Light to set the mood. Talking to designer and manager Anna Claudia Strolz from the lamp specialist Strolz Leuchten is truly illuminating. The creative businesswoman knows how to use a light source to create an atmospheric home which can be anything – from practical to romantic and even healthy. Her passion lights up the room and in our interview we shed light on the details of her career.
Timeless design, lamps made from the finest materials and that special promise of quality that comes with craftsmanship from Bregenz Forest characterise lamps made by Strolz Leuchten. Founder Anna Claudia Strolz doesn’t simply create furniture but favourite pieces for generations. With passion and long years of experience the entrepreneur invites her customers to enjoy a unique (shopping) experience in her flagship store and the open workshop in the city centre of Bregenz. Be careful, though, there is a distinct danger of addiction – once you own a Strolz lamp you’ll never want to do without them again.
“Consistency in all materials.”
L.L./ Your parents owned an electrical shop and in 2012 you founded your own enterprise. What is it you learned from your parents that you can now pass on to your customers?
A.C.S./ What I learned from my parents was what it means to be self-employed, meaning not having fixed working hours and working on weekends, too. But, first and foremost, I learned about trustworthiness and realiability. The clear characteristics of Strolz Leuchten are unfailing consistency when it comes to the materials, the quality and the regional production. My lamps are extremely high quality and durable, that’s something you can see in every single lamp. It’s extremely important to me to go away from mass consumption and follow the motto of Vivienne Westwood instead: “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” That’s the direction we need to take, really.
“Buy less, choose well. Make it last.”
In many cases people already know a lamp is only going to be a temporary solution when they buy it – the result is unnecessarily expensive bulky waste and a strain on the environment that’s going to end up costing us all. Lamps should accompany you throughout your life and be passed on from generation to generation. Our lampshades can be covered in fresh fabric at any time. The stands are made from 100 percent metal and not from plastic; and they are really strong. And that’s something only craftsmanship can do, in industrial production that’s hardly possible. We also restore old lamps and it is an amazing feeling when people come to us with an heirloom and we get to design a new lampshade for it.
L.L./ Together with the designers Mattheo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez you’ve made your own creation. How did your paths cross and what’s the connection?
A.C.S./ The collaboration with Atelier Thun started with a request on my part. Two weeks later I received a call from Mrs Susanne Thun. She accompanied the entire project. And I was amazed that Atelier Thun would even be aware of a small company like Strolz. But it’s exactly that material authenticity you can see in our products that industry simply doesn’t do. No matter if it’s loden, silk, brass, or concrete – we make lamps that don’t just look like a certain Home & Design material, they are 100 percent that.
“Where else do you get hand-turned walnut nowadays?”
The quality of craftsmanship in the Bregenz Forest region is always first rate. Where else can you still get hand-turned solid walnut? The prices of plastic and plexiglass lamps designed by renowned desingers are astonishing. Matteo Thun and Antonio Rodriguez, however, love craftsmanship; so we have a strong, common basis. The conviction that quality stands for craftsmanship is something we share unreservedly. We also created a series of lamps with Susanne Thun. In her Bontanica collection Mrs Thun makes plants and grass the protagonists of her work.
L.L./ Your shop is more like a boutique than a normal shop. And Römerstrasse is known for fashion and shopping. How do people buy your lamps?
A.C.S./ Oh, anything is possible, really. But it is important to me to get to know the customer and their needs first. Then there’s the consultation and in the end we go to our darkroom where the customer can see what kind of light the lamp gives off. For us the darkroom isn’t just a service, it’s an essential part of our process. Most lamp shops are completely overlit, you can only base your decision on design and never the quality of the light. The customers feel well taken care of here, they feel that we have a professional approach to the topic of light and the necessary knowhow. And that’s the difference between us, a lamp specialist, and a furniture studio.
“The process is a lively collaboration with all craftsmen.”
L.L./ Your workshop in Bregenz Forest is all about craftsmanship! What are the steps of the production process?
A.C.S./ First, we draw our ideas, then there are the first talks with the craftsmen where we go through the stages of production. That process is a mutual collaboration with all craftsmen; the idea is to make the most of everybody’s know-how. Our work is personalised and custom-made. The trend, however, goes towards mass production – the design must be applicable all over the word, it’s standardised and there are hardly any regional differences.
“I, personally, would like to know here I am when I wake up.”
Globalisation lets us forget where we are. We could be in Hong Kong, London, New York City or even Lech and see the same lamps everywhere. I, personally, however, would like to know where I am when I wake up. Whether I’m in a hotel room in Lech or Venice. Otherwise you simply lose character. We preserve it through the quality and individuality that only craftsmanship makes possible.
L.L./ No lamp without a shade – that’s what we learned in Paris! Would you say the shade is like a canvas where you get to tell a story?
A.C.S./ Yes, also, but first and foremost it’s about the quality of the light the lampshade creates. The light source is hidden by the lampshade and the result is ideal lighting. The different laminations, so the inner layers, can direct the light. Golden lamination, for example, creates a light channel and therefore indirect lighting. White lamination directs the light into the room. That way there really are many possibilities. There’s a reason the lampshade has been around for so long, the light and the quality of it simply are fantastic. And only with light can you create real atmosphere.
“Our signature product, the cylindrical lampshade, practically repels dust particles.”
Of course, there are customers who have several lampshades or who like to swap them based on the season. But that’s not the standard. Customers come to us when they refurbish. They bring samples of upholstery fabric, curtains, wallpaper, or pictures that should go with a special lampshade. The functionality is always preserved. It’s because of our specialist know-how that we know, for example, how to adapt the lamination or the diameter of the lamp to the actual light source to make sure the overall picture is perfect. Or if the room might possibly need another table lamp.
L.L./ Many hotels in Lech Zürs are adorned with your lamps. How do you make sure nature, architecture, and light are in perfect harmony? What do you pay attention to?
A.C.S./ The existing or the planned interior are most important here. That includes factors like the ceiling height or the ceiling colour. The topic of dust is an important factor. 100-percent natural materials like merino loden do not attract dust, that’s something cheap materials do.
L.L./ Light sources express moods. Do we need less (artificial) light when we’re on holiday?
A.C.S./ When on holiday the atmosphere is key – it’s important to feel snug and comfortable, an effect which can be reached with a golden layer on the inside of a lamp. Particularly during winter in Lech, when there’s snow and it’s cold outside, it’s important to create a cosy feel with warm light. An open fire also has that effect. Nowadays there are huge differences, though, just think of halogen and LED light sources.
“Once a customer has their first Strolz lamp they no longer want anything else.”
Aside from the effects on our level of comfort, light also has a substantial influence on our physical and psychological wellbeing. Bad lighting can lead to headaches and bad mood or have a negative effect on performance, in school kids, for example. But in most cases such decisions are exclusively based on pricing. My customers’ feedback: once they have their first Strolz lamp they no longer want anything else. The quality speaks for itself and it’s something people who refurbish their private space do not want to do without.
And not every customer has the funds to “just go” and buy a certain lamp, many of them save up and then they get a piece that’s made in the region with a 100-percent metal frame that’ll make them happy. For me, in any case, every single lamp is something special. Some I have become so attached to I try and make sure they get a particularly “good home”.
WORDRAP WITH ANNA CLAUDIA STROLZ
Lamp on, a glass of wine and...
My favourite natural lighting in Lech Zürs?
Everyone should have a … in their living room!
My favourite piece?
All of them (laughs).
Anna Claudia Strolz grew up in a family of craftsmen in Bregenz Forest. At her parents’ shop she started learning about lamps very early on in her childhood. Together with her husband Markus Strolz the craftswoman and designer has been in charge of the family business since 2012. Aside from that Anna Claudia Strolz has been the manager of Angelika Kauffmann Association in Schwarzenberg since 2011, which organises an annual show about the painter Angelika Kauffmann.