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BUDDE | Product & Furniture Design Studio


Photo: Murat Yıldırım

Founded in 2020 by architects Johannes Budde and Meike Papenfuss, BUDDE is a studio that is quickly establishing a firm foothold in the German design world. With Johannes' vision as the creative mind and Meike's business and brand expertise, BUDDE brings an architectural approach to furniture, interior objects and lighting. In 2024, the studio, temporarily based in Milan, aims to bring a new perspective to everyday objects with its bold and innovative spirit. Known for its handmade, limited edition collectible objects and scalable designs for the commercial market, BUDDE has exhibited in internationally renowned galleries such as Rossana Orlandi and Mint. We chatted with Johannes Budde and Meike Papenfuss about BUDDE's inspirations, design philosophy and future plans.



Who are Johannes Budde and Meike Papenfuss? Can you briefly tell us about yourselves? How did your journey to becoming a globally recognized design studio begin?


Johannes: I used to work as an (interior) architect in Düsseldorf, Germany, before founding BUDDE in late 2019. Moving from architecture & interior design to furniture design felt like a natural transition and yet, opened an entirely new field to explore. 


Meike: I joined the studio early on to support in marketing and business areas. With a background in design management and branding, Johannes and I complemented each other from the beginning. We believe it needs both: good design and an exciting brand.


How would you describe your design philosophy?


Johannes: Conceptually, I aim for clarity in my designs, distilling each object to one essential idea. I always try to carve out and highlight the natural features of a material – whether it’s textures of wood, colors of natural stone, or flexibility of metal. Moreover, many of our collections encourage physical interaction and thereby, reconnect people with their senses and surroundings. Our designs should not feel distant like art sometimes does, but very tangible and inclusive for everyday use. In order to achieve this, aesthetic and functionality have to go hand in hand.


"Five x Seven", BUDDE x Solid Nature, Photos: Rossana Orlandi


At Milan Design Week 2024, you exhibited your projects in four locations and developed a series of global brand collaborations. Can you tell us a bit about your MDW24 experience?


Meike: We’ve been participating in Milan Design Week since 2022 and have been fortunate to grow each year in terms of partnerships and exhibitions. This year was intense but incredibly rewarding, too. We showcased new collectible designs at Rossana Orlandi Gallery, Serafini Gallery, and Alcova, along with a table lamp in collaboration with the Italian brand mogg at the Salone del Mobile fair. Milan Design Week always feels like a reunion with the network, recognizing familiar faces at every corner.


Behind the scenes, it’s not as glamorous as it might seem. While it's definitely a lot of fun, the seven days of product presentations and networking are exhausting. We usually avoid alcohol and go to bed early to keep up with the demanding schedule. After the event, we take a week or two to process everything before resuming our normal work routine.


"Rug'n Roll" & "Era Table Lamp" for Mogg, Photos: BUDDE


"Piano Wahsbasin" for Serafini, Photos: BUDDE


What factors do you consider when researching materials or choosing materials for your new projects? Can you tell us a bit about the material choices in your work?


Johannes: When it comes to researching or choosing materials, we actually don't have a recurring process. Sometimes the design phase starts with a specific material in mind. This was for instance the case with our concrete stools RUG'N ROLL. 


Our design process is characterized by ongoing experimentation with form, function, and material. We’ve worked with various materials like metal, wood, and natural stones. Aspects we consider in the selection of materials are the sources of the material, whether it’s new, recycled, or offcut, its versatility, and whether it has been seen in a certain way before. We aim to find a surprising angle to how a material is used. 


Which of your works has excited you the most in terms of the design process and the final product?


Meike: One of our Milan Design Week 2024 launches, the multifunctional table VEIL, has excited me because the outcome was mainly unpredictable. The distinctive feature of the design is a “tablecloth” made of anodized aluminum, a technique – developed by our partner BWB – which allows you to add color gradients into the material’s surface while retaining the metallic effect. The manual colorization is done within a few minutes and is basically irreversible. Although we did test the technique with smaller samples, the final result was a surprise. 


"Veil", BUDDE x BWB, Photos: Rossana Orlandi


Can you tell us a bit about the sources of inspiration behind your work? Who are the names you follow with curiosity in this field or in other disciplines?


Johannes: Inspiration often arises from a change of environment or perspective, the conscious search for new experiences and the courage to break habits. In daily routines, the brain switches to autopilot, which I try to disrupt. Even small changes, like rearranging furniture, can be surprisingly inspiring. This allows you to see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes, discover new details, and create space for creative impulses.


 

"At the same time, silence is also very important to me. The best ideas often come to me just before falling asleep. When working on a new design, I try to incorporate short naps, which initially feels counterproductive because you want to be productive. However, I believe that letting go of the mental “noise” is essential to truly perceive and

reflect on your thoughts."


 

Designers or studios we actively follow are for example Sabine Marcelis, Laurids Gallee, Philippe Malouin, Mario Tsai or Objects of Common Interest. Icons I admire for many years are Achille Castiglioni and Nendo.


Are you excited about the future and what are your plans?


Meike: After this year’s Milan Design Week, we decided to stay in the city. We’re testing Milan for a couple of months as a potential new home alongside Cologne, where we’re from. We’re excited to see if we’ll settle in Milan and build our studio here.



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