As a team
Anna Moldenhauer: Oskar, how come you always manage to be in the right place at the right time?
Oskar Melzer: (laughs) I believe that’s merely good intuition on my part. I try to act on my gut feelings whenever possible. If you only follow trends things can get complicated. But there’s no such thing as a recipe for success in such matters.
So far you have been, among other things, a DJ and a restauranteur, have run a club, been an assistant director, a gallery owner and have established an online startup. Would you describe yourself as self-taught?
Oskar Melzer: All those projects grew together, so to speak. As a teenager I started buying records. The next step was then to spin the disks at clubs. Through my music I got into an avant-garde kind of world, which led to the next steps. With the design for the “Weekend Club” we collaborated with Robertneun Architekten, who are absolutely great. It’s through them that I learnt how architects work. And apart from all that, quite a few things just happened by chance.
Does chance play a major role in your life?
Oskar Melzer: Yes. Chance does play a big role, but you do have to be prepared for it, to be able to seize yours.
And what would you call your job? Interior architect, interior designer, concept developer?
Oskar Melzer: It is a mixture of everything. Having an idea, developing it into a concept, designing something, shaping it. And then, as the last step, going forwards and hoping that it will be a success.
You recently designed a new showroom for ZiegertKnightFrank in collaboration with the architect Paul Bauer.
Oskar Melzer: I would call it a “store.”
Were you given a clear briefing on it?
Oskar Melzer: What I believe was important to them was for this office not to look like all the other real-estate agencies. While I was doing my research, I was very surprised to discover that startup premises can be better designed than those real-estate agencies that turn over millions of euros. At the end of the day it is extremely important in such cases to be able to see at a glance that the realtor knows the meaning of quality, of style. I divided up the space for ZiegertKnightFrank into two atmospheres: Upon entering, customers step into a kind of lounge area whose purpose is to engender familiarity. The rear section focuses more on concentration. Incidentally, the color of the fronts there, petrol, was inspired by an operating theater. Alongside their color effect, the many fitted units make for a sense of visual calm.
What is important for you in the design?
Oskar Melzer: Color is extremely important to me, along with the quality of the materials. I think that the customer also sees that in the results.
Where did you get your sense of color? For example, you used sapphire and reddish orange to design the Maxie Eisen at a time when those shades were not yet fashionable.
Over the past years you have worked a great deal in the fields of hospitality and club culture, but at present you are increasingly producing interior designs for offices and showrooms. Do you see this as a change of direction?
Oskar Melzer: The most fun thing in all my projects has been designing premises. When the outfit itself was finished, the job was practically over as far as I was concerned. This is why it is logical to say that I do what is the most fun for me and what in all probability I can do best – designing interiors.
In other words, as far as you are concerned, your new focus isn’t really a challenge but more of a logical conclusion?
Oskar Melzer: It is a logical conclusion, but also a new challenge because I myself am no longer the client. Which means that I am administering other people’s money – the responsibility is completely different.
And you have to deal with outside parties as well.
Oskar Melzer: The less other people interfere with my ideas, the better the results will be. Perhaps I will be lucky here – of course, there needs to be a coordination process, but to date my customers have not made negative comments about my decisions.
How do you operate?
Oskar Melzer: I normally come up with the idea for my interior design when I first view the space. I then produce mood boards, reject my ideas a thousand times over and in the end it is usually my first idea that gets implemented. My wife often helps me in choosing the color scheme, I work a great deal with her.
If, after many detours, you end up implementing the first idea you had, why don’t you just realize it straight away? Do you actually need the questioning process?
Oskar Melzer: That process really is relevant in terms of my customers. After all, I can’t just say “I have an idea, I’ll start building now and here are the keys. Enjoy.” It is also helpful for me to turn the idea over a few times in my mind. With my first attempt the details are not fully developed. How materials go together or those very practical aspects. These then take shape in collaboration with the architects, as is the case with Paul Bauer. He then asks me, for example, what about the water supply? I often don’t think about such things straight away. I take care of the design and he looks after the details. Whenever it gets complicated Paul has to do it. (Laughs)
Where do you go to clear your head?
Oskar Melzer: In recent years I discovered the virtues of going for a walk. That is something that’s quite easy to do in Frankfurt because the city is relatively small. My best ideas come when I start walking around a bit and am alone with my thoughts.
Your interiors often look to me like film sets. At the same time, many of your stores have been named after Jewish gangsters. What is it about these artificial worlds that fascinates you?
Oskar Melzer: The world of films has always interested me. That’s why there was a time when I wanted to study directing. Whether that is so very important for architecture is something I can’t tell you. Nevertheless, people often tell me that my designs look like film sets. Perhaps that’s because I always ask how the room would look in a photo. I try to achieve a kind of perfection, irrespective of which angle the space is viewed from.
What is your favorite movie?
Oskar Melzer: "Badlands".
Oskar Melzer: I could name ten more. I think that perhaps “American Gigolo” is just as important. I also think that “The Godfather” is great. In the end, it’s the dialogs, the aesthetics, the cinematography, the actors.
Oskar Melzer: Yes.
Talking about interaction: You like to highlight contrasts, contrasting materials and contrasting colors. At the same time, your spaces are homely and radiate a kind of coolness. In an ensemble, what is it that is most important to you?
Oskar Melzer: For me, coziness is the be-all and end-all. People need to feel at home in a space. As long as that works it doesn’t matter whether a space is cool or not. And who is it who defines something like that? Something that is cool today might be uncool again tomorrow or the day after.
When a project became commercial you got out. Is it a balancing act for you now to design a space for a real-estate company?
Oskar Melzer: I believe that commercial is the wrong word. What we are talking about here is compromises. At least, that is the way it has been with my spaces. The “Weekend Club” is a good example in that respect, because in the beginning it wasn’t a commercial club. At some point the project started heading in a direction that wasn’t right for me anymore. If you need to make too many compromises something new comes into being. Then you need to decide for yourself whether you like this new thing or not.
What is it that drives you to carry on despite everything and to keep on looking for new fields of activity?
Oskar Melzer: The fun of doing things. We mustn’t forget that I did the clubs a good 15 years ago. In my late 20s. When you are in your early 30s it is great fun to run a club. The projects need to fit in with the current phase of your life. I can’t imagine doing a club nowadays. I simply don’t know what I would say to my wife if I came home at 7 o’clock in the morning and had to take the kids to kindergarten at eight.
You haven’t been in Frankfurt for so very long yet – before that you lived in Berlin and Munich. Since you have been here you have designed the Maxie Eisen bar and the Stanley Diamond restaurant, you have planned a project for Frankfurt Airport and you collaborate closely with e15. Not bad for an outsider. What brought you to Frankfurt?
Oskar Melzer: To begin with I am here because of my family. Of course, that’s the main reason – my daughter goes to kindergarten here, my wife lives here, the grandparents are around. The fact that I have been able to make some noise in Frankfurt is great. But I think that it is more the fact that I like to realize projects. It was never my intention to say: “OK, now I’m going to shake up this town a little bit.”
Is there anything else that you would like to change in Frankfurt?
Oskar Melzer: In terms of price per square meter the Fressgass is very probably one of the most expensive streets in Germany – and just take a look at the stores there. I would love to do something to change that because I think that more could be made of it.
What exactly would you like to change?
Oskar Melzer: The main thing is not to put even more boutiques into it. A better idea would be a few good food shops. After all, that’s what it’s called – Fressgass means something like Grub Alley. I believe the street could be incredible. Sadly, it’s almost impossible for newcomers to rent anything there, since the space is just too expensive.
Is Frankfurt perhaps not so good at looking ahead?
Oskar Melzer: A great deal has changed in Frankfurt in recent years. But yes, I do think that there is plenty of room for larger developments.
What are you working on at the moment, including beyond Frankfurt?
Oskar Melzer: There is a boarding house that I’m working on. Then there are a few pop-up stores. And something that is incredibly interesting as far as I’m concerned – I believe that 45 percent of real estate currently on sale is being bought as an investment. And of course, that needs to be furnished. I find it exciting to offer the right package. I have reached a stage where I would like to start out in a new direction and redefine myself. I think that the role of “creative director” for the real-estate market will become increasingly important – to be the creative brains behind a project, the person who looks at how the best can be made of something.
Does that mean that you would want to shape the overall concept?
Oskar Melzer: Exactly. At the end of the day, what is important here is to bring the right people into the project. Who would be the right architect, which the right agency, which designer should we use, who should furnish the show apartments? That is an area that interests me because you can play a major role in determining things.
Does that mean that in future you would like to go more in the direction of acting as a middleman, a service provider? Does that sound right?
Oskar Melzer: That’s exactly right. Nonetheless I love designing stores. But by and large that’s it. “Lifestyle” is a horrible word but I think that in the future it will be crucial to the success of a project. With interior design you need to find a solution that suits all generations, to create a good atmosphere and, at the same time, to make the kind of impression that can be conveyed well by social media. I think that the better a story is told, the better it can be marketed.
Have you received any feedback yet from ZiegertKnightFrank about their customers’ reactions to your concept?
Oskar Melzer: On the very first day I received the nicest compliment when a customer said to the realtor: “Excuse me, could you step aside a little bit? I would like to take a photograph of the offices.” I thought that was great. Apparently, as soon as he stepped through the door the customer got the impression that “they know what they’re doing here.” I think that’s what clinches it.