1.) What are the main hallmarks of a.s.h.? Please give us a brief introduction to your company.
Since January 2006 we, that is Astrid Kölsche and Silke Knodel, have been running the a.s.h. interior design studio as a way of combining our three strengths: architecture, interior design and lighting.
At a.s.h. we blend poetic realism with high-contrast harmony.
We also strive to encapsulate the essence of each client and to give their individuality a spatial expression. Our tailor-made concepts allow plenty of scope and encourage the fantastic visions of an unbridled imagination.
Our range of services covers all phases of project planning from the initial concept study to the finished product.
2.) How would you describe the design signature of a.s.h. in a single sentence?
We find the soul of the space and give it a material form.
3.) How did your collaboration with Mäurer & Wirtz come about?
Mäurer & Wirtz launched a competition for the modernisation of the House of 4711, giving a.s.h. free rein to come up with their own design. 4711 is one of the most important brands in Cologne and is famous around the world. Like Mäurer & Wirtz, we also have very high standards for all our projects. We too eschew short-lived trends and instead set great store by continuity and quality. This is how classic designs are born.
4.) In the new premises of the House of 4711, modernity meets history in a very special way. What were your main priorities here?
The House of 4711 has a distinctive character: soaring windows with Gothic tracery, which gives a delicate, lightweight structure to the top floor, making it appear both changeable and steadfast at the same time. This is where tradition meets the future – and for us it was all about seizing and preserving that juxtaposition. The colour scheme is a symphony of Bremen blue – as a symbol for 4711, but also representing water and the source of all life.
5.) Which elements of the previous interior design did you preserve and why?
One of these elements is the popular perfume fountain, which we redesigned and integrated into the overall concept. As the source of both fragrance and inspiration, the fountain of 4711 Original Eau de Cologne has always been a hallmark of the House of 4711 in Cologne, and it should stay that way.
The Gobelin tapestry depicting the scene that gave 4711 its name in the 18th century, remains in place as an important symbol and is certain to thrill future visitors to the House of 4711.
We also kept the beautiful banisters of the gallery that runs between the museum and the shop.
6.) What do you think are the most fundamental changes?
Since the refurbishment, the House of 4711 has been based on a clear architectural concept, which creates a greater sense of space. The rooms are connected to each other and open up to the town itself, forming a neat, well-structured layout. The range of materials and colours has been reduced, but is still original, authentic and truly genuine. All this proves that the House of 4711 remains true to its name and makes a wonderful stage for the fragrance expertise and the fragrances themselves. In this sense, we were guided by the idea of an operatic stage, with window display cases as miniature theatre stages, various levels of reality, treasure chests and much more besides. As a result, the concept is changeable but constant.
The 4711 candelabra also sets the scene in the room. It is made up of 108 empty flacons of 4711 and creates a magical and authentic flair.
The top floor now has the additional attraction of the fragrance bar. This world of sensory wonder for the nose, palate and soul acts as a shop floor and museum in one – and puts people first and foremost. Since the refurbishment, people can now access the balconies, which provide a beautiful view towards the city centre and Cologne's cathedral. The light flooding in through the generous windows gives the upper floor a type of loft character.
7.) Many brands today have their own flagship store – so what makes the House of 4711 in Cologne so special?
The House of 4711 is a shop unlike any other. Thanks to its open-plan format, it is more like the interior of an atelier or a workshop. Instead of having just a salesroom, it also offers an exciting range of training opportunities in the realm of fragrances. The newly designed House of 4711 is also the ideal venue for evening events.
Cologne, as the "birthplace" of the brand, naturally plays a very important role for 4711. The House of 4711 enjoys optimal access to the museum and the city centre, making it highly versatile for use outside normal business hours.
8.) What materials were primarily used during the refurbishment?
We settled on natural stone for the new look. For the counter units we chose an Italian marble. Brass, silver lacquer and powder-coated steel were also used. Light and dark oak elements lend a natural structure in the sense of "inspired by nature" and "back to the roots". In this way we refer to the naturalness, originality and authenticity of the 4711 products. When working on the design we were also influenced by old-style pharmacies, which tell exciting tales of days gone by.
9.) Are there any other points, facts or anecdotes you would like to share with interested visitors?
The display window in the tradition of big department stores was a first for us and posed a particular challenge for our entire planning team. Our Christmas Wonderland began life as a 3D digital visualisation and required more data volume than any of the big architectural designs we have created so far. Some of the individual images took 3 days to achieve the final visualisation. The end result speaks for itself.