“We feel very much at home!” could easily be the title of a recent study conducted by Emnid on behalf of interlübke. Leo Lübke, managing director of the renowned producer of top-quality furniture made in Germany, can certainly feel vindicated as far as his corporate philosophy is concerned – especially when it comes to issues like the living room as the focal point of life, quality, the design and functionality of the company’s furniture or even its distribution system.
The representative opinion survey interlübke commissioned to mark its 75th anniversary – “Germany in private – Germans’ homes and lives in 2012” – revealed that Germans like to live in light, upscale surroundings and – besides their partners – consider brochures and a personal sales consultation at the furniture store the best sources of advice. They also set great store by enduring furniture and are not particularly keen on change.
Now it’s official: it’s not their cars that are dearest to Germans’ hearts but their homes. According to a recent telephone survey conducted by the renowned Emnid Institute, a good house or apartment (68%) is even more important to Germans than leisure time (58%). When it comes to what is “very important” in their lives, other aspects such as cars (37%), holidays (33%), computers and the Internet (26%) or clothes (23%) only follow at a considerable distance. For 73% of the women who participated in the poll and 64% of the men, the home thus appears to be the most important area of their lives.
Even the head of the institute commissioned with the study, Klaus-Peter Schöppner of TNS Emnid, was surprised at this clear affirmation of the home’s significance. At second glance, however, the result is consistent with the great value Germans attach to high-quality furnishings (“very important”: 29%; “quite important: 54%) and their high level of identification with their homes: for almost all respondents (95%), their home is an expression of their own tastes. In fact, only 4% of respondents were willing to admit that they tend to take their cues for furnishing their homes from the latest fashion trends. “The way I live is the way I am,” is the experienced pollster’s interpretation of the result. In the “recommended actions”, Schöppner points to consumers’ comparatively weak brand awareness when buying furniture as compared to purchases in other segments. Functionality heads the list of decision-making criteria, followed by durability and only then price and design. In contrast, the brand tends to play a secondary role. But Leo Lübke doesn’t seem particularly bothered by these findings – the customer, he says, doesn’t regard the product as a brand-name product, but as “his” product. Interlübke’s perspective: “We see ourselves as a manufacturer of furniture systems, as a supplier of construction kits that allow the customer to turn his own personal wish list into reality.”
What makes this opinion survey so interesting is that it sheds light on the developments that have taken place as well. Although it carries on the tradition of major interior culture studies initiated by sociologist Alphons Silbermann (1961/1989), it nevertheless takes a new approach. 1,000 members of the Federal Republic’s resident population aged 14 or over participated in the study. How has the way Germans live changed since 1989? Many of the trend questions from that era were posed again: Which room do people feel most at ease in? What colour preferences do they have? Do they have any furnishing deficits?
The most important result of all: Germans are extremely satisfied with their living conditions. 79% of respondents – 24% more than just 23 years ago – state that “nothing is lacking” when it comes to feeling comfortable in their homes. There has also been a clear shift in colour preferences: although natural colours with lots of wood is still the frontrunner for 38% (1989: 49%), it is nevertheless losing ground to the greatly increased desire – especially amongst youngsters – for “as white and bright an interior as possible” (2012: 33%; 1989: 16%).
Otherwise, one of the most striking outcomes is that Germans are not keen on changing the way they use their homes. The living room continues to be the most important feel-good room (2012: 61%, 1989: 59%). Only the kitchen has lost attractiveness in this respect (2012: 9%, 1989: 15%), which Klaus-Peter Schöppner attributes amongst other things to a lack of time and increasing consumption of convenience foods. Even the open-plan living style being proclaimed in most trend reports does not seem widespread in German homes yet. Whereas it hardly comes as a surprise to learn that the bedroom – apart from sleeping – is mainly used for intimacy and reading, it seems that combined usage of the kitchen and living/dining room (5%) still tends to be the exception. The living room is the only space that is not largely dedicated to a single purpose – it is often used in combination with a dining area or work space as well. However, this result may also be due to structural conditions. Besides being an important criterion (after location, floor plan and neighbours) for how Germans evaluate their living situation, the structural conditions also represent a virtually invariable aspect. When it comes to pulling down walls, Germans therefore tend to be reserved – which is hardly surprising in view of the high share of rented accommodation. New builds are a very different story.
Interlübke’s decision to commission the study is based on the desire to use its anniversary year not just to set new courses within the company but to continue its commitment as a patron of contemporary interior culture as well. “We have to distinguish between the examples held up by the media and the actual situation of the people living in this country,” explains Leo Lübke. “But more than anything else, we have to take social developments into account.” According to the study, age-appropriate interiors are one of the main areas that call for action – an issue that 62% of respondents find particularly important (80% of older respondents, 60% of younger respondents). Werner Aisslinger explains how furniture design can be part of the solution. Besides recently creating interlübke’s innovative audio furniture “musikbox”, the designer is also responsible for the family-run company’s “cube” collection, a chest of drawers system that has been selling successfully for years. “Modular systems make adapting to different needs easy, for instance by means of adaptable handle heights,” says Aisslinger. He also sees quality as an important criterion for age-appropriate furnishings, because “enduring furniture systems can be reconfigured time and time again – you could say the furniture itself is capable of ageing with dignity.”
Both Werner Aisslinger and Leo Lübke take a relaxed view of Germans’ resistance to change. “First and foremost, it’s an endorsement of our classics,” says Lübke, referring to products such as the S 07 wardrobe system or the Studimo shelving system. “However, interlübke also sees itself as a spearhead for new furniture.” And Werner Aisslinger is confident that the focus will shift towards more open forms of living in the long term: “In new builds, the bathroom and bedroom tend to be the only remaining areas of retreat – everything else is becoming more airy, flexible and open. All this is definitely happening, even if it isn’t happening overnight.”
16. May 2012
Categories: Exhibitors, News, Trends
Tags: bathroom, bedroom, design, functionality, Interiors, interlübke, Leo Lübke, living conditions, living room, opinion poll, quality, TNS Emnid, Werner Aisslinger