Part of the fourth generation of a family of Swiss rug and carpet makers, Peter Ruckstuhl has lived his entire life in the textile industry. He took the helm at his family’s eponymous firm in 1977 and has since worked tirelessly to champion the core values on which the Ruckstuhl carpet empire was founded over 130 years ago. That makes him the perfect choice for a headliner in the first-ever Dotsandplanes design tour set for June 15 to 19 with stops in Denmark and Switzerland. The program was conceived by Joost Vanhecke , An Michiels and Brik de Maeyer as a carefully curated inspiration tour for 12 select designers and architects, who together will visit &Tradition ’s dock-side headquarters, the Vitra campus, and of course meet with Ruckstuhl himself.
By eschewing synthetic fibers and mass production in favor of traditional techniques and natural materials, Ruckstuhl AG has stood the test of time, continuing to operate out of its Lagenthal factory with around 80 employees to produce ecologically sound wool, linen, jute, goat hair, coir and sisal carpets for the contract and domestic markets. In addition to working with a trusted in house team of designers, over the years Ruckstuhl has cleverly tapped an enviable roster of international talent for its Editions collections, including the likes of Alfredo Häberli, Arik Levy, Matteo Thun, Patricia Urquiola and Hussein Chalayan. We spoke to Peter Ruckstuhl about his company’s triumphs and challenges.
Interior Design: What are the biggest challenges you've faced since you took the helm at Ruckstuhl in 1977?
Peter Ruckstuhl: With our ruthless focus on natural materials, Ruckstuhl has been a specialist since the beginning. Staying with purely natural materials without compromising on quality or pricing guarantees the unique features of Ruckstuhl carpets, which create ease and comfort while providing functional advantages such as noise reduction and sound absorption. Convincing also the contract customer, however, proves to be challenging. Customers talk about sustainability, ecology and healthiness but often act differently. The amortization period of five years often takes more weight in the decision than the above-average durability or the positive impact on a healthy interior climate.
ID: You have worked with an impressive roster of world-renowned designers. How do these collaborations come about and what do you learn from them?
PR: Ruckstuhl's Editions collections bring together designs by internationally famous designers whose signatures could not be more different from one another. The 2013 series ranges from avant garde London-based clothing designer Hussein Chalayan by way of the experimental Swiss studio Atelier Oï to the most influential female designer in Milan, Patricia Urquiola . All of them were asked to come up with a contemporary interpretation of the patterned carpet, and they have created fascinating designs, each reflecting the approach of the individual designer. Apart from the dictated concept of pattern and the condition that only natural and sustainable raw materials should be used, we gave the designers' imagination a free rein. The result has been a multilayered and richly varied collection which combines a wide range of design currents and cultural influences. The courage of designers to think about carpet differently opened up new paths. If you look at Stagione and Logenze , new carpet forms successfully enrich the proven concept of the classical 200 by 300 cm size.
ID: Over the years have there been any technological developments that have impressed you or any new materials that have tempted you to try something different?
PR: In the fifties, the new tufting production and synthetic materials turned the carpet production upside down. In addition to our traditional looms, we also introduced the highly efficient tufting. New collections such as the 30mm thick Più, the bouclé Loop or velour carpet collection Madison followed. The new technology also opened up the way for individualizing the carpet production and better suiting the customer’s preferences. Instead of working with synthetic materials however, we decided to expand our product range by including virgin wool, which still makes up a large part of the Ruckstuhl assortment today.
ID: Do you pay attention to trends?
PR: Even though our own products will be in use for many years, we are constantly looking for inspirations from fashion and lifestyle. This is especially relevant when we create the color concepts of our collections.
ID: What are your goals for the future of Ruckstuhl? How will the company continue to grow and evolve?
PR: Implementing the Bauhaus’ idea to make good design widely accessible will continue to be one of our guiding principles. Furthermore we will increasingly focus on the impact of color and material on the living and working environment.