Upholstery is like a pair of arms. Yielding gently, then taking me up. A sofa should be like a trained body: it should look good, feel good, instill confidence, offer safety, and carry me with ease. And hopefully a smile.
I build upholstery slowly, in several layers. There are many things to consider in the process. How thick should the bottom, middle, and top layers of foam be? What belts or metal springs are suitable for the suspension? What kind of cotton, what kind of fleece? Do I want to finish the top layer with feathers and down? That would be something special. A sheaf of down makes for a wonderful landscape, with a light look and soft feel.
Elmar Böing uses different gauges of needles and awls to design details for Walter Knoll upholstered furniture – like the ornamental seams on the new Jaan Silent sofa (below)
For living rooms, I develop deep and voluminous upholsteries. Sitting in them, you should feel as though you are sinking into a cloud and being caught with the utmost care. But if a sofa is going to be used frequently by many people – in an office, waiting room, or airport – I need a firmer, more durable upholstery, although even this must be comfortable and must embrace me.
I have a very sensitive body. I can feel at once if the upholstery is right. It’s difficult to describe, because it’s a question of experience and sensation. If a mother is baking a cake, she takes “a handful of flour.” She doesn’t know exactly how many grams that is. It’s the same with me. My hands, my instinct – these are incredibly important. What’s the touch like? How does it feel to take hold of the upholstery? At the end, I put the cover on. I squeeze, knead, and pound it. It’s rather like a massage. To get the body in trim. And then, in the showroom or at a trade fair, I love to watch people sit on it. Do their faces relax? Do they stroke the armrest with their hand? Do they nod in contentment?