The new Art Nouveau
Fabian Peters: What prompted the Schramm family to take on interlübke, a company that had recently gotten into deep water?
Philipp Schramm: Ultimately, the decision was actually more of an emotional one: Such an important company that over the last fifty years has so decisively shaped furniture culture in Germany, perhaps even in the whole of Europe, should not be allowed to fail. So, we decided to make interlübke a family-run business again, as it was for many decades.
Were ideas floated before this to expand beyond bed manufacture?
Philipp Schramm: Even though we never followed that idea through to its logical conclusion we did think about it of course. As bed manufacturers it would make sense for us to also offer wardrobes. For example, to date we have always needed cooperation partners for our Asian showrooms. But it certainly wasn’t the case that we were looking for a firm to take over.
Your father Axel Schramm and your mother Angela jointly run the firm in the third generation. You are the oldest of four children. Was it only logical that you would be the person to take the fate of interlübke into your hands?
Philipp Schramm: About three years ago my parents called a family council of sorts, at which we discussed these very topics: What interests do each of us have? How does everyone see themselves and how are they seen by the others? What strengths do we each have? And it turned out that my siblings see me as heading the company in the long term. So, we were quick to agree that I should take over as CEO at interlübke.
How did you go about your new task as CEO?
Philipp Schramm: How do you start? By asking many questions, getting a lot of things explained and most importantly by listening. I believe the latter was especially important – above all because previously there had been so many changes at interlübke over such a short time period. Schramm always had the advantage that it provided a great deal of continuity. My grandfather and now my father – have always stood for constancy in our firm. At interlübke I had the feeling that things worked wonderfully if I let the employees talk first –rather than simply announcing decisions, which is perhaps how a financial investor would approach things.
You also initiated changes in how the company worked. What motivated you to do so?
Philipp Schramm: I soon noticed in my new position that probably because of the many changes in ownership a certain “subservience to authority” had slipped in at interlübke. But at the same time many employees were very unhappy with this situation.
How did you respond to that?
Philipp Schramm: I decided to risk an experiment and employed the so-called scrum-method for it. The latter was originally developed as a software development tool. Essentially, the aim is for people to work together as an interdisciplinary team in finding solutions for certain problems. This meant say for half a week a team of a machine programmer, machine operator, warehouse officer and forklift truck operator all sat down together over a certain problem. And suddenly we came up with solutions really quickly. For example, we moved a machine 300 meters that had stood at the same place for 40 years – and consequently we don’t need to take on someone to replace a worker who retired.
Have you noticed a change in mood since you took over at interlübke?
Philipp Schramm: We enjoyed a certain amount of trust from the start, perhaps because Schramm and interlübke go back a long way. My grandfather was a supplier to interlübke in the late1970s. So the one or other employee knew us already. And since Schramm and interlübke had long since been neighbors at imm cologne that also led to repeated contact. Moreover, the Schramm employees in Winnweiler also knew interlübke of course. Familiarity – that also always creates a certain degree of security! But I would also admit that at the beginning we weren’t all best buddies.
What can you tell us about the future product philosophy at interlübke? For example, the recent trade fair presentation looked very different to what we are accustomed to seeing from interlübke.
Philipp Schramm: With the new sideboard “just cube” by Werner Aisslinger featuring new colors and materials we have already given some clues as to how we imagine our future: Our focus will continue to be on the quality of our products both as regards the material and the design. But we also want to give our portfolio a somewhat more cozy and contemporary touch. Another aspect we are concentrating on right now: How do I win over the customer of the future? This rejuvenation is precisely what we need. I am thinking of special materials, valuable fabrics, burnished metals, bronze. These are things that express longevity and sustainability. Simply because it is not PVC from an injection molding cabin. Take the dressing room we presented at the last imm cologne: It was made of two and a half thousand-year-old bog oak and monograms were embossed on the leather doors. Naturally we make such extremely high quality custom-made furniture for a very special target group. But at the same time, we also need such eye-catching products as promotion to convince someone today that will be our target group years from now.
The young Berlin designer Hanne Willmann has been Creative Director at interlübke for a year. What new ideas can she give interlübke?
Philipp Schramm: From the start Hanne’s design language has shared one thing with interlübke: A straightforward approach. Straightforwardness is a central aspect of interlübke’s DNA. At the same time, she also brought a certain femininity that the brand was previously lacking and I believe is very beneficial to it. She also helped us choose several other young designers who are currently creating new products for us. Their first designs will be on show at imm cologne 2020, demonstrating our idea of sustainable, high-quality furniture intended to appeal especially to young buyers with an appreciation for quality.