Photo: Sigurd Kranendonk
The story of Linteloo
In 1994, more than fifteen years before trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort declared ‘wellbeing’ one of the most important international trends, Jan te Lintelo (1954) started a brand that radiates ‘enjoying the good life’ in every possible way. Raised by parents who owned a furniture store in The Netherlands, and having worked for Dutch companies Pastoe, Rohé and Gelderland, he had noticed the domination of minimalism in the early nineties. British and Italian design gurus were promoting an anonimous, almost sterile interior style in which practically anything personal should be hidden in cupboards, and anything ‘comfortable’ was expelled to the bedroom. Jan te Lintelo, commercial director of Dutch furniture company Gelderland at the time, experienced exactly the same thing: ‘I kept saying to Gelderland “let’s make a very big sofa! And why not add some comfortable footstools?” The reply always was: “That won’t sell.”’
Linteloo’s corporate colour is bright orange, reflecting its Dutch roots, but nowadays designs by Linteloo are sold all over the world. The company, with its head office and showroom in Zeist, has more than thirty outlets worldwide and permanent showrooms in Cologne and Milan. The cosmopolitan flair of the collection is due to the collaboration with internationally renowned designers like Paola Navone, Niels Bendtsen, Anders Nørgaard, Samuel Chan, Roderick Vos and Jan des Bouvrie.
In 1995 Jan te Lintelo launced his collection to the world at the furniture fair in Cologne. He booked a small space in the back of an old transit warehouse on the Rhine. When the fair began the area had just flooded. The beautiful furniture designed by young Dutch designers Roderick Vos and Edward van Vliet stood in the mud. Not many people came to see the collection. Te Lintelo, who had sold his house to be able to start his company, saw his start-up capital evaporate before his eyes. He decided never to let such a thing happen again. The next year he managed to get a beautiful space in Cologne: an old church right in the center of the city. He remembers: ‘We played music. Roderick and Claire Vos had just come back from Indonesia and brought beautiful trays and glasses with them. Then Guilio Cappellini, who at the time had a shop in Milan, dropped by. He bought enough tables, trays and bowls to fill half a container. He told me: “Jan, you are the first Dutchman from whom I buy something.”’ Shortly after that special encounter, Jan te Lintelo sold threehunderd chairs and stools by Ronald Costeris to car manufacturer Opel.
Photo: Sigurd Kranendonk
Do sit down
Jan’s first international success was a design he created himself, the now classic sofa Easy Living. It is a simply shaped sofa which is extremely comfortable, due to its solid materials, the sumptuous fabrics and ergonomic intelligence. ‘In Holland the standard width of a sofa at the time was two meters, 2.2 meters at the most. With the Easy Living we produced the first sofa with a width of 2.7 meters. I promote living on a sofa,’ Jan explains. ‘You have to be able to live on a sofa, with your children, your loved ones… You should be able to relax on it. Our collection has just that little bit more, in size, fabrics and matching cushions. We use, for example, beautiful leathers that are tanned in a natural way and that are lovely to the touch.’
‘Do sit down,’ he tells visitors in the showroom, and he personally tucks them in with one of the cushions which also serve as plaids. ‘How does that feel? Comfortable isn’t it?!’
Over the years, Linteloo produced a series of successful designs that are still very much in demand. Interior architect Henk Vos designed table VNU: a robust, wooden, almost archetypical table which sold in vast numbers. Because of its popularity, it must also be one of the most copied tables in the world. Henk’s son Roderick is one of the designers who has been working with Linteloo from the start. He has created iconic designs such as
chair Tulipani, sidetable Low Tide and rotating bookcase Nureyev. Niels Bendtsen received praise for Lobby, a loveseat with a high back, and for Plaza, the most minimalistic sofa in Linteloo’s collection. More recently, renowned Italian designer Paola Navone extended the collection with three sofas, among which Jan’s New Sofa and Jan’s New Elements which are also suited for the outdoors.
The feel good factor
It is striking to see how all these designs by different designers seem to suit each other very well. Especially when you know how much freedom Jan te Lintelo gives the designers he works with. ‘I’d rather not tell them anything,’ Jan says. ‘Otherwise I am afraid to get in the way of their creativity and originality.’ Roderick Vos confirms this: ‘When Jan needs something, he will call me and ask “Do you want to make something beautiful?”’ Jan te Lintelo: ‘The collection as a whole does not have to radiate one rigid style, as long as all items are a bit related, like family. That is why I am so happy with the designers I work with. They do not all have the same signature, but they share the same philosophy. They work hard and think out of the box, while respecting traditional craftsmanship. And they enjoy life as much as I do.’
The feel good factor, easy living. The characteristics of the brand are the same you can use to describe the owner. ‘His brand absolutely reflects his joy of life,’ says Niels Bendtsen. ‘I don’t know anyone else who can enjoy life as much as Jan does,’ Roderick Vos says.
‘Even by the way he speaks you can tell. For example when Jan talks about his house in South Africa, which is recorded in The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture: “We thought, let’s get a nice piece of land and build a nice house, which we will turn into a very beautiful place which we can share with our friends.” Or about his showroom in Zeist, for which his first demand was a fully equipped kitchen: “Then we can serve beautiful cheeses, a nice piece of fish or meat, and finish off our dinner with an excellent dessert.”’
Today LINTELOO is a leading furniture brand with showrooms in Zeist (The Netherlands), Cologne (Germany) and Milan (Italy) and about 250 dealers worldwide. New collections by leading designers are introduced during the major events as the IMM Cologne and Design Week Milano.