Roland Hellmann, long-time Armstrong DLW
Linoleum and Design employee – an excursion into history

Mr. Hellmann, you are enjoying your well-deserved retirement but are still in charge of the archive at Armstrong and are the primary contact for the history of the company in Germany. How long you did you work there?

Roland Hellmann: I came to Deutsche Linoleum Werke Aktiengesellschaft (German Linoleum Works Corporation) on 1 April 1960 and was employed there for 32 years until November 1992 – in exports.

Linoleum has many touch points with art and design. Prominent architects, designers and artists have helped inlaid linoleum achieve superior, often art nouveau inspired patterns. Peter Behrens has created timelessly beautiful drawings. It is an integral part of Bauhaus. Is there an experience related to this topic, which sticks out in your mind?

Roland Hellmann: Oh yes, for example the DLW worker houses at the beginning of the 20th century in the Köpenick settlement in Bietigheim. There, a neighbor was expanding his attic and happened across an old floor covering. He gave me a call and asked if I could take a look at it and identify it. After we had brushed away some dust and plaster, a gorgeous linoleum rose in a beautiful pink rose pattern came into view. We could still make out ‘Germania’ on the backside, so it must have been produced in Bietigheim before 1926.

I find the linoleum factory pattern books from 1900-1920 in the Bietigheim archive just as fascinating. There is a wealth of linoleum patterns and motifs from those years. The patterns range from floral to abstract, from geometrically small to large repeating, there are parquet, wood and stone imitations as well as mosaic and ornamental patterns. It is an unparalleled feast for the eyes and an idea treasure trove.

What are the classic designs in the current product line? Were there times, when certain colors or patterns were particularly in demand?

Roland Hellmann: Uni Walton is a classic, which has been there from the beginning. As far as patterns go, Marmorette has held its own on the market for more than 50 years. Other patterns have come and gone. At the beginning of the 20th century, course, granite patterns were more in demand, today they are more sophisticated, more elegant and tend to be directionless.

How often do you still have to search through the old collections because of the demand for historically reconstructed floors?

Roland Hellmann: We get a lot of these kinds of orders, mostly from architectural firms or restorers. Sometimes they send me a piece of old linoleum, sometimes they want to match the original color in a custom production. In many cases, it is possible to identify the linoleum or zero in on the year of manufacture with the help of the old pattern books. So, for example, there is new DLW Linoleum decorated with old patterns in the Bauhaus building in Dessau, in the school of the General German Trade Union Council in Bernau near Berlin and in the Tugendhat Villa in Brünn.

Thank you very much for this exciting excursion into DLW history!