Percolating Talent

Young designers get a pick-me-up from Vienna’s coffee house cum design store.

Vienna is famous for its café culture; everyone has their preferred venue and style of coffee. But at Das Möbel having a favorite seat takes on new meaning: they’re all different, they change on a regular basis, and you can take them home. That’s because this coffeehouse doubles as a design gallery that features new work by young designers.

In the few years they’ve been in business, partners Markus Luger, Justus Lück, Lothar Trier-

enberg, and Margaretha Schiesswohl have shown approximately 1,000 pieces by 200 designers from Italy, Germany, Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Austria. The partners exhibit what pleases them—usually products that have an element of humor. Prices range from inexpensive ($3.75 for an eggcup made of plastic grass) to exorbitant (nearly $6 million for an airship with a delivery time of ten years, though Luger admits that it’s unclear whether the project could actually be realized).

“Our first idea was just to make a furniture store,” Luger says. “But then we decided it would be more interesting to combine that with a coffee shop. With this concept we can show the designs to many more people, and the customers can really use the chairs and tables. Normal furniture stores may have ten to twenty customers in a day; we have about a hundred.”

According to Luger, there’s another reason for the café’s success. “There is no other place in Vienna—or even in Austria—where young and unknown designers can show their work,” he says. Das Möbel isn’t just connecting designers with potential consumers—it’s also bringing them to the attention of manufacturers and other retailers. For example, the MAK (Museum for Applied Art) design shop has picked up the Disco bowl by Philip Koebnick, which is made of old LPs, and Maxim Velcovsky’s bar-coded Pure porcelain cups. And as a result of seeing Monica Singer’s Cut lamp at the café, the Austrian manufacturer Moor & Moor has put it into production. The lamp’s shade starts out relatively smooth but gets increasingly curly as customers slice its strips to their liking.

On average, there are about 20 pieces of furniture on display in the café, and the items change every three months. Though there’s no formal contract, the products remain on Das Möbel’s Web site, where they can always be ordered and then picked up at the gallery or directly from the designer. Luger, who spent a year making furniture, says of the gallery’s nurturing setup, “We want to help unknown designers take the first steps in their careers.”

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