From seemingly free-floating book and record shelves to coat racks, Hamburg-based furniture company ‘das kleine b’ (which is German for ‘the little b’) offers a unique selection of furnishings and interior items. Since 2010, they have been making their (mainly wooden) designs at their in-house workshop. From 5 August until 27 October ‘das kleine b’ is showcasing and selling its furniture in one of the famous pop-up boxes at BIKINI BERLIN. We took the opportunity to visit Charlotte Baumann, the founder of furniture brand ‘das kleine b’, and ask her a few questions.
You’ve been making innovative furniture with your company ‘das kleine b’ since 2010. Who are the brains behind ‘das kleine b’, how did you end up doing what you do today and what does your working day entail? And we’re also interested in how you came up with your name...
Yes, it all started in 2010 with our ‘b’ shelf series. At the time my husband Jens, who is a qualified carpenter, had a workshop in the Hammerbrook district of Hamburg. He was commissioned by architects and individual private clients to make classic pieces of furniture. But on the side he was already working on ideas for his own furniture that could be produced in small volumes. The ‘b’ shelf series was like the starting shot for us setting up our own furniture manufactory.
First of all we needed a name for our baby – which was no easy feat because the name is something you have to live with for a long time. So how did we come up with the name ‘das kleine b’? Well the letter ‘b’ was kind of obvious to us because our surname is Baumann. And in our product assortment we also meanwhile have a children’s chair called ‘bruno’ – which is named after our son. I think it was Jens who first came up with ‘das kleine b’. And I thought it was great.
In 2014, Jens and I officially set up the company ‘das kleine b’ and moved into our own workshop in Hamburg Altona. Still to this day, this is where all our furniture is designed, made and sent out all over the world. And then things just kept developing from there: our employees – who are so very important for ‘das kleine b’ – gradually joined us one by one. And we opened the showroom next to our workshop and designed new products. Getting to where we are now has been a wonderful, exciting journey.
What was the first product in your assortment? Which is your personal favourite?
The ‘b’ bookshelf was the first to go into series production. It also won the 2014 Interior Innovation Award and was nominated for the 2015 German Design Award. Its solid oak frame and stainless steel brackets that disappear between the book covers give the impression that the books are floating. Our entire philosophy is reflected in this first shelf series: designs that are defined by clear, timeless shapes and well-thought-out detailed solutions. Solid oak frames form the consistent design element. This defines the style of all our pieces and ensures that they can be combined with one another. High-quality materials and excellent workmanship are particularly important to us because we want to make furniture that accompanies our customers for many years to come.
My favourite piece is the ‘brecht’ ladder shelf – our modern take on a wall unit that offers enough space for books and anything else you can think of. It received the German Design Award – Special Mention in 2017.
Your furniture can currently be admired and purchased in a pop-up box at BIKINI BERLIN. Where else are your products stocked? Is there a difference between what the people of Berlin or Hamburg buy from you? What made you want to rent a pop-up box here at BIKINI BERLIN?
We sell our furniture via our own online shop www.daskleineb.de. And it’s also available from selected stores and online shops. A friend from Berlin tipped us off about BIKINI BERLIN. So we checked it out for ourselves and were immediately impressed. Finally a concept shopping mall that does without the usual discount clothing chains and offers a brilliant selection of stores instead. I was instantly drawn to the pop-up boxes: in one space you can find unique small stores that you would usually only discover if you travelled all over the city.
I haven’t really noticed any differences between our customers in Berlin and Hamburg – on the contrary, in fact: it’s very clear that housing is a major issue in both big cities. For anyone who has children or wants to move in with their partner, it has become really difficult to find affordable, spacious apartments. That’s why people are interested in flexible furniture that can be adapted to different life phases, that can grow (or shrink) with their housing situation and that makes an impact in both large and smaller spaces.
Are there any pieces of furniture that you’d love to add to your assortment or are you already planning any new products? And, last but not least, do you have any visions or wishes for the future or the interior world?
I don’t want to give too much away – but basically we’re always working on new pieces of furniture. What I can say, however, is that we are also looking to offer our ‘buckowski’ standing desk as a classic desk that you can sit at. We still need to work on the measurements a bit, but it won’t take us much longer. And we’ve also developed a spice shelf that we can start producing soon.
In the future I hope that we – and as many other furniture manufacturers as possible – will all do our bit for sustainability. But with our combination of high quality, timeless design and flexible use, I think that we’re definitely on the right path. After all, nothing is more resource-efficient than things that are used for a very long time to come.