CRUSHING OVER VILLEROY & BOCH AFTER MY VISIT TO THEIR HQ IN GERMANY
A GLOBAL EMPIRE WITH EUROPEAN ROOTS
Based in Germany, a now global empire, Villeroy & Boch was founded in 1748 and is one of the largest producers of premium porcelain across tableware and bathroom products. Still a family-owned business, the company boasts a 7,500 strong workforce across 125 countries with a loyal and global fan base, yet it's HQ and two out of three of it's factories (their glassware is outsourced for production) are firmly rooted in the historical town of Mettlach where the company's original factory was established in 1809. Earlier this month I flew out to visit this hugely respected heritage brand and wanted to share my experience with you all.
VILLEROY & BOCH IN THE UK
Depending on where you live in the world, the products you think of when you hear the name Villeroy & Boch will vary. Here in the UK, the tableware and glassware collections are what we buy most of, for example, if you take a look at Villeroy & Boch at House of Fraser online, you'll find a whopping 600 + pieces to choose from. Selfridges and Harrods also have concessions with a handy outlet at Bicester. This platter above is from Villeroy & Boch's Samarkand collection, inspired by the precious silks and elegant ornaments that were traded along the Silk Road in ancient times and forms part of a diverse range of styles and collections only found at Villeroy & Boch.
VILLEROY & BOCH FAME
As well as tableware, bathroom and wellness ranges are more popular in Europe and the USA, but there are still stockists here in England and you can visit the handy Villeroy & Boch showroom at Chelsea Harbour too. Manufactured not only for the retail market, Villeroy & Boch also design bespoke collections which have graced the likes of the Titanic, The Orient Express, worldwide royalty, restaurants and hotels on every continent, and even tv shows and films such as House of Cards and the US Blockbuster, Oceans Eleven. Chances are, you've eaten off a Villeroy & Boch plate (if you're lucky enough to have) or seen a design on the screen without, perhaps knowing it.
Still so much of the premium porcelain production at Villeroy & Boch relies on human skill, despite the 3,000 piece per day output at the china factory which employs local people from the surrounding village of Mettlach. I got to see how each design starts out and makes it's way through various processes and procedures before getting shipped off around the world. My favourite was the quality testing right at the end which relied on a lovely lady tapping each porcelain cup and plate with a pen tool to see if it "rang". If it made no noise it was sent back to be repaired and fired again. Hugely skilled artists are employed to apply decorative finishes to many of the patterned and coloured ceramics, for example, a beautiful platinum band applied to the Anmut collection is entirely done by hand for each and every single piece. It was so fascinating to see humans and robotic technology (which weirdly looked so human-like and operate non-stop) working seamlessly together.
This is the old Luxembourg collection above, still going strong since it's creation in 1770. It's quite a chintzy design (which I LOVE) and I'm now an official collector, it reminds me of an old French farmhouse setting. There are die-hard collectors all over the world like a couple I met during my visit, who amazingly had travelled from England especially to visit the huge outlet shop in Mettlach so they could buy some limited edition pieces to add to their collections.
This is the La Classica Contura collection with platinum detail which we were lucky enough to eat off every night.
At the heart of the Villeroy & Boch brand alongside their well-known ceramics, kitchens and accessories are the bathroom and wellness collections. Villeroy & Boch are leaders in this particular field due to developing innovative technologies which help transform bathrooms from the ordinary to the extraordinary. For example the CeramicPlus is an easy-clean glaze that can be applied to nearly all Villeroy & Boch ceramic products. This dirt-repellent finish coats the surface of the ceramic and stops dirt and limescale from gripping, leaving a gleaming brilliant shine.
THE ARTIS COLLECTION BY GESA HANSEN
In contrast to the more traditional tableware, the bathroom and wellness products are more contemporary in feel, particularly with the addition of these stunning coloured sinks by award-winning designer, Gesa Hansen, who has designed a collection of modern basins for Villeroy & Boch.
There are blues and greens, as well as yellow and black and grey so, if you're planning a new bathroom in 2018, go colourful and check them out HERE.
We met with Gesa during our stay in which she shared her passion for embracing colour and not being afraid of it which reflects so much of the maximalist and bold colourful movements in interior design right now. Here she shares her inspiration behind the four seasonal colour concepts for the Artis collection of basins which is worth a watch to get a sense of the design process.
The whole trip was so inspiring and I'm so pleased to have been able to learn about the Villeroy & Boch brand which I now consider firmly on my style radar, and I hope you do too if you're not already a fan. I'm a huge fan of blending heritage with the modern and contemporary and Villeroy & Boch continue to produce luxury products in huge numbers without compromising their age-old quest for perfection and quality.
OUR STAY AT SAARECK CASTLE
Part of the whole experience was our stay at the wonderful Saareck castle where we enjoyed canapes and German wines, tasty cuisine and gorgeous breakfasts in our own private dining room. A former Abbey and hospital during the war, which sits on the opposite side of the Villeroy & Boch HQ, the castle is still owned by the family and welcomes guests of Villeroy & Boch. Turrets and taxidermy with plenty of ornate and traditional interior decor, it was a pleasure to wander around and soak up the atmosphere which just added to the magic of the Villeroy & Boch story. A particular highlight was the Chimney room with it's old-fashioned faded palm print wallpaper, and the grand ballroom with it's dark wood panelling and deep red and dusky pink worn furniture.
A VISIT TO THE VILLEROY & BOCH MUSEUM
Another highlight was a visit to the museum. Full of dis-continued collections from the 50's and 60's and historic pieces, including a glassware collection designed by Paloma Picasso from 1980 were on show, this is a picture of it below AND I found a plate from the collection on Ebay!
There was also a replica of the ceramic tile used as a swimming pool surround on the Titanic which was incredible to see. The jaw-dropping hand-made tiled cafe was just beautiful and a very cool 80's style mirrored/plant/seat which wasn't at all the focus of the experience but I just loved it, was amazing. It was clear to see, that through the ages, Villeroy & Boch have stayed true to their aesthetic and high level of quality. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself at snapping up Villeroy & Boch pieces at the outlet shop in Mettlach!