A decidedly homelike office recently picked up the Office Application Award 2018. Designed by Brandherm + Krumrey, Deutsche Wohnwerte’s office in Heidelberg, Germany combines the warm honey hues of wood-clad walls with cozy upholstered seating and—virtually unheard of in the workplace—a fireplace. Founded by Susanne Brandherm and Sabine Krumrey in 1999, Brandherm + Krumrey now has a team of 28 interior designers, architects, and graphic designers working out of offices in Hamburg and Cologne, with shoe manufacturer Birkenstock, plastic manufacturer Coroplast, and Universität Hamburg among high-profile clients.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine recently sat down with Brandherm and Krumrey to hear more about the award-winning office, recent and upcoming projects, and what was ignored in the past but is now essential to workplace design.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What are your thoughts on the more homelike office environment?
Susanne Brandherm: We believe working in general needs to be more pleasant. Responding to the possibilities of digitalization does not just mean working from everywhere. What it should mean is working everywhere that you feel comfortable, whether it’s your home office or a cozy atmosphere in an office.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Where do you feel Germany is in this trend to go more homelike in the office?
Sabine Krumrey: The big corporations in Germany are a bit slower to implement, but they are also moving more and more in the direction of a variety of individual areas, in order to meet the unique needs of all employees.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Could you name a few elements in the interior design of the Deutsche Wohnwerte office that are particularly homelike?
Sabine Krumrey: First you have the staff kitchen area: The kitchen is always where the best conversations take place—as while cooking, you grow closer. Here we have Vitra furniture, Kvadrat textiles, Mosa tiles, and custom benches. In the fireside area, we placed comfortable, high-quality furniture in a completely private atmosphere. Few homes have these kinds of facilities, so employees feel valued.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What do you believe stands out most in the Deutsche Wohnwerte offices?
Susanne Brandherm: Most workplaces are exactly the same. In this office, all the options stand out, from enclosed areas for concentrated work to meeting rooms, library, workshop, kitchen, and fireside area. Everyone can find their own corner.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What do you believe was ignored in the past but is now essential to the office environment?
Sabine Krumrey: Today’s office really needs to include acoustic elements, special break out furniture for various ways of working, and furniture that has an element of surprise.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What else have you been working on?
Sabine Krumrey: We recently completed a blood donation room on the campus of Universität Hamburg. In order to increase the motivation to donate blood, we developed an unconventional bar aesthetic for this medical facility. With surprising details, the room draws attention to the topic of blood donation and arouses the curiosity of students.
In London, we designed the Birkenstock showroom. With our interior, Germany‘s largest shoe manufacturer presents itself in a feel-good ambiance that congenially expresses the brand‘s philosophy. Natural materials and a clear spatial structure make the interior design a holistic experience.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Where do you look for inspiration?
Susanne Brandherm: Traveling, trade shows, magazines, and conversations with colleagues and our team. That’s what pushes us.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: How do you feel trade shows in particular influence your projects?
Susanne Brandherm: Visits to Orgatec and IMM Cologne are important to us, as we observe so much there. However, we also notice that any visible new trends are followed by just about everyone by the next season. Real trendsetters are very few. The structure of the Milan Furniture Fair is different, much freer than the German fairs. The off-site exhibits can be quite extreme, very individual and often very experimental.
ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What’s upcoming for your firm?
Susanne Brandherm: We’ve had a lot of requests for office projects, but also some hotel and vacation home projects. In general, the tendency is more and more towards the individual and individually-focused interior design, so that’s what we are working on.