A company that builds your favourite piece
What started back in 2011 as a one-man show has now, in little more than a decade, become an established European design brand: Freifrau Manufaktur. Operating from Lemgo, a small town in Westphalia, Germany, this exclusive manufacturer of seating furniture is characterised by the highest possible levels of comfort, lovingly-rendered details, and exacting quality and sustainability standards. Working with big-name designers and those at the start of their careers alike, since it was founded, Freifrau has built up a portfolio of timeless chairs, armchairs, and settees, wide-ranging and yet all with a unifying emphasis on individual comfort, total versatility, and undeniable individuality.
When, in 2011, trained carpenter Hansjörg Helweg decided to resign from his job, he had a clear vision in his mind – and set up Freifrau, a brand for seating furniture which, right from its beginnings, has always been different.
Freifrau furniture is elegant, stylish, and, true to the meaning of its name in German (literally ‘free woman’), often decidedly feminine. That’s why the various collections are called by female forenames – that, and because the names give them a personality. Amelie was the first Freifrau chair, and remains a stalwart of the product range to this day. Over the years, the Amelie shell has been given a variety of frames in her incarnations as a chair, an armchair, and a barstool: rails, cantilevers, circular bases, wooden cross… The same goes for the beautifully-named Leya, the second Freifrau line, and speaks volumes about Freifrau’s philosophy and character: it is in the company’s DNA to combine and develop its product lines, offering a wide range of the highest-quality textiles and most recognisable leather coverings for each of the numerous product variants.
On September 1, 2011, "Frei Frau GmbH" is officially registered as a manufacturer of modern furniture in the old Hanseatic city of Lemgo.
The design duo Hoffmann Kahleyss from Hamburg is recruited as the design office and art director, and the cooperation with JANUA and the UP agency from Munich is established for sales.
For the first time, there is a joint trade fair appearance with JANUA at imm Cologne 2012, on an exhibition area of 36m².
At this time, the annual production amounts to approx. 1000 seating units, produced in the hall of a befriended stand builder. The office at that time is located in a private house and is managed by just one employee.
The AMELIE model with wire frame becomes the first bestseller.
The LEYA Armchair Low model is shown for the first time at IMM Cologne, and Freifrau also furnishes the Pure Village catering area at IMM.
2013 sees the start of collaboration with Junker as an upholstery company.
"Frei Frau GmbH" is renamed "Freifrau Sitzmöbelmanufaktur".
The first pop-up store is opened together with Clic at Stilwerk Hamburg.
The company headquarters in Lemgo moves to a 300 m² rental property with office and production space.
Annual production exceeds 15,000 items for the first time.
Another pop-up store opens in Berlin.
Freifrau outfits the FOUR SEASONS in Toronto, Canada.
Together with Junker, the number of employees increases to 30.
The LEYA Wingback Chair is honored with the German Design Award 2016.
Freifrau receives the German Brand Award in the Industry Excellence in Branding category.
10000m² of land is acquired in Gildestrasse in Lemgo, a production and office area of 1500m² is created.The first double-brand store is opened in Düsseldorf together with our partner Lomanns.
Freifrau furnishes the G20 summit in Hamburg and the Documenta in Kassel.
Listing in the book Best Of German Interior Design.
The collaboration with Sebastian Herkner begins at IMM Cologne 2019.
Freifrau exhibits at the Salone del Mobile in Milan for the first time.
LEYASOL, the first outdoor collection, is presented in Lemgo.
Freifrau Sitzmöbelmanufaktur" becomes "Freifrau Manufaktur", with a new logo and a new CI.
Introduction of pCON, a planning software for interior design.Marc and Niklas Helweg join the company and gradually take over the management.
Together with the upholsterer Junker, Freifrau Manufaktur now employs over 80 people.
Expansion of the production hall, warehouse and offices by a further 1500 m²
Start of collaboration with Hanne Willmann.
Change of name to FREIFRAU MANUFAKTUR GmbH.
40,000 products are produced this year.
Further expansion of the offices and the in-house exhibition.
The first in-house exhibition with product launch takes place.
A new product segment is entered with the launch of the MIA modular sofa.
Opening of the BORA flagship store in Herford, where Freifrau is represented together with JANUA in a joint exhibition space.
The Leya series, introduced as a single model and then developed into a teeming collection of chairs, armchairs, benches, barstools, rocking and swinging chairs, has proven to be a real milestone on Freifrau’s journey – and might also be seen as the brand’s breakthrough, too. For it was the Leya family and its diversity which went on to provide the blueprint for future Freifrau products and the company maxim that no chair should ever be on its own in a catalogue. “A design for Freifrau must always have the potential for siblings, to be one of a family which helps us offer a fuller portfolio, and this is a key part of the brief we provide to people we work with,” explains Hansjörg Helweg. For customers, the advantage is that they have the opportunity to use their preferred design everywhere in their homes, from the kitchen to the study.Designed seating, and something personal, too, that´s what Freifrau stands for: “We have the great fortune of working with an upholsterer in the region,” says Hansjörg Helweg, “where we can easily carry out quality checks on fabrics.” This enables Freifrau to retain its exceptionally high standards for leather and textile coverings while also allowing customers to personalise their pieces with their own choice of fabric. Freifrau products only ever ‘wear’ the finest apparel!
“At the imm cologne 2015, we got a lot of orders and realised: we’ve made it! We’re established and from now on, the only way is up,” recalls Birgit Hoffmann, Creative Director at Freifrau from day one. Working with Christoph Kahleyss, with whom she runs a design bureau, she is the woman behind the Amelie and Leya lines, as well as several other Freifrau products; another part of her role is to manage cooperations with new designers as they help the brand to expand its product range in an organic, authentic way. Freifrau seating furniture has since been designed by Neuland (Kya), Patrick Frey (Stella), Murken Hansen (Rubie), Lucie Koldova (Celine), Sebastian Herkner (Ona and Theia), and, most recently, Hanne Willmann (Nana).
We are committed to developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy in order to fulfill our responsibility towards the environment and people and to act in a conscious economic manner. Our goal is not only to achieve commercial success, but to do so in a way that is consistent with environmental integrity and social responsibility. By integrating sustainable practices into all aspects of our business activities, we strive to have a positive impact on the world around us.
We attach great importance to short transportation routes. Many of our suppliers are located within a radius of 50 kilometers and the majority of our suppliers produce regionally themselves. We reduce plastic packaging to a minimum and reuse it. We pay attention to pollutant-free materials and use certified materials to a large extent (packaging, upholstery, wood, leather, etc.). Long-lasting, positive business relationships with our suppliers and partners are particularly important to us.
Where possible, we offer repair and refurbishment for furniture from our company, so that almost every piece of furniture gets a second chance. Packaging waste from production is separated by type. We obtain renewable electricity from our own photovoltaic systems. Leftovers are used in various ways, given away or processed further. For example, we use leftover Magnum leather to make spectacle cases and mouse pads, and fabric remnants are donated to kindergartens and workshops.
We check the quality of every piece of furniture by hand before dispatch to ensure that only high-quality and durable products reach our customers. During the brainstorming and development process, attention is already paid to longevity by using materials selected to suit the intended use. Repair, replacement and recycling options are also taken into account at this stage.
Environment, employees & social issues
Our employees receive permanent employment contracts. We have flat hierarchies and respectful and appreciative cooperation is a matter of course for us. We organize employee events at regular intervals. We also offer our employees subsidized bicycle leasing. We donate to OWL mit Herz e.V. and many other smaller organizations through annual fundraising campaigns. Since 2023, our company premises have been home to six beehives to promote biodiversity.
The individuality and individualization of our products arises from the close customer proximity. Each seating is planned on personal taste and only when perfect, passed on to our manufacture and thus to production.
Whether exclusive fabrics and/or high-quality fabrics that are available in several colours, chair frames from natural solid wood or steel frames which can be coated in all RAL colours - the possibilities are almost endless.
We build your own personal seating!