At home with designer Sebastian Herkner

Sebastian Herkner finds inspiration in his extensive travels around the globe and the spirit of optimism of his adopted hometown of Offenbach

Sebastian Herkner phone shots
Left, The Boat of Life, a 40th birthday present. Right, petals collected during the spring 2021 Covid lockdown
(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

As seen in the April 2023 Global Interiors issue of Wallpaper* and accompanied by his iPhone snaps, we talk travel, inspirations and design discoveries with German designer Sebastian Herkner.

Interview: at home with Sebastian Herkner

Sebastian Herkner Black and White portrait

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

Wallpaper*: Where do you currently live?

Sebastian Herkner: I have lived in Offenbach for more than half of my life. It’s the city where I studied product design and established my design studio. In addition to this apartment, my husband and I have a small apartment in Berlin to escape the studio routine from time to time.

W*: Can you tell us about your city?

SH: Offenbach was the German city of leather production. Famous brands including Goldpfeil and Montblanc have manufactured wallets and bags here. Since the decline of the industry, the city has tried to reinvent itself and find a new identity. I find this spirit of optimism very inspiring.

Sebastian herkner iphone shots

Herkner’s dining room, with, right, his ‘Tricolore’ vase for &Tradition, and, in background, an artwork by David Schiesser

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: How would you describe your home?

SH: Our home is always changing. We love to buy crafted objects on our holidays; an old wedding chair in India, bowls in Bangkok or a ceramic head in Sicily. They always remind us of special moments and show the beauty of manufacturing.

W*: What’s the story behind your favourite piece of furniture?

SH: The Boat of Life was a present from close friends for my 40th birthday. It was made for me by Indigenous people from the Colombian Amazon, and it shows the good and bad encounters in life. There are squirrels on top of the boat. Squirrels are actually running around our studio’s courtyard and the craftspeople did not know about it.

Sebastian Herkner iphone shots

From top, a bowl from Herkner’s grandmother, green plate from Morocco, bowl from Thailand, bowl by Betty Montarou, and Herkner’s ‘Mati’ tray for Zana

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: How do you start your days?

SH: This is less romantic. I watch the news and read emails on my phone while lying in bed.

W*: What do you do to relax?

SH: I catch a train to Berlin for a long weekend, and visit galleries and cycle with friends around the city to discover the architecture and history. I am not a person who can relax by doing nothing. I need food for my mind.

Sebastian herkner iphone shots

 An Indian wedding chair 

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: What are you reading at the moment?

SH: I am heading soon to Kathmandu in Nepal, to see the production of hand-knotted rugs, so I am reading some books about the country and culture to understand it better.

W*: Wallpaper* came for dinner, what would you cook?

SH: Let’s do something local from my home region, like Maultaschen, those big Swabian ravioli you find in Stuttgart.

Sebastian herkner iphone shots

 A Sicilian Testa di Moro vase on Herkner’s balcony

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: Where do you find inspiration?

SH: I think inspiration is everywhere. The bigger issue is to translate it into a unique and responsible design, that can then become a companion for generations.

W*: What are you working on at the moment?

SH: The presentation concept of a new colour palette, called Treasures, for German wall paint company Caparol Icons.

W*: What’s your next big launch?

SH: A new outdoor lighting collection, called Class, with Spanish company Vibia during Euroluce at Salone del Mobile 2023 (18-23 April). After more than two years working on it, I am excited to present the designs to the public.

Sebastian Herkner iphone shots

View from Herkner's house

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: What do you enjoy most about your collaborations with brands?

SH: It is always a very personal decision to choose the right partners you want to work and share design ideas with. It is not about the name or the turnover, it is more on a human level. An intense relationship will result in successful products. I love to visit the workshops to understand the individual process behind the scenes, and to discuss possibilities with the craftspeople. That’s why it is necessary and also a privilege for me to travel to all my clients and their production facilities, from Colombia to Taiwan.

W*: What’s the last object you bought?

SH: A small garlic press by a Greek manufacturer that I found in a store in Paris.

Sebastian Herkner iphone shots

Lockdown bubbles

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: What trip are you most looking forward to?

We will go to the US for several weeks this summer, to travel around the Midwest, visiting states like South Dakota, since we know the east and west coast well already.

W*: What is your most recent design or art discovery?

SH: The Gallery Weekend in Berlin, which is held on the last weekend of April – it is my favourite art event of the year. There are many new exhibitions and open artist studios.

Sebastian Herkner iphone shots

Collection of Kokeshis

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

W*: What advice would you give to the next generation of creatives?

It is not relevant to live in one of the big design cities like London, Paris or Milan. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and free to foster your own creativity and unique design language.

W*: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have been?

SH: A chef. I think designing and cooking have a lot in common. You need the right tools and wonderful ingredients as well as fantasy. It is about creating emotions you can experience with all of your senses.

Sebastian Herkner iphone shots

Sculpture from St Petersburg

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

Sebastian HErkner

Herkner's Bell Side Table for ClassiCon

(Image credit: Courtesy Sebastian Herkner)

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.