Mike Alexander Doepp and his wohn,garten Concept Store is one of Cologne’s best addresses for excellent Interior Design. On the occasion of the one-year jubilee of wohn,garten Concept Store we met Mike in his store.
The interview is part of the Superior Magazine # 64 digital issue, which is also available as print and download.
Mike, you have already more than 25 years of experience in design. How did all this start?
Although I would call myself already a bit a “Kölsche Jung”, after living in Cologne now for more than 15 years, everything started in Frankfurt/Main where I was born.
After my Abitur degree I was not sure what to do. I tried some things out, among others studying at the university. But very soon I found out that this was to theoretical for me. And, moving away was not an option for me since Frankfurt was still deep in my heart at that time. Luckily, a friend of mine had a store for exclusive design and flowers in Frankfurt. He invited me work in that store for a few weeks to find out whether that fits. And what shall I say ... It was exactly what I wanted to do.
In 1994 I opened my own store in Frankfurt. It was again the combination of design and flowers.
I guess it was named wohn,garten?
How did it come that you left Frankfurt, the city of your heart?
That was because of personal reasons. Sometimes you need such a push to try something new. Of course it was not an easy decision. My parents lived there and as I said, I loved Frankfurt. And that meant to close my store. It was in a nice neighbourhood, all the other stores and cafés we were friends and I had really nice long-time customers. Although it was a bit sad at that time to leave all this behind me, I was excited to start something new.
And in Cologne you opened another store?
Not immediately. I first worked freelance for some design and floristic projects. I think it’s important to explore a new city before you open a new business there. Every city is different, customers have a different mentality. You have to find out which area of the city might be appropriate for a new store and which other stores are around. And last but not least I wanted to discover my new hometown Cologne.
After a while I felt ready for the next step. In the neighbourhood where I live a small store became vacant and I took it. It was a cosy tiny place and it went well. But then my parents who still lived in Frankfurt became seriously ill. The first time I tried to manage both, store and family. But at a certain point that did not work anymore and I decided to close the store and to focus on my family. That was absolutely the right decision!
But now you have the new, the third wohn,garten here in Schaafenstrasse.
Exactly, one year now. I was so happy to find this spacy location, flooded with light. This location gives me the platform to create the right environment for the wohn,garten Concept Store. And, it has a nice neighbourhood again. With Ulf Larsson, the gallerist next to me the chemistry was perfect from the first moment. And since a few weeks my other neighbour, ... attracts an interesting new crowd. We already did some projects together.
And although you don’t sell flowers anymore, you kept the name wohn,garten.
Yes. For a short while I thought about a new name. But wohn,garten belongs to me. That’s my heritage.
So, what’s the concept behind the new wohn,garten?
Over all it is contemporary Interior Design on a high level. But still affordable. I have a focus on glass and porcelain but also some furniture and a lot of decoration items to create a warm and welcoming home.
All brands are handpicked. First of all I look for an excellent design and a perfect quality. Most of the glass and porcelain pieces are handmade or even limited editions. In the first moment it’s not so much about a famous brand name. It’s all about quality and to offer something special.
The Concept Store contains two rooms. In the big front-room you find the assortment which is a bit season independent. The smaller “cabinet” in the back of the store is used for special themes like Christmas, Easter etc. among others. This division of the store enables me to be flexible and to keep the store in a nice conceptual design.
Another important part of the wohn,garten Concept Store concept is the combination of design and art. From the first moment I integrated artists, local ones from Cologne as well as international ones, into the store. That means explicitly that the artists are not just decoration. They become their own importance in the store. That’s the reason why the selection of the right artists is very important. Luckily, my neighbour Ulf Larsson helps me in that process with his expertise and his connections.
And really no flowers anymore?
Well ... I do not sell flowers in the store. But besides the store, I still have my services.
Yes. Additionally to the assortment of the store I offer the service to advise private people and also companies like hotels, stores etc. regarding their interior design. And that might also include the floristic part. On top, if I have time I still do event decoration.
Which explains the garden-part of the name wohn,garten. Could you name 3 highlights of your wohn,garten Concept Store?
Well, how could a mother call some of her children her favourites?! (smiling)
All of them are highlights in their way. Among others you find glass items by Arcade Murano, Guaxs, Henry Dean, LSA International and Pols Potten, porcelain by Anna Sykora and Dottir Nordic Design, interior design pieces by Claudi, GiftCompany, GluckiGluck, Mojoo, Philippi and so many more.
Brand new and exclusive at wohn,garten Concept Store is the award-winning Concrete stacking rack by Christoph Pesch. With his design he won the Red Dot Award 2018.
Wow, that’s really an exciting selection. So, how can people buy all these nice things?
Of course in the store here in Schaafenstrasse. It is always nice to see and feel the pieces directly in a living environment. I change the decoration of the store at least twice a month. So, my customers have always a new experience. Of course an advantage of being in the store is also the advice I can give.
For all who are not from the Cologne area or do not have the time to visit the store we have our online shop. Here you find a large part of the assortment. Just visit www.wohn-garten.com/shop.
Last but not least. What happens in the store next?
Although Christmas seems to be far away for the store it’s close. I just opened the wohn,garten Christmas room where you find everything for a sparkling and colourful Christmas from small items up to exclusive pieces of art.
Thank you for the interview and have a successful next wohn,garten year!