Situated in a concrete shop front in Berlin’s modish, central Mitte district, the 45 Kilo design studio, office, and shop reflects the hip yet no-frills ideology and reduced visual language of its co-founders, Philipp Schöpfer and Daniel Klapsing. The relaxed space projects a sense of purpose and style, and has recently been divided in half by rose-pink track blinds that hang the length of the two-floored space and cast a rosy hue on the handful of in-house designers—most dressed head-to-toe in black and grey—busy at their desks. Walking through the shop towards the office area on a recent weekday morning, team member Lea Kaufmann turns to me and observes, “You’re probably wondering why we didn’t go with white or black for the blinds.” The explanation comes quickly. “Because that would be boring.”
I’m greeted enthusiastically by Klapsing, who runs down from the mezzanine office he shares with Schöpfer. The thirty-somethings founded 45 Kilo in 2007, while they were still students at the Bauhaus University. The up-and-coming studio creates minimalistic furniture and interior designs that combine industrialized materials with artisanal techniques. In 2013, they launched a separate brand called My Kilos, concentrating on small batch production of both their own designs and those of emerging stars outside their studio.
After a warm introduction, Klapsing tells me, “It’s my turn to cook lunch today. I do roast vegetable lasagna.” The 45 Kilo team now consists of eight full- and part-time staff. Someone different cooks for the whole team each day. “It’s important for us all to take a proper break and hang out together,” Klapsing tells me. “And even if you can’t cook, everyone has one dish.”
Sitting down at the communal table with his colleagues, Schöpfer recalls the studio’s earliest days, while the pair were still in school. “There’s not a lot going on in Weimar,” says Schöpfer. “The town has a total population of around 60,000 people. Half of those people are students and the other half are pensioners.” It was perhaps not surprising then that the design-crazy duo chose to found their own studio and start producing works while they could still benefit from the advice of their Bauhaus tutors.
Post graduation, in the summer of 2007, Schöpfer and Klapsing exhibited at DMY design festival in Berlin. “That’s when we started to realize people were interested in what we were doing,” explains Klapsing, reminiscing on 2007 as though it were decades—rather than eight years—ago. The show was a great success, and Klapsing and Schöpfer spent the following two years collaborating with other current and former Bauhaus students. Their efforts culminated in a group exhibition called My Bauhaus Is Better Than Your Bauhaus at Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan in 2009. The show’s ironic title caught the attention of design enthusiasts worldwide and stimulated public thought and conversation on the topic of the long established Bauhaus brand. The young designers reminded the public that while the term Bauhaus had become loaded with connotations of visionary design, the potential for contemporary design to become the classics of tomorrow is not acknowledged often enough.
In between mouthfuls of lasagna, I ask Schöpfer if he believes 45 Kilo’s designs are destined to become classics. “That’s not for me to say, but I hope that some day other people will,” he says thoughtfully. “We aim to produce sustainable designs that people won’t tire of by avoiding faddy materials that will be out of fashion within a few years.”
45 Kilo’s functional, clean-cut aesthetic reflects the co-founders’ Bauhaus education. “The primary influence on my work from my time in Weimar derives directly from the people we were surrounded by and the amazing opportunities we were given,” Schöpfer explains. “Our teachers were very open minded and encouraged us to run down to the workshop as soon as we had a new idea. It makes total sense to me that when designing a 3D product, the start of the process is also conducted in 3D. You find out pretty quickly this way if your idea is going to work, or where it needs tweaking or adapting.”
Working, reworking, and adapting their existing designs are at the heart of 45 Kilo “Redesign Studio,” as is written on their front door. When asked where they draw inspiration for new designs from, Klapsing tells me, “Design is always redesign. It’s not the case that I wake up one day and think ‘Ok! I’m going to design this whole new product.’ Every design is an adaptation of an existing design.” Walking around the office, the team points out several prototypes currently in development, including a new hanging flowerpot, which resourcefully incorporates the lampshade of one of their existing lighting designs.
“People sometimes think that as designers, we are artists, and that is just not the case,” Klapsing stresses. While an artist can be as limitless as their imagination, the large majority of the decisions the designers make surrounding each product are based around functionality, quality, production possibilities, and costs. Of course, potential clients are not interested in the reality that this rising Berlin brand is constantly limited by external production factors. As Klapsing says, “That doesn’t sell.” Instead, “Our job is not only to design and produce new products, but also to create a story around each new piece.”
I’m sure the original Bauhaus pioneers would be proud.
A sun-seeking Mancunian with a passion for all things French, Matilda taught English to sommeliers in the south of France and lobbied for international publishing rights in Brussels before moving to Berlin. Though she’s yet to win the Tour de France, Matilda can often be found cycling round Berlin, discovering the city’s endless hidden treasures.
Beyond his role as Pamono’s Head of Photography, Ramtin has honed his keen eye through years of product shoots, art direction, advertising, and documentary work. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he has some searing photographs available at SaatchiArt.com.
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