Villeroy & Boch are one of those companies that you know and are aware of, even if you don't really know much about them. Their expertly applied trademark stamp adorns sinks and toilets in an abundance of hotels, restaurants and residential properties all over the world. Since 1748 Villeroy & Boch have been producing ceramic tableware, then, later on down the line, bathroom sanitary-ware, and are one of Europe's most valued and celebrated producers of ceramics and porcelain. So, when they invited me to go and stay with them for a few days at their headquarters in Mettlach, Germany, how could I refuse?
I arrived in Luxembourg and was driven to Mettlach where I was due to stay in the Villeroy & Boch family-owned castle Schloss Saareck. This place was the stuff of gothic-interior dreams! I was in love! The ground floor featuring the dining rooms, ballroom and casual seating areas were all dark wood panelling, fireplaces and taxidermy. I was particularly taken with the ballroom which just oozed the kind of charm you only get with properties of this period:
The aptly-titled 'chimney room', where we had drinks on the first evening, had the most amazing tropical decor. Pineapples and palm trees have been so on-trend in interiors for past few years, but this room, probably decorated in this style over 50 years ago, had such a feeling of encapsulating this trend the first time around:
Yet the top floor rooms of the castle where I stayed had been recently refurbished and had a much more contemporary edge. I loved the vibrancy of my coral headboard which matched one of Villeroy & Boch's clementine-coloured vases on the side table:
On the second day in Mettlach we were shown around the tableware and the sanitary-ware factories. As a global brand the demand means that robots are relied on now for a lot of the moulding and sanding of products, yet there is still a real artisan element with tableware glazed with decals and edged with platinum carried out by the experienced hands of the women who work there (often for 30 years or more). This is what I found so charming about the Villeroy & Boch empire. The company headquarters and factory remains where it started in the small town of Mettlach, with a population of around 6000 people, where around 500 of those people are dedicated Villeroy & Boch employees. The company has a deep-rooted and proud history in the area, and those working for the company keep that tradition alive.
I think one of the hardest things with a company like Villeroy & Boch, who have been going for so long (they have their own museum dedicated to the brand in Mettlach), who also have such die-hard fans who expect a consistency in product style (they have collectors all over the world), is keeping the products and the brand up 'with the times'. It is very easy to rely on the 'popular' collections and keep producing what people want and expect, which is why I found one of the most interesting parts of the trip a presentation by the Danish/German designer Gesa Hansen.
Gesa Hansen's interior design studio was named by Elle Decoration as the "Interior Design Studio" Newcomer of 2012 for its outstanding interiors. In 2014 she also won the much-acclaimed title of Germany's 'Young Designer of The Year'. Amazingly, she came to Schloss Saareck while we were there to talk to us about her love of colour and her collections for Villeroy & Boch.
Beautiful as well as humble, Gesa was passionate about great design and colour. It was her range of sinks in the 'just-perfect' pastel shades which caught my eye out of all the products Villeroy & Boch had to offer, which I saw over the few days I visited.
Yet as we had breakfast in Schloss Saareck, you couldn't deny the charm of the more vintage tableware, which suited the castle interior so well:
I had the most amazing time with the very gracious team at Villeroy & Boch and I am eagerly anticipating Gesa Hansen's new collaboration with the brand, expected to launch in 2019. In the meantime I'll be dreaming of blush pink sinks!
* I want to thank Villeroy & Boch and the great team that looked after me on my few days stay with them, including all the staff at Schloss Saareck. All photography in this post is my own except for the sanitaryware shots which are courtesy of Villeroy & Boch.