Photo: Frans and Mieke Tielemans.
“We are a stable family business, without bells and whistles.”
Not a large cupboard or table, but 40,000 mini bookshelves for a savings campaign of a supermarket chain ensured a flying start for furniture maker De Stoof in 1982. The name Tielemans was then already established in Leidschendam. So the gun factor was fine. This goodwill, in combination with a solid dose of craftsmanship and entrepreneurial spirit, has enabled De Stoof to grow in forty years into a vital family business with ten employees, a tastefully decorated showroom and a workshop bustling with activity.
Furniture makers and self-made entrepreneurs.
Furniture makers and self-made entrepreneurs It was written in his stars that Frans would start his own business. But he could never have dreamed that he would not be without a day's work in forty years. He is still in the workshop four days a week, because there is always something to do. After the establishment in 1982, various relocations followed, all of which were dominated by expansion. De Stoof has found its ideal destination in the renovated farm at Stompwijkseweg 31 in Leidschendam. That location between the farmlands fits perfectly with the typical Stomach feeling: hospitality, warmth and coming home.
Yet growth has never been the underlying driver. Setting up a stable company that offers continuity, that was the rationale. It turned out to be an intuitively sound strategy, because where major players in furniture and interior construction collapsed, De Stoof has always stood firmly on its foundations. Frans: We are furniture makers and self-made entrepreneurs. No managers.
The opening of the showroom on Damlaan in 1983 was the moment for Mieke to step into the business. From day one she took care of sales and administration. Her love for the world of hospitality brought her service-oriented side to fruition. Both in her contacts with the customer and in the attention for the staff. The Christmas hampers came from her hand for forty years and were a household name. In this way she also gave her personal touch to Christmas dinners, company parties and customer events for many years.
Entrepreneurship is changing
Forty years of business means going with the times. Initially, each drawing was still placed along the ruler and the customer bought his cabinet based on a one-dimensional drawing. The pencil has given way to 3D design software, computer-controlled machines have made their appearance in the workshop, and the shift from solid wood to sheet material is unstoppable. Housing programs, rapidly changing trends and the internet also resulted in a different spending pattern. However, one thing has remained unchanged: customer appreciation. Customer satisfaction is now measured by reviews, but behind the 'excellent' of forty years ago, there is still the same rating as the 9.5 on the current customer review page.
Believe in De Stoof
In 1982 Frans and Mieke started their sole proprietorship under the name 'Ambachtelijke furnituremakerij De Stoof'. In the early years, Frans still made real stoves, because the wooden foot warmer was simply associated with the company name. The classic stove has fallen into disuse as a utensil and although the craft is still there, the name De Stoof nowadays stands for more than a foot warmer or the handiwork of a craftsman. Four decades later, De Stoof also embodies soft core values, such as warmth, hospitality, feeling at home and trust.
That trust is an important pillar of De Stoof's success. Mieke: We have always remained normal. And honest. That instills trust in the customer. The fact that in forty years there have never been any problems with customers is due to that trust, which is completely mutual. Frans: We sold a lot of furniture that way. And we still do. People believe in us.
Forty years is a wonderful milestone to hand over the company. Frans and Mieke are happy that they have found their successors in Wouter and Lotte and that the name De Stoof will continue to exist. They have lived the secret of a good collaboration themselves. There was always a separate division of tasks. Frans had his department. Mike's hair. If you know that about each other, you'll be fine. Mieke: That's why we were able to work together successfully for forty years.
" On January 12, 1983, this article about furniture maker De Stoof appeared in the newspaper, with a photo of the furniture maker and proud owner Frans Tielemans. From day one, we create what our customers like.
Photo: Lotte and Wouter Tielemans
“The children of the regular customers are now coming to the showroom.”
More than affinity
Growing up in a family business means being part of it from an early age. Unnoticed, Wouter and Lotte became friends with the world of furniture and interior construction. Yet both always said that they would never commit themselves professionally to the company. It all went differently. Wouter gradually worked his way into the company. Delivery became helping in the workshop. After a few months he was able to measure himself against the experienced furniture makers.
There turned out to be more than just affinity. Making furniture is no longer an option. Today, Wouter runs the furniture manufacturing business from his office. All other tasks, from the showroom and marketing to the administration, are the responsibility of his sister Lotte. With thirteen years of experience in the hotel industry, she can fully utilize her knowledge and capabilities in the family business. The broad base in the hotel industry turned out to match surprisingly well with the place in the family business that her mother left behind.
Lotte: Recently, customers from the very first hour have been appearing on a regular basis. Or children of regular customers who enthusiastically elaborate on a cupboard that De Stoof made for their parents thirty years ago. That makes me proud. There is also a lot of recognition. Then it turns out that our presence in the case, however long ago, has not gone unnoticed. That creates a bond.
The attitude of its founder has given the company vitality. Call it the Tielemans slant. Father Frans always thought: if someone else can do it, then I can too. In fact, he made furniture that someone else would say 'I won't start with'. Wouter and Lotte also don't like to say no to a customer. Lotte: People sometimes ask us: do you say it if you don't like it? Then we say that honestly. Furthermore, we adapt and think along with the customer as much as possible. When asked about the craziest piece of furniture that has ever left the workshop, Wouter recalls a bed he himself worked on. That bed had a lower bed, which had to be at the same height as the main bed after extending it. A lot of thinking has gone into that. In the end it worked great. That was also made possible for the customer.
A view on the future
2022 will be the year of truth for Wouter and Lotte. How does the new generation of Tielemans see the future in furniture and interior construction?
Lotte: Customers increasingly come for the total picture. At a custom-made table, people look for matching chairs, a carpet or lamp. We also see a greater demand for interior advice, for example about the color of the wall behind a cabinet that we have designed.
Wouter: In the furniture industry, the emphasis will be more on furniture that people cannot find their standard in on the internet. Then you talk about the larger customization, such as wall cabinets and cabinets en suite. We are already good at that.
Both brother and sister see that there is another trend: a growing need for attention. That is why De Stoof likes to take the time for a customer. That starts with the question of whether he wants coffee. The coffee tastes at De Stoof just like it does at people's homes, because that too is part of the Stoof feeling: coming home. The attention only stops when everything has been completed satisfactorily. This naturally includes excellent service.
A changing demand, therefore, with a new generation at the helm. What remains is the family business, without bells and whistles, in a beautiful location. If the employees are also having a good time, then all is well. Lotte: people will continue to work for you if they are well off and there is a good atmosphere. Employees, just like customers, need attention. We'll take care of that.
What is striking is that everything is dark and heavy oak. That's different now! Other shapes and materials. What has not changed is the hospitality with which we receive our customers in the showroom. And luckily you can now!
Photo: Furniture maker Lieke.
“Being received like a family member.”
About a leap into the deep
It was a crazy jump that turned out well. With a bachelor's degree in Industrial Design, but not yet finished with her furniture-making training, Lieke boldly applied for a job at De Stoof and, to her own surprise, she was immediately hired. One of the first projects she worked on, a cupboard wall of no less than eight meters long with a ladder, is etched in her memory. While she was working on it, an image of the customer came into her head. So many books; that had to be some kind of professor. Lieke: That image turned out to be completely correct when I went on a job. But the best thing was the customer's reaction when the cabinet was installed. That made an impression.
Lieke: When I studied in Delft, I missed the practical side. Now I am fully involved in practice and I mainly find my challenge in the puzzle of a piece of furniture. She hopes to make her creative brains work even more with De Stoof's new design program. Designing and making furniture; for a designer with an urge to make, it is the golden combination.
The customer about De Stoof
Lieke thinks and hopes that customers see De Stoof as a furniture maker who maintains the value of the products and at the same time meets all wishes. The furniture maker who can do everything. Lieke: Every now and then we think in the workshop: how are we going to do that? But in the end it always works out and the customer gets what he wants.
Lieke: With the current growth, it wouldn't surprise me if the workshop is becoming too small. It may sound crazy, but I hope that De Stoof won't be able to sit here in ten years. So yes, then it will be expanding or moving.
In 1991 the showroom looked very different, with very contemporary furniture for the time. Interior consultant Erika, who has worked for us for more than 27 years, is also in the photo. As if she joined our family business yesterday.
Photo: Furniture maker Steven next to founder Frans Tielemans.
"Making the most beautiful furniture and making the customer satisfied."
In a quarter of a century De Stoof
After his last internship at De Stoof he was able to stay. That was twenty-five years ago now. Since then, he has been unstoppable. In the evenings he continued his training as a certified fine wood furniture maker. He experienced the crisis and saw colleagues leave and come, but a constant factor remained: the order book was always full. Steven: Then it's good that we have a nice team that works well for each other.
He himself is usually in pre-production. So the preparatory work: sawing plates or gluing solid parts. When the work is divided, he prefers to use tables. With this Steven betrays his great predilection for working with solid wood.
Teamwork, that's what it's all about
Steven: We have a team that works together on a final product. As soon as the drawing comes 'down', everyone is working on it. Together we ensure that it comes out safely, that it is delivered properly and that the customer is satisfied. That's what it's about. That's what it's all about.
Proud of De Stoof
De Stoof is a family business and Steven notices that. There is great involvement on the part of the staff, there is openness and conviviality. You belong, even if you are not a member of the family. There is also no barrier to walk in or call at any time. Steven: It's just a wonderful company. Steven notices more and more from reactions on social media that customers are just as happy with De Stoof as he is himself. There he reads back things like: good quality work, nice staff, good assembly. Steven: Those are the good things to hear. That's what you do it all for.
Here they sit on the lap of their father, furniture maker and founder of Meubelmakerij De Stoof, Frans Tielemans. From this crane, the first pile disappeared into the ground in 1990.
Photo: Painter Martin
Good atmosphere and hard work. That is job satisfaction.'
Wood is a soft and friendly product to work with. Unlike steel. Martin should know, because De Stoof's paint sprayer has sprayed just about everything imaginable in his life. From car bodies, to Steinway pianos and telephone cables for the rich. Do not ask him to distinguish wood smells. That is the domain of the furniture makers. But the smell of wood certainly does something to him. If he has to put a few words to it, it would be: freshly cut grass. That association is not so strange, because Martin has another passion in addition to spraying: horses. He recognizes the products that disappear in his paint sprayer blindly by their smell. A two-component product, an oil or a stain; every paint product smells different.
That one piece of furniture
99.9% of all products leaving the workshop are treated with varnish, paint or oil by Martin. His only tool: the paint sprayer. He also sprayed his own dining table with it. Designed by De Stoof, this monster measures no less than three meters. A five centimeter thick top rests on it and the legs end in the top on both sides. A special design, over which he sprayed three layers of clear lacquer.
Each piece of furniture that enters the paint shop from the workshop is unique. Depending on size, projects can take up to a week. This makes the paint sprayer's job varied and challenging. In between feeding the horses, Martin spends four days a week with one goal: to finish every piece of furniture neatly. About that Stoof feeling Martin has now been working at De Stoof for almost eleven years. So that job satisfaction is good.
The advertisement shows a drawing of an interior with a dining table and four chairs made of European oak. This complete set was then on offer for 1,625 guilders (converted 737 euros). Wood has now become much more expensive as a raw material. Nevertheless, 36 years later, you still get a lot for your money with us.
Photo: Furniture maker Wouter
Togetherness and going through fire for each other. With a touch of Johnny Cash.”
About wood and that one piece of furniture:
Wood works. Wood lives. Wood opens your senses. Each type of wood has its own scent and structure. Smell and feel. That is it. Compare it to whiskey aged in oak barrels. You taste that. It is the same with De Stoof. All you have to do is walk into the sawmill or you will smell it. The smell of wood. That gives warmth. Amidst that rich bouquet of wood scents, Wouter once worked on a walk-in closet. An impressive project with lighting that turned on and off automatically. He will not soon forget that closet. Wouter: That you stand there and think: did I make that?
Making furniture is a craft. You immediately see what you are making. Wouter has become a furniture maker to make things from solid wood, which makes customers happy. That is exactly what they do at De Stoof. You could say that Wouter has found his destination in the workshop on the Stompwijkseweg. It makes him proud. He gets the ultimate reward when he goes 'on job'. Wouter: You see your product in the interior. If there is also a satisfied customer next to it, then the circle is complete.
The Stoof thinks along
Most of the customers who come in already know what they want. But when they walk out, they really know what they want. That is the characteristic of De Stoof, according to Wouter: thinking along. And when the furniture leaves the workshop, he hopes they will think: neatly helped, neatly made and beautiful quality. Any wishes for the future? Wouter: Every day I get to make nice things and make customers happy. I am a satisfied person.
The very first logo of Meubelmakerij De Stoof featured an image of a planer, as can be seen on the delivery van. Over the years, our logo has been modified several times. For our anniversary year we have re-processed the planer in the logo
Photo: Interieur advisor Purdy
“Warmth and coming home to a house that suits you.”
Hospitality is giving warmth:
Her hospitality experience came in handy when she started at De Stoof in 2017. Because in the showroom, too, everything revolves around hospitality. Purdy: Visitors should feel at home here and leave with a warm feeling. For her, that's Stomach. In her eyes, that feeling of warmth fits very well with the family business. Purdy: It's a tight-knit group. Everyone feels at home and tries to involve each other. As far as Purdy is concerned, the family business can be quite proud of that. In fact, she thinks the customer will notice. In the showroom, but just as well when placing. Having a chat with people, creating a beautiful product; it all gives off heat.
Making a piece of furniture is a whole process. People don't always realize that. Purdy is therefore happy to tell you how a piece of furniture is created and that De Stoof offers a good price-quality ratio for customization. Sometimes she lets her customers look inside the workshop. That is fascinating and appreciated. Or she sends photos to the customers to keep them informed. De Stoof's 3D drawings approach the end result as closely as possible, in terms of color, dimensions, you name it.
Purdy knows from experience that it remains exciting until the end. She had her colleagues make a custom cabinet for her own attic room. The end result surpassed everything. She also wishes that to her customers. The feeling that everything comes together and then even more beautiful.
The Story of The Stoof
Purdy: The story of De Stoof is convincing, because customers come back very often. That a customer becomes a regular customer is the best compliment you can get.
Photo: Furniture maker Pepijn
'Cosy. Nice dynamics and beautiful furniture.'
In seven weeks of internship:
As a fourth-year student at the Wood and Furniture College, Pepijn set foot in the workshop for the first time in September 2021. Only a few more weeks to go, then his internship will be over. But if it's up to Pepijn, he'll come back one more time. He was a part of the team from the start. For example, he collaborated on a wall-to-wall linen cupboard made of sheet material and a solid wood alcove that you can sit in. Pepin: That was cool. Such a big thing! Soon he was handed his first drawing.
A colleague took care of the operation of the CNC machine, but for the rest he made the furniture all by himself. After that, more own projects followed. No problem if he doesn't know. The team is always there for him. De Stoof as a training company: De Stoof is a training company and they live up to that. In addition to fully participating in a busy team, Pepijn learns things that he hadn't done at school yet. Making rebates and grooves with a stationary milling cutter, for example. The fact that De Stoof still works relatively much with solid wood was a pleasant surprise for Pepijn. As a result, he is regularly sawing solid wood. That was not the case at school.
Pepijn also notices that everyone has their own way of working, for example when milling drawers. He takes the most 'chill' working methods with him on his professional furniture-making path.
De Stoof in the future:
Pepijn: I expect more sleek furniture, more use of sheet material and more work for the CNC. And in terms of technology, well, maybe cupboard doors that you can slide to the side with a remote control? Pretty cool actually. Googling tonight!
Three years after the establishment of Meubelmakerij De Stoof, we opened our first showroom on Damlaan in Leidschendam; a building that we completely renovated in 1985 to make room for sofas, for example.
Foto: Furniture maker Frans
Projects involving advanced programming.
Frans was trained with the dovetail and the mortise and tenon joint. This is the age of push-to-open drawers and television lifts. If he can make a prediction for the future, he expects it to go even more towards the gadgets. Beauty is worth something De Stoof brings atmosphere and happiness. That's how France sees it. Happiness because the customer sees something in the showroom that he likes. Happiness because afterwards we think along and something is created in the workshop. And luck because it finally ends up at the customer's home.
Is happiness expensive?
No. Frans: Our customers buy the product of craftsmanship. Beauty does not come naturally. That's worth something.
Atmosphere, warmth and cosiness. In short: a warm bath.'
About wood and that one piece of furniture:
Wood radiates warmth, can be finely worked and stimulates the sense of smell. Pine smells different from walnut, walnut smells different from cherry. That's the beauty of wood. Each variety has its own characteristics and all varieties are French sweet. If he has to choose, it will be warm cherry wood, with those typical gum stains. It evokes a piece of furniture that has always stayed with him: a cherry wood display cabinet. With a base cabinet with wood-on-wood drawers and doors; a wall cabinet with doors and windows. That closet had everything. That tasted like more. The challenge and the future French: Processing a rough piece of wood into a beautiful piece of furniture. That is the challenge of every project. Then it doesn't matter what I do. Whether it is a bookcase, a washbasin or a display cabinet. But Frans prefers to sink his teeth into a piece of furniture where he has to keep his head. A compartment cabinet, for example, with staggered compartments.