Love & furniture from Hamburg to Manila
CRAZY QUILT - Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2016 - 12:00am

Retailer Burkhardt “Boogi” Zipperich had a rather unusual training that got him ready for the competitive business of selling furniture. When he was a child, his father liked to play a game with him and his sister Katrin. They would be driving on the streets of Hamburg, Germany, and his father would say, “Look at that house, how many windows does it have?” The kids wouldn’t be able to answer, but the next time he asked them to look at another house, they would count the windows. But his old man would ask instead, “Is there a tree in front of the house?”

Or they would be in a restaurant ordering food and after the waitress leaves, his father would say, “What color is the waitress’ shirt?” They would look at her shirt when she came back and be ready with the answer, but again the question would be different. “Was she wearing glasses?”

“It was just a game but it trained my eyes,” says Boogi with a laugh.

That “game” has served him well throughout his adult life of selling home accessories, like his parents did before him, and later office furniture in Hamburg.

Today, Boogi and his wife Nenette Pangilinan-Zipperich have two showrooms (named Boogi) at the third floor of LRI Design Plaza in Makati: one for office furniture and storage solutions and the other for outdoor furniture. The couple imports furniture brands from Germany, Belgium, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.

At first glance, the two showrooms seem like totally different businesses — one is for practical purposes, such as ergonomic chairs and height-adjustable desks, and the other for more homey pieces such as beanbags, lighting, outdoor and resort furniture.

But office spaces since the dot.com era have changed radically. For many companies in Europe and the US at least, people are no longer confined to their own world of cubicles, desktop computers and partitions. Rather, office layouts are now more open and informal.

 “When we do space planning, we mix the furniture because the workplace is changing. People want to feel good at work. They are following the office design of Google and Facebook with beanbags, libraries, canteens and cafeterias,” he says.  

This space evolution is both a function of workplace productivity studies as it is of technology.

Boogi says, “Before, everybody used a desktop computer so they had to work at their desks. Now everybody has a laptop, tablet or smartphone so they can be on the go. The trend now is to work away from your desk, work where you are comfortable or where you can meet people like in a coffee shop. Offices also have breakout areas where teams can meet there and exchange ideas, and then go back to work at their desks.” 

Workplace health has also become an important issue worldwide with Germany seemingly leading the way for ergonomic seating, starting in schools (by law, schoolchildren’s height must be measured and they are then given the proper chair size in the classroom). Boogi distributes those chairs, too, which are used in schools in Germany.

Boogi features about 16 brands including Flötotto, Actiu, Artemide, Serralunga, Qui Est Paul?, Sitting Bull  Cacoon, and Luceplan.

From Flötotto comes Konstantin Grcic’s award-winning Pro chair, one that combines functionality, ergonomics and contemporary aesthetic.

 

 

Designed for “active seating” — meaning we move a lot when we’re seated, whether it’s to talk to colleagues beside us or to lean back to get a file from behind us — the polypropylene chair is stable and yet flexible. It supports your every movement and the seat is rounded instead of bearing edges that can limit your circulation.  

Another trend that was started by companies founded by young billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg is working on your feet literally. “Many offices in Europe have employees working standing up,” says Boogi. “There was a study that says if you work two to three hours a day standing up, you will burn as much calories as if you ran 10 marathons a year.”

Actiu’s mobility desks are height-adjustable, which can be done with a push of a button (and programmable, too, if several people of different heights use the same desk) or, for the less expensive model, by hand crank. 

“Our bodies are made for standing up and walking, but we are sitting nine hours a day every day,” says Boogi.

Beanbags in offices may look like novelty, but they actually serve a purpose, according to Boogi. “The challenge of space planning now is that you have to have openness so people can talk to each other but also have areas where they can focus. The problem is when you are at your desk, they know where they can find you. So they call you on the phone, go to you and ask your opinion — so many interruptions. Someone who’s sitting on a beanbag with his headphones on and laptop for 30 minutes might be more effective than sitting for two hours at your desk because you’re really focused and your colleagues know that and won’t disturb you.”

Appropriately named Sitting Bull, the beanbags come in a wide range of fun prints and are 100-percent recyclable. They can be shaped for a single seat, a love seat or spread out on the floor for lounging.

For storage, the solutions from the brand Bisley are in a variety of sizes — from multi drawer ones you can put on top of your desk or under to massive ones called Inner Space that you can walk into.

“Offices that need the Inner Space include law offices, banks, clinics, and real estate developers. Those that need to file a lot of documents. You have one central lock that everybody can access and one aisle, is, say, for accountants only for more sensitive documents.”

 

Boogi has been surrounded by home accessories and furniture all his life. In fact, he attended his very first trade show when he was barely a month old. He was born on July 2 and at the end of that month was a show his mother had to attend. She simply put him in a bassinet and took him with her. His father was an agent for home accessories companies in Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. 

This was Nenette’s world, too. Her father Donato Pangilinan started the company called Manila Pearl, which made wicker and iron pieces. Her training was in industrial engineering from UP and business management from AIM. She was assigned to the factory in Antipolo while her brother Joseph Pangilinan was general manager.

In the early 1990s, she was one of 10 grantees of the International Marketing of Furniture, a training that was a joint project of the Philippines and Germany to upgrade skills and increase trade between the two countries.

“The aim was to upgrade our knowledge and experience and then apply this to our companies here,” Nenette says. “I had to learn the language two months before I left and six months there because everything was taught in German. We visited all the German furniture brands and met some of the owners.”

She was also going to have an internship in Hamburg and her brother Joseph sent her a fax saying there was a company in Hamburg that had bought a container of furniture from Manila Pearl and asked her to make a visit.

“I was trying so hard to get an appointment with the owner but couldn’t, till he finally said, ‘Just meet my assistant.’”

The assistant was Boogi Zipperich.

“When I met him, he was not looking at the furniture, he was just looking at me,” she says.

 “I had seen enough furniture in my life,” Boogi quips.

Theirs was the slowest whirlwind relationship ever — and that’s not a contradiction of terms. For the next five years, they met each other only four times in this or that trade show in Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg or Milan; they would have coffee or a dinner here and there.

If you count all the hours they were together in those five years, Nenette says it would not even total 72 hours. And yet by the fourth meeting, after Milan’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Nenette was flying back to Frankfurt and Boogi to Hamburg when Boogi told her he wouldn’t let her go.

 “In five years, we met four times. I’d see him in the trade shows and he’d just stare at me. He never asked me out on a date. I thought, ano ba ’to? But on the fourth time, he said, ‘It’s you.’ So on that same day, he flew from Milan to Hamburg and then to Frankfurt to follow me. He said, ‘From the first time I really liked you,’ but he had a girlfriend then and he was such a gentleman he didn’t want to act on it. We talked and I said, I can’t make any commitment. First, I’m a Born Again Christian and he wasn’t a Christian. And second, I didn’t like these things where I might get hurt. That was April. He said he would come here for Manila FAME in October.  In June he was here na.”

They got married in Manila and flew back to Germany to set up Boogi’s own retail shop in Hamburg because the company he was working for had closed. The couple grew their store for 14 years and Nenette was becoming fluent in German.

“It’s a difficult language. And if you speak very fluent English, you don’t like to make mistakes in German, so I became a very quiet person,” she says. “It was only in the fourth year of living there that I was able to laugh at a joke; and in the fifth year, I became fluent.”

Every visit to the Philippines, Nenette felt like she wanted to stay. Manila Pearl had closed in 2008 and her father was growing older. “We were hoping and praying for an opportunity to come home. Other than the business in Hamburg getting more difficult — Ikea had become very strong and the giants were dominating the market — the boutique stores were dying.”

When they moved back to the Philippines seven years ago, Boogi became a consultant for five years with SM’s Our Home, which was upgrading at the time.

A year and a half ago, they opened Boogi the retail store in Makati with partner Sandy Javier of Andok’s Manok, an old friend of Nenette’s, and his family.

Today, Boogi’s clients include the German School, the Austrian Embassy, and many other offices.

Looking at the two showrooms, yes, it is possible to be productive and have some fun in the office, too.

* * *

Boogi showrooms are located at the third floor of LRI Design Plaza, 210 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel-Air II, Makati. Call 832-9938 to 39.

Check out the author’s travel blog at www.findingmyway.net. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamtanyalara.

 

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