Our best, for your precious ones
Thirty years ago, when Jörg de Breuyn started to hand make a bed, he never would have guessed that his name would become synonymous for high quality, adaptable, children’s furniture.
Initially, there was a simple idea. In 1986 Jörg de Breuyn, a trained sculpture, started a new project in his studio in the yard of an old Cologne bread bakers. He wanted to make an adventure bed for his then four-year-old son, and created an enthralling sleep sanctuary for children, which caught on quickly. “To be honest, it was a wild climbing frame with nets and ropes, made with basic beams, where you could also sleep.”, recounts the producer of high quality children's furniture.
Good word gets around
At the time there were no adventure beds on the market. de Breuyn, who became a father at the age of 21, remembers, “The world was filed with boring children's furniture”, and plenty of people agreed with that sentiment. Word quickly spread that an alternative artist built enthralling beds for kids at his studio, alongside his artwork. So quickly, that he had to appoint his first employee, and buy his first machine tools, within the first year.
Furniture that`s also fun for parents
The original bed has not been offered for a long time. "In was too uncompromising, too much climbing frame and too little bed. I wanted to develop furniture that meets the needs of both children and parents", explains de Breuyn, who develops a mental picture of every new design before he puts pen to paper.
That was the origin of the 1998 series Deluxe. A pirate bed made of solid beech wood, it looked better, was better constructed and was better thought through. “From an environmental point of view the original bed was a waste of materials. The follow up series, Deluxe, was much more stable, yet only used half as much wood.”, explained de Breuyn.
Quality from credo - because your children are worth it
Sustainable, resource friendly, production and a focus on non-toxic materials, are the themes that were writ large from the beginning for de Breuyn. (see pages ..). “We were the first carpenters in Cologne to produce eco-friendly furniture”, said de Breuyn, who even as student led a course in “Children’s furniture from reclaimed materials”, and drove around in his van searching for useful items.
These standards were not lowered when, after the fall of the Berlin wall, an opportunity arose that had previously only been available to large industries. “It was expensive to produce in Germany even then, and I didn't have the money to invest in a mechanised production line”, de Breuyn’s describes the decision to move production to the Czech Republic in 1993.
A new start in the East
Even as the reputation of the firm was growing in Germany, the production in the East was proving cumbersome. "To start with we worked with several companies in different locations. That proved to be precarious: Sometimes one firm didn't have any wood, another would have no screws, yet another was always building the wrong parts, and a different one would go bankrupt." as the production conditions are remembered by de Breuyn.
The situation wasn't any better in Oslavany, where de Breuyn's cot Arielle was produced for the Japanese market. The workers hadn't been paid for months, the ex-state owned company was on the brink of collapse. The workshop bosses, Pavel Sysel and Hana Grossova, could see only one solution, de Breuyn should take over the company. In 1998, the optimist decided to do so, together with his Czech business partner Petr Puchta. Even though neither he, nor the carpenter from Pilsen had the savings to do so.
It took a few years to bring the production in Oslavany up to German standards. Machine tools had to be replaced, the workflow improved, and the trust of the employees had to be won. “The workers weren’t well trained in teamwork and cohesion.”, remembers de Breuyn, whose first acts as boss were to renovate the break rooms, arrange for a cook to provide a collective midday meal, and raised wages above the local average.
In the end the “Experiment”, as de Breuyn originally thought of it, to take over the 7500 square metre workshop paid off.
“To be both a manufacturer and a distributer gives us tremendous independence and flexibility. We're the only company of our size to offer this in the country.”, says de Breuyn. By now he leads a dedicated team of 60 employees.
A vision of a room
Today, thirty years later, de Breuyn produces seven of their own furniture systems, including cupboards, beds, kindergarten systems and playground equipment for public and private spaces (see pages..). Other designers, such as Kalon Studios from the US, also have their production for the European market handled by de Breuyn.
The headquarters for the business remain in Cologne, and since 2006 are located in an old industrial area in the Girlitzweg business park. There's plenty of space there for workshops, warehouses, offices and a 1500 square meter showroom, where de Breuyn also sells children's furniture, and products such as home accessories, from other producers. By now de Breuyn's furniture is available across Europe and as far away as Korea, Russia, Australia and China.
A change in commerce
On the question of the future of his children's furniture business, the boss, with one eye on the online market, has a clear answer: “Some products are easy to sell online, cat litter, for example, or screws. A bed with 20 accessories, adjustable assembly options, and available in 16 colours, may well need a capable advice before purchase. It's difficult to simply sell it online.” The product range is now being adjusted to also include individual pieces of furniture, more compatible with e-commerce.
Currently, exports make up a third of his wholesale revenue, and de Breuyn is working hard to improve the internationalisation of his brand. “My goal is to crack the American market, that's the project for the next five to ten years”, is de Breuyn description of his latest idea.