Writing company history: Sonoma Oak decor
The Sonoma Oak decor is one of the most successful in our company's history. Its development has achieved something very special – it has made its mark in all markets and in all areas over the past decade. Sonoma Oak continues to be in high demand.
Shortly before the successful launch of our oak decor, Sonoma Oak, in 2011, the surface designs of the 1990s and 2000s seemed to have reached a dead end: With the advent of pioneering printing techniques and technologies, nature had been successfully reproduced for decades. Wood imitations had gradually been threatening to become more perfect than the original wood found in nature, and thus becoming stagnant. In the years leading up to the 2008 banking crisis, the trends that had been dominating the living spaces of the world were white, white, and more white, sterile-looking stripes, linearity, plain colors, over-perfection and ultra-purism.
In addition, the global economic crisis generated another industry phenomenon: Our customers preferred to align themselves with each other, instead of entering into strategic innovations as clearly distinct competitors.
Design revolution wanted!
Types of wood and decors that had sold well before this phase are now suddenly no longer in fashion. At the same time, people's longing for originality is growing. Experts and designers all over the world are feverishly working on something exciting, something revolutionary, a type of wood that could become a massive long-term trend. And they are anticipating oak to rise above the rest.
All over the world, crazy but short-lived reproductions are being created within a short period of time. Our industry is cautiously inching its way forward, passionately trying to understand what trends might gain momentum.
Schattdecor is in the running
At the time, we were also looking for an oak look that was compatible with the spirit of the times. We wanted an unadorned yet durable naturalness, a look that radiated stability that any market would immediately and intuitively understand.
The technology at that time was already so advanced that customers invested a lot in texture. Oak materials in particular have always been great for showing deep structures. We did not overlook how well their down-to-earth nature suited our new technologies.
Inspiration from real wood
The decisive inspiration finally came at the Milan furniture fair: In the real wood section we looked at woods with real signs of use. And so the idea was formed to develop an oak design with traces of wear, i.e., clearly visible signs of handcrafted workmanship. In 2010 our design, sales and marketing teams went to work.
Sonoma Oak came at just the right time
In order to stand out from the traditional oak look, we incorporated a modern variant – we decided to showcase the imperfect. It did not have to be flowery. Instead, our decor should demonstrate the trend back to naturalness and craftsmanship with a credible look. The graphically arranged saw marks, i.e. imperfections in the processing of solid wood, were now being incorporated into the design. That was the birth of Sonoma Oak!
Its balanced and innovative design struck a chord and represented everything that people had been waiting for so long. The wide availability of the entire material portfolio—from melamine panels to finishfoil and edging material to 3D thermoforming foil—made it particularly easy for us to launch a large number of new products into the market. This triggered multiplier effects within the fierce competition mentioned above and also promoted the success of the decor. Initially in Central Europe. Later worldwide.
Enter Sonoma Oak!
The decor hit the market like a bombshell in 2011. With its introduction in 2011 at the Interzum trade fair, we presented Sonoma Oak for the first time as part of the new products collection. In 2012, our Smart and Postfoil program attracted particular attention at the ZOW trade fair in Bad Salzufflen, where we presented it as part of the “Pure Essence” trend area. Before that, it had already caused a sensation at the Cologne furniture fair.
Thanks to a forward-looking generously produced stock collection and ideal supply logistics, we were able to guarantee optimal availability at all times and thus secured bonus points with several important wood-based material customers.
Macro trend demand: Sonoma Oak goes around the world
At the same time as the very first orders from Poland and India were being produced, our partner Egger recognized the enormous potential of this oak decor. And then it all happened very quickly. Sonoma Oak rapidly replaced our Bavarian Beech design as the long term best-selling decor for us and then continued to spread throughout the market. Now everyone wanted to have Sonoma Oak in their living space:
„During my last apartment search, I looked at a total of four rental locations. In every one, really every one, I came across our Sonoma Oak.“Teresa Kaseder, Designer Schattdecor Germany
Special properties: surface, image and durability
With Sonoma Oak we have made the imperfect a true stylistic device. Its layout is balanced, not too flashy and not too subtle. Its character, on the other hand, is rustic, cozy, and structured. Its negative pores stand out, as well as the typical details of the wood such as pith rays and , above all, the transverse saw marks. Matte-gloss effects, such as those found with Smartfoil Nature, bring out the naturalness of the imitation oak to its best advantage. Its specific wood properties—such as the rustic 3D structures, the rough-sawn feel, the subtle planking, and the balanced play of colors—continue to satisfy the tastes of the masses ten years after the launch.
To date, there are around 200 colors of Sonoma Oak in circulation and we have sold 1,500,000,000 square meters of printed paper and pre-impregnated paper. To give you a better idea of this amount: that is 1,500 square kilometers, or about twice the area of New York City, and 97,300 tons in weight.
Monika Ruthe was involved in the development of Sonoma Oak at the time and is delighted with the success of this all-rounder: "The possibilities of this decor are almost endless: Sonoma Oak crosswise is ideal for use on doors, for example. Thanks to the cooperation of our partners, we were also able to produce thermoplastic surfaces (HORNSCHUCH) and edges (MKT). The decor also plays a prominent role in our Prime Collection. The floor variant of Sonoma Oak is our Canyon Nostalgia Oak.”
"Die Möglichkeiten dieses Dekors sind schier unendlich."Monika Ruthe, Designer Schattdecor Germany
Decor success attracts plagiarism and product pirates
Is it any wonder that such a successful decor attracts competitors or even product pirates? The story of how we had to take action against pirate copiers at Interzum 2013 together with our license partner Hornschuch is legendary in the industry. We see imitations, reproductions, duplicates, and plagiarisms of Sonoma Oak everywhere, and the decor is still being copied. When we are asked what we would do about it, our answer is quite pragmatic: Our original decor is successful because Schattdecor stands not only for a decor, but for a total package. We have been advising and supporting our customers along their entire process chain for three and a half decades. We will not deviate from this path and it has proven its worth here as well.
"Success can rarely be planned—but sometimes it is. The fact that Sonoma Oak became a bestseller is due in no small part to the fact that we always have an open ear and can interpret the wishes of our customers correctly."Markus Höhn, Executive Sales Director Printed Surfaces Schattdecor Germany
Anniversary: Ten years of success
On the occasion of Sonoma Oak’s tenth anniversary in 2021, we wanted to know if the prominent decor was still in vogue. Indeed, the crisis of 2020-21 generated a Sonoma Oak revival: Our research shows that customers want to continue with the tried and true Sonoma Oak in kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms as well as in the new home office areas to. The sales figures are on the rise again.
3D-Effect – touchwood