CO2-neutral bathroom manufacturer and that goes for the entire chain. I find that important. Thank God it would seem younger consumers lay great store by sustainability.

Robert Volhard: And how do you go about achieving it?

Jörg Loew: We are pursuing different approaches here. To reduce our electricity consumption, we have introduced an energy management system. We recycle production waste at all our sites. In the field of social sustainability, a pleasant working atmosphere is what counts for us. In addition, burgbad's social commitment is very important; we were very early members of the "Wir zusammen" initiative, which integrates refugees. You have to show more initiative, not just call for subventions.

burgbad has locations in Bad Fredeburg in Westphalia, in Greding, Lauterbach-Allmenrod and in Nogent le Roi in France. What are the two furniture factories in Germany specialised in?

Jörg Loew: Our factory in Bad Fredeburg produces real wood veneer and has a varnishing line. In Greding near Ingolstadt the focus is on larger quantities. The surfaces, which are produced there with large know-how, are made of real wood veneer, thermo front and melamine. In order to manufacture modern furniture, a lot of expert knowledge and craftsmanship is required, and an algorithm ensures that as little waste as possible is produced. We manufacture exclusively to order and have our own apprentice carpenter training at all locations.

Anna Moldenhauer: Where is your focus when you combine industrial manufacture and volume?

Jörg Loew: Manufacturers are usually best in the field in which their historical roots lie. When a ceramic producer suddenly produces furniture, he often lacks the expertise. We prefer to be specialists. This puts us in a position to manufacture both industrial manufactories and volume products. Due to our high vertical range of manufacture and batch size, we are able to respond to individualisation for the end consumer.

Anna Moldenhauer: Is the high production depth an important differentiating factor of burgbad vis-à-vis your competitors?

Jörg Loew: Oh, absolutely. Many furniture makers work as “samplers”. That is very easy: you buy parts, assemble them, and that’s it. If you want to cover many segments you have to be able to offer a variety of designs. That demands in-depth know-how. It also offers designers greater scope: If you apply the varnish yourself or bend the individual parts there are less limits to your creation.

Anna Moldenhauer: With “RGB” by Stefan Diez Burgbad has embarked on a new path – essentially, your modular system can be used anywhere in the home. What was your motivation?

Jörg Loew: The genetics of burgbad are in a constant state of change and will always be further developed with a view to the future. Meaking a beautiful product is no longer enough. We want to offer more, even beyond the bathroom. This is how the idea for "rgb" was born - our furniture does not necessarily have to be limited to the bathroom. They also work in the other rooms. "RGB" is easy to assemble. And of course I can take the system with me when I move. It fits into today's mobile world.

Jörg Loew, CEO burgbad
Sabine Meissner, Marketing Manager burgbad

Anna Moldenhauer: What sort of feedback have you had at the imm cologne for “RGB” so far this year at trade fairs?

Jörg Loew: At the imm cologne, "RGB" received an incredibly good response. So it was all the more wonderful that many of the international designers and architects visited us at the fair and were enthusiastic about "RGB". This encouraged us to go with the product above all to marketing partners who have an affinity for living and furnishing.

Anna Moldenhauer: I would agree with you, but my impression was that the skepticism towards “RGB” at the fairs led to visitors looking very closely at the function and quality of the product so that in the end they were even more convinced about it.

Jörg Loew: That’s right. Once you’re convinced you don’t change your mind. Products like “RGB” also make a better fit for life in our cities. A variable that is timeless and combines well with other things. And the furniture works well both in small areas and difficult architectures. We are currently revising the product and advancing it. So far, we have only shown a small selection so as not to confuse customers with so many options for individualization.

Robert Volhard: Microliving is a much-discussed topic right now – and in response we are seeing more flowing transitions in small apartments. How do you see the position of Burgbad in this context?

Jörg Loew: Years ago, it was unthinkable to have an open kitchen, today it’s different. I still have my reservations when it comes to bathrooms as they are wet rooms and an intimate zone. The problems are also the different temperature areas. People tend to prefer cool bedrooms, while bathrooms are generally warm. Bathroom furniture simply has to offer several facets as with “RGB” by Stefan Diez, “MYA” by Jeannette Altherr or our system program “Flex” by Teresa Meister. The latter is height-adjustable for example, expandable and grows as the kids do but without producing the impression of a children’s room or a sickroom. By combining the furniture’s practicality with coziness we have created a lifelong companion that is functional and attractive.

Anna Moldenhauer: When it comes to your presentation at fairs what is important to you apart from the product?

Jörg Loew: The trade fair stand belongs to the face to the outside. We take great care to ensure that it also shows the brand's genetics. The presentation always claims to be architecture. We have been working together with the architects Bottega + Erhardt from Stuttgart for a long time.

Anna Moldenhauer: Is there a development in the bathroom area you find exciting at the moment?

Jörg Loew: What is becoming increasingly important is integrated lighting in bathroom furniture. Since the demand for light changes during the day, we have developed mirror cabinet lighting that can be adjusted manually or automatically. Another topic is lightweight construction, especially for urban areas and also with a view to the retail sector. This way, transport costs can also be minimised. In addition, there are the big themes of safety in the bathroom and creating an ideal atmosphere for daily spa rituals that serve relaxation.

Anna Moldenhauer: Finally, can you give us an idea of how burgbad wants to develop in future?

Jörg Loew: We have to pick up the craftsman and specialist dealer as well as the end consumer. Our challenge is to remain true to the brand base as a supplier of stylish, timeless bathroom furniture and at the same time to show that we are specialists for furniture and sophisticated furnishings beyond the bathroom. Products such as "MYA" by Jeannette Altherr and "RGB" by Stefan Diez prove this competence.