Harry de Groot

The last pioneer

Harry de Groot began his career as a young draftsman in 1958. Later, together with the first generation of the Sanders family, he laid the foundations of the business that is now Leolux. This is the story of a true pioneer who designed many successful models for the company.

In the late 1950s, Jan and Ton Sanders developed a passion for Italian furniture design, and decided to begin making it alongside their existing traditional club furniture collection. As they travelled around Italy, they realised that it was the designer who determined the success of a product range. But their company was still small, and they simply could not afford to employ one with an established reputation. So they chose a young designer whom they could mould to their own needs. He was Harry de Groot, an Amsterdam draftsman who was studying industrial design part-time in Eindhoven and held a daytime job with an interior design company.

The maker of a brand

De Groot joined the company and was asked to design the 1959 catalogue, the first of many projects that hugely influenced Leolux’s brand image. He went on to study marketing and advertising, and immediately put this knowledge into practice, acting as the company’s one-man advertising agency by writing and designing brochures.

 De Groot also established Leolux’s showrooms, first in Utrecht and later in Eindhoven and Krefeld, and was responsible for dozens of exhibition stands. But perhaps his most important visual legacy was the distinctive L of the Leolux logo.

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Model 267 (1959)

De Groot’s main role was as the company’s in-house furniture designer, sounding out the market and translating his findings into products that sold well. His first creation was model 267, a small four-seater sofa and low and high armchairs, which made their debut at a trade fair in Utrecht.

At first the collection was somewhat hidden away on the stand, but visitors showed a great deal of interest and it was eventually given a place of honour in the aisle. The company turned this interest into sales, and model 267 became a cornerstone of its growth and success.

Model 685 (1967)

During the 1960s, the Sanders brothers went on regular fact-finding trips. During one of these, De Groot was sitting in the back seat of Ton’s Peugeot, which had a folding armrest. These were commonplace in cars and trains, but not in living rooms, and De Groot saw them as the ideal solution to market demand. Consumers often said that they didn’t know what to do with their arms when sitting in the middle of a three-seater sofa. This was the principle of model 685, which proved a resounding success.

Models 724 and 757

Models 267 and 685 were major hits, but De Groot came up with many more seating ideas that were a perfect fit for consumers’ needs. One of these was the 724, another top-selling model, which made its debut in 1972. This combination of standard sofas and separate elements could be used to create many different layouts.

In 1974, the 724 was replaced as the top seller by model 757, a contemporary combination of leather seats and prominent oak components reflecting demand for more natural interiors.

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Model 724

The next generation

In 1982, Leolux began a new era as a new generation took over at the helm. This was also the time for Harry de Groot to move on. He and the Sanders brothers had created a brand, a sound company, healthy exports, and a series of design centers. Harry’s ideas for advertising copy and visuals, and for exhibition stands, put Leolux on the map. We are still immensely grateful for his contribution to the business.

"Harry de Groot, the last pioneer."


After he left Leolux, De Groot became a lecturer and coordinator at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. In 1997 he took early retirement and turned to a different passion as a historian of the town of Venlo, but maintained close ties with Leolux. At the request of director Jeroen Sanders, he wrote a detailed history of Leolux, entitled Talenten, to commemorate the company’s 75th anniversary. This is still a valuable reference work in which De Groot plays a well deserved leading role.

Harry de Groot died on 19 October 2013. In his elegy, Jeroen Sanders described him as “the last pioneer”: the perfect description of a colourful man.