Reeds in champagner

Behind the Design

Grain and Reeds

Many of Bernd Benninghoff’s designs for FilzFelt draw from forms in nature, particularly those he stumbles on during travels abroad. Two years ago, he took us to the Swiss Alps where, out on the road, inspiration struck for Crossover, Facade, and Gap, a collection of acoustic wallcoverings. Driving city-to-city along the base of the Swiss Alps, Bernd took notice of the architecture in each town he explored, particularly struck by the complexities and patterning of the facades and exteriors that crossed his path.

With Grain and Reeds, Bernd again brings the outdoors in. This year, he takes us to the Canary Islands, where the fascinating range of landscapes inspired the soothing and natural curves that create the panels’ patterning. It was here, camera in tow, that Bernd stumbled on a wide range of plant life and foliage that would later inspire the natural curves found in Grain and Reeds.

We caught up with Bernd back at his studio to chat about his recent trip and nature’s continued inspiration in his life and work.

Tell us about the inspiration behind these designs!

The inspiration for the Grain and Reeds designs came partly from my passion for the outdoors and photography and partly from the technical developments at Filzfelt, which allowed me to cut curved lines into felt. New possibilities in the manufacturing process enabled me to transfer my observations from nature to felt panels and develop designs with more organic patterns. 


Nature and traveling often inform your designs for FilzFelt. Were you traveling when you stumbled on the inspiration for these? Where did the idea first strike?

I have been traveling to the Canary Islands regularly for many years. The volcanic islands in the Atlantic offer a fascinating range of landscapes, from jagged lava flows to dense rainforests and black sand beaches. In recent years, there have also been repeated and severe forest fires, which have left clear traces on the vegetation. It is fascinating to observe how nature slowly recovers after such devastating events. I always have my camera on me when I go hiking for when I make small, inspiring discoveries along the way - beautiful details that nature has in store. 

Canary Islands Coast
Canary Island Beach
Bernd taking pictures

“I have been traveling to the Canary Islands regularly for many years. The volcanic islands in the Atlantic offer a fascinating range of landscapes, from jagged lava flows to dense rainforests and black sand beaches. I always have my camera on me when I go hiking for the beautiful details that nature has in store.”

Natural textures of the Canary Islands
Natural textures of the Canary Islands

What feelings do you want these designs to evoke?

I think the large, floor-to-ceiling felt modules with their organically curved lines, reminiscent of wooden structures and plants, bring a sense of natural surfaces and structures to interiors. However, I try to make this effect happen in a restrained way and with an aesthetic that goes beyond classic, repetitive floral patterns.


In what kinds of spaces do you envision these patterns?

I can imagine these designs almost anywhere—in open-plan offices, where they create a soft contrast to more functional office furniture; in hotel rooms, where you might want to relax against a natural backdrop; or even in the healthcare sector, where they can be beneficial in areas that could use acoustically effective materials. Not to mention, there are areas where people and patients could benefit from spaces that feel relaxing and soothing and have a natural look and feel at the same time.

Grain in Bernd's Studio
prototypes in Bernd's studio
Bernd picking colors

These designs offer the ability to combine two colors of wool felt. Did this affect the overall design? Can you tell us about how mixing colors affects these designs?

I have been experimenting for some time now with arranging several layers of wool felt on top of each other and making them visible again layer by layer through the v-shaped incisions. This production technique allows for thoughtful and well-coordinated color aesthetics. The extensive color palette of the Filzfelt collection offers almost infinite color combinations. This is particularly important to me with Grain and Reeds. Combining color, especially when considering the effects of light and shadow, made the depth and spacing of the cuts a significant part of the design process.


Do you have color combinations that you feel work especially well for these patterns?

The color combinations I’m drawn to the most are those that create the least contrast. When both layers are similar in color (especially where the surface is only slightly lighter than the underlying base), the three-dimensional effect of the v-grooves is particularly effective. You can immediately understand that the pattern is not just a graphic but a surface with depth.

Your previous design for Arc was also inspired by forms found in nature. Can you tell us a little about how nature impacts your daily life and continues to impact your work?

Whenever my job at the university and in my design studio allows it, I try to get out into nature. I enjoy being out and about on my bike, kayak, skis, or on foot. For me, this is the perfect balance of my work as a designer and interior architect. In return, the diversity of nature is a beautiful source of inspiration that I take back to my studio.

Bernd in the woods
Grain detail
Wood grain detail
reeds in nature
Reeds detail
Bernd in studio

About Bernd Benninghoff

Bernd Benninghoff works as a furniture designer and interior architect based in Mainz, Germany. Since 2000, his design studio has developed furniture as well as room and exhibition concepts for international clients. For Bernd, objects and spatial context are interrelated. It is important for him to use authentic materials and appropriate manufacturing processes—in search of meaningful design solutions and room experiences with an independent character.

Learn more about Bernd 

Learn more about Grain and Reeds

Grain and Reeds pair soft curves with subtle depth that plays with light and shadow, a defining characteristic of Bernd’s designs. Pair over ninety colors of 100% Wool Design Felt with three shades of grey substrate, or for even greater color possibilities, add a second layer of felt for the v-grooves to be cut into for endless color combinations. 

Explore the collection

Grain in conference room
Part of the MillerKnoll collective