The Third Generation

Did you know Bulo’s a family business? With the third generation at the helm, we wanted to get Carlo Busschop & Louis Busschop‘s take on the past, present and future.

Interview by Elise Coppens.

From a functional file pedestal to design-forward collections. From individual workplaces to open offices and co-working spaces. From Walter Busschop to Carlo and Louis Busschop. Bulo is a quality office furniture company where, after over 50 years, the third generation of the Busschop’s family is at the helm. Some questions for the current managing directors to sketch a beautiful image of where Bulo comes from, and where it’s going.

How would you describe Bulo in the present?

Carlo: We specialize in high-end office furniture. We create and produce furniture in cooperation with internal and external designers for the commercial purposes. Besides that, we also have an important share in the project market, where we are able to develop total concepts. Also, the residential market is gaining importance and a lot of our products fit perfectly in a living environment. More and more people nowadays work more from home, or have flexible working. This implies that the line between ‘home’ and ‘office’ is fading, and we get the 21st century phenomenon of “home offices”. People who work from home also need a quality workspace, which is what makes that market even more interesting to us.

Are the core values of the company still the same as it was under the guidance of your grandfather?

Carlo: Change, creativity and innovation have always been the central values in our company. These values have shifted and evolved compared to the beginning. My grandfather focused on producing pure, functional quality furniture. When my father took over in the nineties, the focus shifted towards “design”. This was the start of a new philosophy. Collaborations with external designers like Maarten Van Severen, Claire Bataille & Paul Ibens and Vincent Van Duysen opened new doors. Till today, these kind of associations determine the identity of our collections: a mélange of typologies and styles in which anyone can find to their liking.

What unique selling points do those values bring?

Louis: I think a family-owned company is appealing to people. Another important selling point is the “made in Belgium” label, which is unique nowadays. It makes us stand out. The combination of family values, embracing local Belgian aspects and the emphasis on design and quality, makes our products timeless. People would not get sick of a beautiful, good quality piece after 5 years. The H2O collection is the perfect example of a typical Bulo product. There are customers who’ve had this collection for 25 years and still come back for more. This goes to show that our strategy satisfies customers in the long term. Also the service we offer and the accessibility to the company on the personal level are important points.

How are you oriented in the international market as a “Belgian Brand’?

Louis: For the moment we are actively looking for ways to enter foreign markets. Our focus lies on surrounding countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Holland. We can see a lot of potential there. Mostly, because we’re present at international fairs where we get exposed to designers, architects and potential clients. It has also been a few years that we’re present again in the United States, where there is also a lot of interest for our company and products. In the next five year’s, I’m hoping to have an even stronger presence abroad. Within 5 years the market will probably look completely different.

Are there trends you are sensing and anticipating?

Louis: Yes, of course. We are currently working on a Green Charter with the VOKA. This is in line with the sustainability trend. Our local production and partnership with BOSQ – who provide local woods and specialize in veneers – makes our ecological footprint minimal. Also our material choices are based on durability and sustainability. Once we get the charter, I’m sure new doors will open. In regards to office typologies, I see a lot of opportunities in open offices and co-working spaces. I believe these concepts will remain dominant, but might get re-invented. The way I see it, in the future, the traditional offices will fade even more and even more people will be working everywhere. Offices will invest more in amenities such as coffee corners and fitness areas. We, as Bulo, can perfectly fill in these demands of the market since we are specialized in a total approach of projects. We have a lot of experience in thinking out and executing concepts.

Not only your internal design team is strong, also your collaborations with external designers have always been a huge success. Are there any exciting new developments?

Carlo: Definitely! At the Biennale in Kortrijk and Orgatec in Cologne, we will be presenting a number of new, exciting products. For example, a new edition of the Chair by Vincent Van Duysen. Also the 50th anniversary of the SL58 won’t go unnoticed – aside from a limited edition color, we will be launching a whole new approach of the SL-family. As the cherry on top, we also have a brand new product line in collaboration with a Belgian architect (interior designer?), Nathalie Van Reeth. The series called “Senses”, is inspired by organic shapes and natural, soft materials. Nathalie has an interesting, dynamic approach to the “workplace” as we know it. I’m really excited about all these new developments and can’t wait to show them to the public. For now, that’s all I can say about it. I’d encourage everyone to come visit our stand at the these trade shows. Our customers can always expect beautiful new products from is in the future.