50 years of places of longing, made by Rolf Benz.
Almost a hundred years ago painter and photographer Heinrich Zille pronounced that “it’s as easy to kill a person with a home as with an axe”. Since 1964, the German firm Rolf Benz has been doing its bit to reduce death by bad home furnishing. Because Rolf Benz has been producing sofas for exactly 50 years. Some say they are the most desirable sofas made since humans discovered the sheer physical pleasure of sitting back and relaxing but not quite lying down. They may have conquered the world, but these highly prized zones of relaxation originate from a tiny, peaceful spot on the edge of the Black Forest by the name of Nagold.
Here, fifty years ago, a young designer realized that while everything relating to furnishing may impact temporarily on our reason, it remains permanently embedded in our emotions. This is why with every individual sofa, the familiarity and popularity of the Rolf Benz brand – now a household name in over fifty countries – is helping create that uniquely personal spot we spend a lifetime longing for. The spot in which we feel we have finally come home.
“A sofa from Rolf Benz – for the past 50 years “the” place we all long for, the place we all belong.”
For 50 years, Rolf Benz has been enticing people to dream, to dose, to relax, put their feet up, stretch out, collect their thoughts, relax, chill out, ruminate, snuggle, take time out, order their thoughts, or simply take a nap… However you want to put it: It is only on our sofa that we shed the stress of the day, feel at home with ourselves and really slow down.
Making time stand still, letting the world pass you by – nowhere else can you achieve this but on a sofa. In the words of the poet Theodor Fontane, “there is nothing to beat calmness, quiet, a sofa and a cup of tea”. He was so right. The sofa does not fulfil a practically necessary function in our home, instead it is a place, an oasis of calm in our lives. It is encourages contemplation, tranquillity, self discovery. It is the one haven where we can step away from the everyday practical thoughts and worldly worries that pursue us as we sit at tables and chairs and even as we go to bed. A sofa can set us free. It was precisely this realization that moved the freshly qualified young upholster Rolf Benz from Nagold in the Black Forest to found the company Rolf Benz back in 1964.
Smart addition: successful out-of-the-box thinking.
The young upholsterer, Rolf Benz from Nagold in the Black Forest, recognises right away the sign of the times. Inspired by this spiritual awakening, he founds “Rolf Benz” in 1964. The first sofa and armchair programme from this young company remains true to this new, modern sense of space: the addiform from Rolf Benz. It makes a radical break from the traditional, conventional arrange ment of sofa, two oppositefacing armchairs and a coffee table. The elements of the addiform are flexible and combinable in their arrangement. Thus, you can not create a typical seating arrangement with these sofas and armchairs, but rather you can create imaginative combinations of “furnishing landscapes” as people were fond of saying at the time. In fact: you can “add” an addiform arm chair or even place it over a corner. You can position an armchair either as an individual armchair or combine it with a coffee table as an intermediate element; or connect an armchair to a bench and finish it off with a corner coffee table on the side, the list goes on and on … Yes, and the sofa itself can be folded out into an additional, comfortable place to sleep. the addiform: simple, subdued, functional, as well as beautiful and practical at the same time. those who look at it – 50 years later – are amazed at how modern, how timeless the addiform is, and how consistently Rolf Benz was able to seize upon the spirit of the times. The following has been true at Rolf Benz for 50 years: the furniture with which one lives should be as flexible and versatile as the person himself.
The seventies started on a soft and transparent note. It was the age of the bean bag. In 1971, a wellknown namesake registered its development of an airbag as a German patent in StuttgartUntertürkheim, and 1971 was also the first time that Rolf Benz took its own dedicated booth at the Cologne trade Fair. 1973 saw the opening of the World trade Center in New York, and a patent for the automatic cash machine was registered in Germany.
Enthused by watching man take his first steps on the moon, the world was keen to embrace a bright future, fuelling years of headlong economic growth and success. the transparent wonder material Plexiglas covered more than just the olympic stadium roof in Munich. Erstwhile hippies lolled in avantgarde luxury on enormous furnishing landscapes such as the Rolf Benz “Scenery” range launched in 1971. One year later, a certain Swedish furniture producer opened its first German branch.
The orientation in Nagold has never been on pushing down prices. Rolf Benz’s response to the lure of the allen key was summed up in its advertising slogan “Living at its best”, and its decision to extend its manufacturing capacity by a further 7,000 square metres with the purchase of an upholstery factory in Motzingen.
Needless to say, Germany’s football world cup victory in 1974 was celebrated from the comfort of the “Livingpool” upholstered group. In an age of bellbot toms and flowerpower stickers, Rolf Benz too turned its gaze on rattan, waxing lyrical in its advertising literature with the promise of everything from the “romantic to the chic” and the “rustic to the elegant”.
The eighties offered the world a stage set for presentation and selfportrayal. Some of which happened on the sofa. It was a time to display not only what we were, but most importantly, what we had. It was a time for puffing out of chests and pumping up of egos. We called it glamour! The glamour and so phistication were not restricted to big hair and shoulder pads. White sofas like the 3400 model gleamed on smooth shiny white tiled floors, draped over by a model looking every inch like Dynasty’s alexis Carrington.
This was the decade in which men liked to sport pink polo shirts with the col lars turned up and Bommel shoes. As ever, the fashion message permeated the world of furnishing too. That message coming over loud and clear in the eighties was: “We’ve made it”. Diana married Charles; Roland Reagan was inaugurated as the US President; Gorbachev was made “Man of the Year 1985”; we lapped up the forged hitler Diaries in the Stern magazine; the Chernobyl disaster struck; Zündapp went into liquidation (clearly not glamorous or chic enough) and, at the end of the decade, the wall came down. These were years in which the stuff of dreams was brought to us in pictures.
From the middle of the eighties, Rolf Benz added to the illusion, photographing its upholstered furniture “on location” in the “world’s most beautiful places”: Sofas with squishy cushioned backrests found their (sometimes quite absurd) way into unlikely settings for photoshoots: theatres, museums, castles or even cliff tops. The Rolf Benz sofa became the ultimate tourist: the 4500 model echoing the sweeping contours of the Catalan architect antoni Gaudí in Barcelona’s Park Güell, or the 6500 sofa perched majestically high above the aegean Sea on the Island of Santorin. The scene was well and truly set for the luxury brand Rolf Benz.
The eighties were the years of celebrity designers and design celebrity. But while the post modern age, as it was hailed, descended increasingly into the banality of chic household commodities like Philippe Starck’s threelegged lemon juicer or Michael Graves’s whistling bird kettle, the designers working for Rolf Benz were creating true style icons such as the sofa 6500. Not one day design wonders, but smart, timeless classics of breathtaking beauty. The 6500 elevated to the design nobility with a place in the design department of the Museum of Modern art in New York and remains part of the portfolio to this day.
The nineties, a decade memorable for its globalization of good design, brought with it an unexpectedly rapid rise to international eminence for Rolf Benz as a soughtafter German furniture brand. This led to the rapid development of new foreign markets for the company.
Those with more than just good taste who embraced their capacity for discerning aesthetic judgement as “style” opted to enjoy their leisure hours on a Rolf Benz sofa, particularly in Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux countries. The company grew, and with it the Rolf Benz brand won favour.
As early as the beginning of the nineties, it was a Forum 255 collection sofa which stole the limelight in the ZDF talk show aptly entitled “Die rote Couch”.
As if that were not enough, a Rolf Benz sofa had the star quality for the biggest TV show of all. For years, the family game show “Wetten, dass…?” held the big Saturday evening spot across Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux countries. This mega family entertainment show hosted by thomas Gottschalk, saw the celebrity elite of the day getting comfortable on Germany’s most famous sofa – a bespoke creation by Rolf Benz.
“By the end of the decade, Rolf Benz had become the best known brand in Germany.”
From 2000 to 2010, Rolf Benz took up its undisputed position among the furniture industry’s international premier league as “the” design brand for luxury sofas “Made in Germany”. A discerning public that is urban and cosmopolitan, creative and communicative, and which seeks premium quality in every sphere of life cannot fail to be attracted by the appeal of Rolf Benz.
On the company’s 40th birthday in 2004, it presented the world with the DONO: with its matter-of-fact clarity and lightweight design, this model appears to hover in space. Like all Rolf Benz creations, it leaves no one in any doubt as to its value and comfort, even from a distance. DONO became what was probably the most successful sofa of the decade.
It was followed by the models VERO, PLURA and MIO, true ambassadors for nonchalant luxury over the excessive trappings of status. With the advent of a new era of cool lounges and relaxation zones for the discerning, in 2003 the company launched its EGO as the ultimate “madetomeasure sofa”. Today, VIDA or ONDA still subscribe to the ethos of these highly complex modular ranges. Ranges that allow the creative customer the greatest possible scope for individualization, with the freedom to configure and adjust the different modules to any specific living situation.
The computer industry with its ever more slender flat screens is not alone in creating a quiet revolution: clarity of forms and slender contours are transfor ming the furniture sector too. And yes, just as it did in 1964 with the “addiform”, once again Rolf Benz gives us the gift of endless possibilities in its own inimi table and elegant style. Its sofa ranges are designed to give every individual the freedom to think around corners, to line up in rows, to adjust and adapt, even to create our own ergonomy. Spearheading furnishing trends today are individually changeable, multifunctional sofas with adjustable seat heights and depths. Infinitely variable headrests, variably mountable and adjustable backrest and side cushions, depth adaptation – all these features invite us to find our very own favourite position for relaxation. The Rolf Benz sofa has become the ultimate madetomeasure suit for our homes. Behind the somewhat innocuous term “system furnishing range” is in reality nothing other than the core competence which has distinguished the Rolf Benz brand for 50 years.
Today we are seeing the merger of classical living areas into openended living spaces: we spend time reading books or magazines in the bathroom, we watch TV in the kitchen, and sleeping, working, living are no longer cordoned off in their own separate spheres. Because for the past 50 years, furniture, sofas and chairs from Rolf Benz have been designed and produced for living spaces, not for living rooms or lounges.
“It is this that makes the name Rolf Benz synonymous with comfortable sitting, perfect innovative design and superb handcrafted quality “Made in Germany”.”