This month on Meet the Creatives we are delighted to be joined by Wolf Luecker, founder and director of light switch brand Swtch. This Lewes-based business sources and curates a collection of designer and high-spec light switches to ensure that every detail of an interior looks perfect. Rather than being a last-minute add-on when the refit budget has run out, Swtch believe that your choosing your light switches should be an important part of the interior design process. After all, they are usually the one element of a wall that doesn’t change over time.
We caught up with Wolf to get his thoughts on all things design and innovation. Read on to discover how he’s now fulfilling a long-harboured childhood ambition, and his advice for people starting up their own business.
What do you do and how did you come to be doing it?
My company sells feature light switches and sockets, mainly products sourced from all over Europe, which have never been seen much in the UK. While the choice of switches for an interior scheme or architectural project is quite a big deal in continental Europe, British home owners have traditionally considered the light switch to be an uninspiring, technical necessity. When I was looking for a new direction, after feeling a bit stuck in a previous job, I thought that surely someone should take up that challenge and introduce these great products to design-conscious home improvers and interior designers.
Coming from neither an electrical nor an architectural/interior design background, starting this business was a big departure for me personally. Creativity has been a major part of my previous careers, but I suspect being “shopkeeper” must have always been a secret passion of mine. I desperately wanted a toy shop as a child, but my parents never bought me one. Maybe I’m making up for that disappointment!
Why light switches? Growing up in Germany I suppose I was exposed to all those interesting designs. I distinctly remember being fascinated by the switch brochures the electrician brought along when my parents renovated our house. I’ve always loved the tactile nature of a design item we touch many times a day.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and what do you do if you ever feel creatively stuck?
Since I spend most of my day sitting in front of a computer, I would have to say that “business” inspiration mainly comes from reading about other design-led businesses, retailers, makers and entrepreneurs of all kinds.
Although my first love and career was music, I’m a very visual person and I tend to observe and be inspired by even the smallest and most mundane details of colour, shape, light and so on. My walk to work through a bit of countryside and a very pretty town definitely helps to start the day that way!
What are the most exciting developments in terms of interiors (furniture, product design, sustainability, interior design etc) that you see coming up in the future?
I would hope that Swtch can at least help kickstart one exciting development in interiors, but apart from the advent of the light switch as a design feature, I think there is a lot of interesting and commendable work being done around sustainable materials and production processes.
I recently attended a small exhibition of new materials by design consultancy Material Driven, which was hugely inspiring. Hopefully focussing on sustainability and resource management has now become properly “mainstream” rather than a niche, lip-service activity.
What do you love most about your job?
The variety and learning curve. The initial idea for Swtch was to launch a simple online shop that would allow me to work flexibly and dip my toes into running a product business (in contrast to my years in the service industry). When it became apparent that there was scope for a rather more ambitious venture, many other elements came into play.
I do everything from travelling around Europe meeting our suppliers, sourcing new products, building a bigger-than-expected web shop, planning marketing campaigns, running multiple social media channels, wrestling with inventory and spreadsheets, all the way to the hugely glamorous box-packing and facing the massive queue at the Post Office!
I also really enjoy the interaction with customers, helping them with their projects and requirements, and coming up with creative solutions to their design problems.
What are the main challenges you face in your professional life, and how do you try to overcome them?
Working in a job I knew hardly anything about when I started still throws up all sorts of daily challenges. I often feel that the lady in the corner shop knows far more about retail than I do! Keeping a balance between applying personal design tastes in choosing our collection as opposed to going with what the customers like, is also a challenge. And the odd difficult customer, but that is a rare occurrence.
My best advice (to myself) for overcoming challenges would be to ask the right people for advice – individuals you trust, who have experience, good taste or a particular skill that helps solve those problems. And to listen to your intuition.
If you could visit any house/ building in the world, where would you go?
During research for a blog post, I’ve recently been reading about the Bauhaus school again, which is celebrating the centenary of its formation this year. I have never been to the original building in Dessau, but it’s a place I’d very much like to visit. Not just for its fabulous light switches of course!
Thanks so much for joining us, Wolf. To read more in this series go here and here.