Insights / Design
”The persons who make the sofa also deliver the sofa”
On how to disrupt the interior design market
18 Sep 2023

Who are you?

— I am the CEO of Basta, a new initiative and a new company which was born in Helsinki, Finland, Vissers explains. It was founded by Joel Roos and Stefan Mahlberg and they asked Marcel Wanders, my previous colleague who I founded design company Moooi with, to design a sofa for their concept. This was all in the beginning stages of the company, they were testing and were working on having it produced in Poland. Then the Polish supplier made a mess of it and did not supply the right quality. Stefan got tired and said, ’Then we will make it ourselves’. 

— So, the sofa-making started to happen in the summer a year ago. It actually went quite well and they found tricks and ways to be more efficient. In the end, they decided to hire more staff to make the sofa themselves. And that’s when I came to the game because they wanted to see if Basta could be brought further into the world than Finland only. And I was really, really attracted when I did visit Helsinki last summer. I did think a little bit about it but not very long to partner up with the original founders and Marcel to create a new company after Moooi, as a new personal challenge.

How would you describe Basta? You’re quite special in a quite traditional industry.

— Obviously, the name Basta basically means ’OK, let’s stop this bullshit’. So it’s a bit of an aggressive name where we say to the furniture industry to not only talk about making green products but also really look at the way we design, produce, and distribute things, says Vissers. He continues:

— The sofa is the most environmentally unfriendly object of the home because of material choices, foams and stuff, but even more because of the large cubic meters they’re consuming in sea ship containers and trucks on the roads. We’re bringing the sofa close to the people who could purchase the sofa. This means that in Helsinki, we make the sofa and it’s sold in a circle around the main capital here of, let’s say, 200 kilometres. And if someone wants it from the north of Finland, we of course still help. 

— So, per country, and to start with, it’s one Atelier, that we call them, where we make the sofa ourselves, sell them in that market, and bring them to the consumer with our own van. The persons who make the sofa also deliver the sofa. It’s also nice for the people, the colleagues who work at Basta, that they are proud of what they make — when they arrive at the consumer, they can say that I made this for you myself. All these connections between making and delivering, we like to embrace. That’s in hindsight why we think we can make a difference.

And the plan now is to expand this concept quite aggressively. What do the next coming years look like?

— First and foremost, we need to make sure that the first two which we’ve now founded, one in Helsinki and one in Amsterdam, are profitable. We can see already that we will be profitable at a certain stage, so we are looking for the next countries to open. This will be in Europe. We will build in approximately 20 cities in 20 countries within the next five years and then the five years after that, another 50. That means that we in 10 years, will have 70 countries where we make, sell, and deliver our sofas.

When you increase the production, you also increase the emissions. What’s your view on this?

— Good question. Each sofa sold by us versus any other makes a hell of a difference in the impact on the Co2 outputs of that product.


— We don’t have to ship, for instance, from Asia to Holland to distribute the sofa, which most Scandinavian design companies do. They say that they are selling Scandinavian design but what they basically mean is that they are shipping products which are designed in Scandinavia here and then they sell them as Scandinavian designs. So it’s a bit tricky. In our case, we don’t ship at all. We purchase the raw materials close by. If we open in London, we will purchase the materials in England. If we open in New York, we will purchase the materials at a distributor over there. We might use different plywood, a plywood which comes from the US. Here, we use birch because it comes from the Ukraine and from the top of Finland. So where we are, we purchase the materials locally. 

— The materials you sit on here are 100% recycled Coca-Cola bottles or other PET bottles. You sit on a structure of birch wood which will be there in 50 years’ time. The product is washable in your own washing machine. So this cover can be dirty and you wash it and you have a new cover. Unless you throw a glass of red wine over your white sofa… Then, our fabric is not happy, but then you can purchase only that part because it’s a modular system. And if we ship it to the clients, we ship it with the electrical van with our own staff. And we don’t have packaging. We have bags with zippers, we zip the bag to open, put it in the module, zip it back, bring it to the clients in their home, zip it off again, and bring it back to the Helsinki warehouse. So there’s no packaging involved.

Casper Vissers in Basta’s stand at Habitare 2023.

It might be more expensive for you to use local raw materials instead of from a country far away. But you can also cut costs. Can you make a profit from this business model?

— We did make our calculations, says Vissers. Another nice is that the price which you see here in the stands is more or less half the price of all the Scandinavian and Italian design manufacturers. We produce ourselves and in the whole trade, there are no agents, no importers, no retailers. All that margin, we give to the end consumer. So that’s why the average at Basta so far is 3.000 (Euros), whereas the other colleagues are between 6 and 7.000 — and we are still able to make a profit. It doesn’t matter if our materials are a little bit more expensive. For 70 countries, it doesn’t come from one central place where it’s purchased from. We purchased our materials from 70 different distributors. So yes, more expensive. But it fits the business model. There’s still enough space to become a profitable company.

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