BULO – A Belgian icon turns 50

It started with a small filing cabinet and grew into one of the success stories of the Belgian design industry. For years BULO has been a go-to name for bespoke and ready-made office furniture, valued for its elegant and recognisable products. Today the brand continues to stand for sleek office solutions and a unique approach to the modern work experience. TLmag met up with new CEO Christian Salez to find out how BULO is looking back on the past 50 years with its eyes firmly set on the future.

BULO – A Belgian icon turns 50
Christian Salez Photo © www.bartvanleuven.com

TLmag: BULO has been at the forefront of several innovations in office design, ergonomics and flexibility. Where does the company stand right now and where does it want to go next?

Christian Salez: As a manufacturer based in Belgium our labour overheads are expensive, but it differentiates us from our main competitors, the reputable international brands and the pricebreakers. Today we are more than ever positioning BULO as a manufacturer with all facilities under one roof and focusing on the partnerships with the designers. We have invested in having the widest range of materials in-house, which enables designers to work with all sorts of wood and textiles on the spot.
Furthermore we have come to the conclusion that it will be hard to continue with BULO in a multi-product environment. We want to have full control over our distribution and our image. Therefore we are reducing the representatives of the brand and investing in our own shops. We have just opened a shop in London and will soon be re-launching in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New York.
Lastly, we used to separate home and office, but have now abandoned that idea. We are focusing on working wherever you are. It can be at home, in the office, the airport lounge, the hotel or a restaurant. Through our products and services we are trying to convey a new attitude towards working. It should be considered a privilege and a way to make a difference in the future.

BULO – A Belgian icon turns 50
Bulo celebrates its 50th anniversary with inspiration. Its designers created a unique child’s table called O Mr. President. Above all else, O Mr. President is an ode to play. A call to keep on playing, whatever your age.

TLmag: Looking at the market, what are the bigger trends you see in the layout and design of workspaces?

C. S.: Digitalisation has caused the habits in the work environment to change dramatically. We facilitate and partly specialise in the new ‘plug-and-play’ attitude, but it often feels neutral, while we believe working is a very personal thing. We opt for personalisation and statements, a niche where we feel BULO can make a difference. Who says a work environment should only be functional and economical, why can’t it be colourful and aspirational?

TLmag: What inspired the 50th anniversary project, O’ Mr President?

C. S.: We didn’t want this project to be a retrospective, but future-driven, looking at the next 50 years of BULO. We also felt it had to be about people and not so much about the office. We imagined the CEO of a company in 2063 and that person is between two and five years old today. So we decided to design a little office for a toddler and integrated the values that we consider important in our company: durability, elegance, multi-functionality and sustainability. The result is an extension of our Kei collection, a table that is multi-functional not only through its use, but also through time. It’s a little desk for a three-year-old, a place to stack your books as a student and a table to put bottles and magazines on when you’re older. It’s an office that will grow with you. All the leftover wood that is normally thrown away is recuperated in the table and the cardboard packaging can be folded into a little stool and a divider. Underneath the desk you can also have a signature engraved, which adds to the emotional value of the desk when you’re older. Instead of writing down our values in a corporate brochure, we demonstrate them with this product. We wanted to portray why customers choose BULO and storytelling is a big part of that.

BULO – A Belgian icon turns 50
Bataille ibens, H2O desk

BULO – A Belgian icon turns 50
Alain Berteau, Tab chair



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