Das ist ein Test

Magazine paper 03

Like salt and pepper

Like salt and pepper.

Ingrid and Hans-Joachim Naber are a highly enterprising team—and not just in the kitchen. Since 1975, these two avid collectors of everyday art and carvings from the Erz Mountains and Memphis Design have been running Naber GmbH. Hans-Joachim is the chief developer and creative brains behind the outfit, while Ingrid, as manager, holds the organizational reins. Both are of the same opinion that nothing can come to pass without good organization. Small wonder that during a visit to the company headquarters in Nordhorn, nothing is left to chance. An encounter.
A wiry man with silver hair, a carefully-groomed beard and the tanned skin of a mountain ranger or skipper, Hans-Joachim »Hajo« Naber takes a seat at the interview table, throwing a relaxed arm over the chair next to him. The owner of Naber GmbH asks me if I’d care for a glass of water or a cup of coffee before pouring himself some tea. Dishes by Kahla and the classic stacking china set »TC 100« designed by Hans Roericht are set up on the table. On the side of the table closest to me is a metal plate that reads »guest«. Here at Naber, little is left up to chance.
Steam rises from the tea and Hans-Joachim Naber begins to talk about his life, his background, his father and grandfather, who were carpenters and entrepreneurs. At home he was told to leave any repair works to his brother. He was the member of the family said to be all thumbs. Now Hans-Joachim Naber is himself a product developer: someone who gets down to the nitty-gritty of things. Over the years he has acquired a lot of patents. »At school, I wasn’t the best student,« Naber smiles. He preferred sports: gymnastics, football, fencing and, most of all, running. He could run 100 meters in 11.3 seconds. His speciality was cross-country. Naber never throws in the towel. When he took part in a 5,000 metre race after a long break from competitive sports, he got terrible side-stitch and many competitors overtook him. Yet Hans-Joachim Naber did not give up. After a while he realised he was still in the game: »And in fact, I managed to get back into things and pass quite a few of them again!«
And the company? Is that similar to long distance running? Naber smiles, »Things have developed steadily.« The most important thing in his opinion is to know your market. Naber says he’s always been a good observer, good at finding holes in things, areas where something is missing, things you can really grapple with. In order to do so, the entrepreneur needed input. He went through newspapers and magazines. Not only the kind you find at the news agent, but international publications, too. He delights in discovering new magazines at the airport and signing up for a subscription immediately. Naber fetches a folder with recent clippings. Only few articles deal explicitly with innovations in the kitchen. »This,« Naber tells me, »is what’s really interesting: happening upon something new from a completely different angle.«

A boss without a
waiting room


A boss without a waiting roomOn the first floor, Ingrid Naber is in discussion with the accounts department. Ingrid and Hans-Joachim Naber own equal shares in the company. She is responsible for HR, organization and finance. She decided she didn’t need a waiting room. »Anybody can come in, whenever they like,« she says. She knows what her staff want and the issues that preoccupy them. Many pour their hearts out to her. »I like to help people,« the manager says, »But naturally I am not always a soft touch.« Getting to the point is her thing. »I’m also responsible for dealing with the more unpleasant decisions within the company.« It’s not often that staff leave the company; Naber GmbH is one big family. The company’s 180 staffers make it one of the largest employers in Nordhorn since the decline of the local textile industry. Ingrid Naber started her career in one of these companies and her passion for fashion has never left her.
Ingrid and Hans-Joachim Naber are an experienced team. Like salt and pepper, they complement one another. On the one hand there’s the hands-on executive (»I like to keep my eye on things«), on the other the developer, pushing things along holistically. »It’s not necessary to invent everything yourself,« notes Hans-Joachim Naber, who is driven by one thing alone: an unquenchable curiosity about the world. »I never want to be a master,« he says abruptly, »I’d much rather remain an apprentice, someone who takes care of logistics in the kitchen. You’d really be making people’s lives easier.« And there have certainly been developments in this domain over the decades.
In 1975, the Nabers took over the wholesale company for joinery supplies and furniture fitting that Hermann Naber had first established in 1948. Determinedly, they set to work on the domain of kitchen accessories. They were successful. That same year »Compair«, a ducted air extraction system, was introduced. In 1976, »Dassa« was released: a waste collector, integrated into the kitchen worktop, still listed in the catalogue today. Polished technological solutions and prize-winning designs are what makes Naber stand out. Additional, the firm has almost 40 years’ experience with air extraction systems and waste disposal systems. According to the 2008 brochure, celebrating the company’s 60th anniversary, »Naber continually strives to create the new and exciting, to come up with products whose value will be felt in a lasting way during everyday use, without calling into question that which has already been proven.« This formula remains true today.

Into the archives of the
avid collector


»Hold on, I’ve nearly got it,« Hans-Joachim Naber reassures his guest as he digs through containers of material. The 68-year-old ferrets through container after container, continually discovering new items. The walls of his office are covered by an array of posters, sheets of metal, signboards and quotations, giving the impression of some avid collector’s personal archive. Into the archives of the avid collectorOr maybe a French bistro, forced to close due to overcrowding. This artistic synthesis à la Kurt Schwitters forms a space of structured chaos within a building that has primarily administrative functions. Naber has preserved a space for inspiration. The effect is clean, thought through to the smallest detail. Actually, Naber tells me, he used to have a corner office, but he never felt at ease there, so cut off from what was happening around him. The Nabers’ son, Lasse, a member of the Management Board since 2003, now occupies the aforementioned office. And Hans-Joachim sits in the midst of it all, in his inspiration room with its view over the delivery area and the shallow Research Pavilion, half-hidden behind the greenery and a collection of objects, figures and mountings on the windowsill. To the right, in the corner, stands a wooden figure complete with beard and spectacles who looks somewhat like Captain Haddock from The Adventures of Tintin, only without the captain’s hat. »That’s me,« says Hans-Joachim Naber. »A gift from a colleague. They knew that my wife and I collect wooden figures from the Erz Mountains.« There’s not a lot of space left on the desk: a flood of papers has taken over the writing surface, the Powerbook has been pushed right to the edge of the desk. To the left are three volumes in orange, blue and lilac. Written upon them are the words »Ideas«, »Concepts« and »Inspiration«. Gradually one comes to understand where the array of ideas come from and how Hans-Joachim Naber manipulates them to eventually create products—real things with real retail value.
And where are all these objects developed? Naber boasts its own in-house development wing. Right at the entrance of the laboratory, a sign warns the visitor not to enter without authorization. A few air locks later we’re standing in the sacred temple, a clinical room which by the sound of things could be a laundromat. The noises originate not from the leisurely rotating of washing machine drums, however, but from a test assembly which tests various air extraction systems. Suction. Stop. Suction. Stop. Hans-Joachim Naber gestures towards the meter reading: the machinery has almost 70,000 cycles behind it. In the pale light of the test assembly for the waste disposal systems, the chief developer opens drawer after drawer. Systems created by rival companies are among them: these too are studied closely. Finding fault is important, a constructive and artistic activity. Naber has over 200 patents, among them utility and design patents, registered trademarks and brand names. Emphasis is placed upon user comfort, high quality of materials, good manufacture and design. For this, Naber has won a dozen prizes, including the German Design Award, the highest official decoration in Germany in the realm of design.

Cherish everything—from
cellar to rooftop


Behind the logistics center stands an unadorned building. This was the old office. It was used prior to the 2008 completion of the deep red main building, where even now you still get the feeling it was opened mere days ago. There is no dust in the corners, no cluttered office kitchenette, no overflowing desks. As Ingrid Naber said, »It’s simply a concern of mine for everything here to look perfect.« She’s been true to her word. Order will soon rule again in the old office building. Until recently, it’s been stuffed from the cellar to the eaves with half-unpacked treasures, thousands of figurines from the Erz Mountains. Angels in boxes, angels the size of children, pyramids, tall as a grown man, miniature versions of Christmas decorations. The Erz Region is Ingrid Naber’s passion. Every year at Christmas, almost 2500 carved wooden figures are sent to company friends and business partners. At the beginning, these figurines were received with surprise, but now there are many dyed-in-the-wool fans for this unusual gift. As they say: at first what is new is strange, but at some point you realise you don’t want to live without it. Winning people over and overcoming resistance is nothing new to the Nabers. They do it daily.
Cherish everything from cellar to rooftopThe Naber Company Museum is to be located on the ground floor. Images of the first stand at the interzum trade fair in May 1981 in Cologne, the honorary certificate given to Hans-Joachim’s grandfather, Gerrit Naber, at the 50-year jubilee of Master Craftsmen in November 1962, a green-and-white Naber football pennant with the motto »Wer sich nicht bewegt, bewegt nichts« (Those who do not move will move nothing) will be displayed. Furthermore, a small history of the fitted kitchen will be installed for readers, detailing the story from the famous so-called Frankfurt Kitchen by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky to fitted kitchens in the post-war period right up to Kilian Schindler’s Concept Kitchen, with which Naber GmbH hopes to achieve all that which has been lost from the fitted kitchen concept over the years. This modular piece with white and metal elements, honoured with the German Design Price, demonstrates what cooking could mean for a mobile generation: purist enjoyment.

In the tradition of the
»Frankfurt Kitchen«


It’s getting late. Ingrid and Hans-Joachim Naber are sitting beneath the pergola. The evening feels subtropical, fluffy clouds hang in the dusk light. They’d had plans for dinner, but there’s always something that needs taking care of. Today photographers came to visit. Naber lights his pipe and begins to unwind. Even when on holiday, it takes a week before the avid hiker really feels like he’s got away. He says it without complaint. Ingrid Naber nods in agreement. There is pizza and water on the long table. The gardener has joined us, as well as photographer Markus Burke from Munich, his assistant and designer Adrian Nießler from Frankfurt. Behind the towering hawthorn hedges they work on photos of the Concept Kitchen, a completely new approach for the company. For the first time the supplier offers his own kitchen system, in the style of the tra-ditional »Frankfurt Kitchen«, but which nevertheless laid great emphasis on the concept of freedom. This design is for people unwilling to put up with a ready-made fitted solution and who instead want to take their kitchen with them to their next apartment. People who want to continually be able to make alterations. Ingrid Naber sighs: »At first I really thought, goodness, what’ll be the cost?!« Yet she has become the Concept Kitchen’s most committed fan. »I find the design absolutely beautiful,« she says, »I’d love to combine it with other pieces.« And on this front, she is a true master.


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