FD conversations

Daphne Nikolopoulos, editorial director for Florida Design magazine, sits down with Evan Soltoff, VP of Operations for eggersmann USA, to talk about innovative features, sustainability efforts, and unique materials.

Video Interview Transcript

Daphne Nikolopoulos, Evan Soltoff

Daphne 00:05
Hello, everyone, and welcome to FD Conversations. I’m Daphne Nikolopoulos. I’m the Editorial Director for Florida Design and today I have with me Evan Soltoff from eggersmann, which, of course is a leader in kitchen design and the design of other living spaces as well. Welcome, Evan.

Evan 00:27
Hi, Daphne. Thank you very much, happy to be here.

Daphne 00:29
Yes, we’re so glad to have you today. So, we’re going to go right into it, we’re going to talk a little bit about eggersmann and its long history in kitchen design and other living spaces and one of the things I really wanted to talk about is your program of innovation, which, the company has always stood out as an innovator in the industry and there are so many things to talk about in that regard. I’d love to get started with the 15 Square system, which I think is quite remarkable and so flexible. Can you simplify that for our viewers and explain how it works?

Evan 01:11
Sure. So innovation is definitely the core of everything that we do, I think it’s so important that we create constantly new opportunities and new products for our customers to use rather than just the same old box in cabinets. So the 15 Square System is no stranger to that. It’s certainly created with customers in mind and most of the innovations that we create are from our customers’ own inspiration in mind.

So the 15 Square started with the concept of 15 cm side and a 15 cm depth and the idea was to make a flexible, room divider upstand for a countertop, backsplash component using aluminum, that would allow us to really create a flexible solution for the customer. So in some of the ideas and concepts we created accessories that go with it. Paper towel holders, spice rack holders, items for your knives, all kinds of different books and attachments for cooking utensils and this is to make all the things that you might normally think to put away, but have them out and sort of pretty as a decorative element, creating another whole concept and creation to the space. But at the same time, you can create a room divider with 15 Square. So in true eggersmann style, we’ve taken it from this idea of 15-cm-by-15-cm, the namesake of the product, to a customized, any-size-you-want solution.

Daphne 02:44
That’s excellent. So it’s almost like a grid and everything interlocks and you can create the solution for the space you want and in the configuration you want. Is that pretty accurate?

Evan 02:56
That’s right. It’s sort of a grid. But we in eggersmann, we broken the grid, we say we can customize that grid if you want.

Daphne 03:04
Yes, exactly. I love it. The technology to seems to be endless. There’s another system, the MOTION system, which makes countertops and table surfaces move and glide, it’s a little bit of almost like a sleight of hand if you will. So the call is MOTION , revolutionizing the way we work in kitchens today.

Evan 03:32
Yeah, so I mean, definitely one of the most popular innovations we’ve had right now is the MOTION Worktop System. So you can slide your countertop front to back creating a whole new seating area and revealing maybe your sink or your cooktop. So, it’s doing two things, it’s creating a space for you. But also hiding the space for multi-purposing space that was previously just a sink or just a cooktop and now you can actually make it a work surface.

So, especially right now, when people are using their spaces flexibly, the kitchen is also the small office or it’s the gathering spot or we’re creating an additional seating areas because we’re spacing out and the dining space you know needs is too tight. So it’s been really great for that. We can use all of our different stone materials, all the Unique [cabinet collection] materials with it. Brass countertops, hot-rolled steel, stone, our Fenix Core, which is another great product and innovation, and so it’s excellent for that. People seem to love it.

Daphne 04:37
Yes, exactly and it sounds like it’s completely functional, but at the same time very aesthetic as well. Because if you’re able to hide those work surfaces and what have you…sinks and cooktops and what have you…and then this sort of becomes part of the rest of your design, especially when you have an open plan and so on. So it serves both purposes which I like.

Evan 05:07
Absolutely, and of course, the number one purpose of it is to function. So you have function and then of course, aesthetic and form. But it has to glide smoothly…has to feel soft when you move it. So we expect it to move fluidly, like you would want it to be.

Daphne 05:24
Exactly, you brought up Fenix Core, as you were talking, and that’s another one of eggersmann’s innovations and this one, I think is really particularly on point right now, since we’ve all kind of spent the last year working from home, being so wary of germs and sanitation, and cleaning our surfaces and a Fenix Core is actually a wonderful innovation and solution for hygiene and sanitation. Could you talk a little bit about this product and maybe any other such solution you build into the kitchens?

Evan 06:08
Sure, yeah. So I think definitely hit the nail on the head when it comes to surfaces and what we’re doing; we’re always cleaning now everything. Not that we weren’t before, but even more so and so we want surfaces that lend itself to those purposes. To be clean, to stay clean. Fenix Core is a solid surface laminate material. So there’s no wood inside at all. It’s laminate upon laminate upon laminate. It comes in a variety of different colors. It has this very silky smooth surface and touch and it’s heat healing. So while it’s really impervious to scratches, super easy to clean, doesn’t hold any residue, or moisture or bacteria. It’s antibacterial, but it’s also really durable.

So you can attempt to scratch out and do put a micro scratch, small surface scratch into it, you can actually heal it with damp paper towel and a clothing iron. So it’s actually mandible comes in very large sizes and as we mentioned, it’s part of our MOTION worktop and unique series. So it can be mitered and done in very various thicknesses. So a really creative material, but also lending itself well to the cleaning aspect. So along with that, we have a series of our hot-rolled steel, or stainless steel products, our glass products, these are all really hermetic surfaces easy to clean, easy to maintain non-porous, coming in a variety of finishes colors, you can do the painted glass, and literally any color you want. If you like the color of your shirt, we can match that for you. And then we’ve added some ancillary products to that make things easier in terms of cleaning.

So just this year, we’ve launched a new lighting product. So, it’s always been our goal to have lighting as an important aspect in the kitchen in the home. Especially inside of drawers, things that if you come down to grab a midnight snack or you need some…it’s getting early…it’s early in the morning or getting late at night and it’s hard to distinguish is that the large spoon or the small spoon, we need some additional lighting, maybe in our drawers. But this new product gives you that ability to sanitize your utensils while you’re not using them. So, it’s a UVA light that actually works to clean and sanitize your silverware or tableware, while you’re not using it. But then when you go to open that device or that door, it just turns into a convenient sort of accent light or ambient light to allow you to see easier. So, still giving you that additional function, but now helping sanitize.

Daphne 08:55
Wow, that is that is incredible. I immediately want that in all of my drawers everywhere and not just the kitchen. So it’s so funny that, you know, obviously COVID has been a very challenging thing to deal with and we’ve all had a very tough year, but a lot of innovations have come out of that. So, in a way, the challenges do lead to the next level of technology and I think that’s what you’ve done here.

Evan 09:24
Yep, every challenge that as we face as humans, creates another innovation for the future and another solution.

Daphne 09:33
Exactly another opportunity to find all the positive things about something like COVID, and this is certainly one of them. So, another hallmark of an eggersmann kitchen is ergonomics and I’d love for you to talk about some of the systems that provide ergonomic and organization solutions because you have quite a few.

Evan 09:55
Yeah, absolutely. So that’s a very large focus for us as our clients are always looking for ways to enjoy their space, not just today, but tomorrow. So it’s important tomorrow and into many years to come. So it’s important that access, ease of use, and also ergonomics of function, accessing items is all top of mind. So we have our handle-less system, we call it E-sign and this is the basis for our ergonomics, we developed a handle a system that would be able to be used with anybody, with even minimal dexterity in your fingertips something that we focus on so that anybody can use this, we don’t want to handle the protrudes out into this space. Especially when we think about the future possibly wheelchair accessible devices to move around, we want something that can also allow us to flow around the room without a problem and the handle system and the grip channel. Really, anybody with long fingernails, short fingernails, strength in their hands or not, should be able to use it. So that’s the basis, I think, for the ergonomics and then we can talk about the different operating systems and opening devices.

So we have electronic drawers that you can simply push there easily, and they can come out to you. Of course, the soft-closing function is critical to the ergonomics of it.

When we talk about storing things, many of the kitchens we’re designing now and spaces are low storage, not overhead storage. And the reason for that is it’s a lot easier to lift heavier things from a lower mid-level position than it is overhead. It’s dangerous, frankly, overhead, heavyweight, kind of lifted, especially if you’re not prepared. So we want everybody to be doing focusing on these things that are easy to use, not just now but also into the future.

Daphne 11:55
Yeah, that’s wonderful and so I think that is a brilliant solution, obviously not having to reach up to put something away or to bring it down. But does that now mediate the need for upper cabinets? Are you doing sort of more open storage because of it?

Evan 12:11
Yes, I think design aspect of things has changed to some open shelving, but not everybody wants that. So we have the ability to conceal things, we have doors like pocket door solutions, where you get to choose depending on maybe who’s coming over that day, or what your mood is or what you’re doing in the space, if you want to show it or not. So our pocket doors are cabinets that allow open shelving inside to be exposed. But then there are times when you’re using the kitchen, and then you want to close it. Company is coming over and those items might appear cluttered. So instead, you can kind of close that off. So certainly playing into the ergonomics of not having to open a large door or reach for something heavy, we can still have that shelving, but then have the flexibility of closing it off when it’s not.

Daphne 13:02
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk a little bit about sustainability, which, of course, is a big buzzword in design and maybe now more than ever. How are you using sustainable materials and how is that transforming kitchen design?

Evan 13:21
Yes, that’s a critical point and you’re right, it’s a buzzword, because a lot of people use it and I think that it’s easy to say you’re sustainable. But the focus is on the whole process from production to the materials that you use, and even recapturing and using our cardboard, for example, that we use to package our cabinetry with is recyclable. We use scrap materials in the factory to heat the factory in the wintertime.

But I think, the really important part of this is actually the wood. Many of our products, we try to focus on the natural, right? So, we’re using stone and we’re using metal and in the majority of lot of our finishes were using wood and while wood is a renewable resource, we want to focus really on the woods that are able to re-planted and reforested in a very safe and environmental way. So we work with a lot of FSC-certified forests and FSC-certified woods. So FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council and actually almost it’s been a little more than a decade ago now our factory was certified with FSC for sustainable practices.

So they actually came in and we were the first industrial German cabinet manufacturer to have that certification done. And so this is trees that are watched over by the FSC and ensure that when they are harvested, they are again replanted and ensuring that we are not taking down more than we are replanting in fact the opposite. We are replanting more than we are taking down. This is for the future, certainly yours and mine but also the children.

Daphne 15:05
absolutely. You mentioned earlier, when you were talking about materials that are sustainable, you brought up metal and eggersmann is a leader in using metals in kitchen designs, with some very unique fabrications and that’s not something you see a lot. But you’ve been able to do it really, really well. Can you walk us through the types of metals and metal finishes you use, and explain why they make ideal surfaces for kitchen design?

Evan 15:35
Sure, so we always have different levels for our products, and I think that’s the beauty of using it in a home and not just in your kitchen, but being able to have sort of a full breadth of product. So, we offer the real always we have hot-rolled steel or stainless steel or concentric stainless steel and these are all the true surfaces, stainless steel can be thin gauged, mounted onto a backer, or can be our hot-rolled steel, which is quite thick and very easy to clean. And it’s a great surface for a kitchen because it’s been used in industrial applications for generations.

So if it could be used; heavy use in an industrial factory, certainly in a kitchen environment, we know that it can stand the test of time. We’ve also have natural and real brass that we use a waxed brass in the kitchen environment. This is great for the people that can appreciate and understand that brass will change and patina with time and in in with use.

But then we have a whole series of products that are metallic lacquers and these have metal actual metal flecks in them and we create the visual of, let’s say, a brushed brass or a steel or blackened steel, but you don’t have to worry about the changes to the material. So there is no alteration or variation in the material over time or sort of patina if you will. And this is great for people that like that golden color brass, or blackened steel, but they don’t want to worry about that change. Or maybe they want to use it in an area outside of the kitchen.

So we also have decors or laminate materials that you might use in conjunction with the material for the kitchen and perhaps a secondary room like laundry room or bathroom. These materials are looking as the true steel or brass but maybe as a secondary room or ancillary room, it needs to be a little bit more durable or forgiving, or even just not quite as expensive. And so we offer that full line for the different areas.

Daphne 17:48
It’s wonderful, and just the very, very chic look. In addition to the benefits it has as a surface, it just looks really, really great and for somebody who wants to take some more design risks in their space, I think it’s certainly a great option. Now share with us some of the other unique materials that set the company apart.

Evan 18:15
Yes, so creating cabinetry with, and pushing the envelope with, materials, I think is definitely something that we labor over. And we think about what we can use and what’s been used in other industries and how can we bring it into the home in the kitchen.

So, we recently launched an entire series of products called the Manhattan range and the AR 24 series. And this is taking inspiration from our existing woods and lacquers and even glass and adding an additional element of sophistication…a complete metal enclosure or metal frame around. And so this leads to a whole, essentially when you had just one word before now you have five different unique looks. So we have these frames available in chrome and brass and bronze and black and steel and a titanium color. And we actually have a great visualizer tool on our website where you can sit there and develop what that would look like for you. It really helps you because each frame while minimal really adds a whole mother dimension to the material you’re working with. So now you can take any of our woods or any of our lacquer finishes and add this extra design detail that will set your design off that really will set your kitchen off.

Daphne 19:39
Yeah, exactly.

Evan 19:41
Beyond that, we have also just launched a new product called Lausanne. And Lausanne, I think, we see this design [style] coming very centered back to a transitional focus. While maybe people thought of us before as just this very modern [design] company. A lot of our materials really warm up the space and can add a lot of texture and tactile feeling to it. So, the Lausanne is our take or our interpretation of a dentil or dentil-style door, where you have these mullions and divisions and spacing in between each component. And it’s a beautiful sophisticated door. You just want to reach out and touch it and feel the different depths and textures to it. And we’re offering that in a full range of oak and wood colors stained, and in a silver oiled finish. And we’re also launching it in a lacquer finish as well. So a really sophisticated look, but for that person that’s looking for something transitional and a little bit softer.

Daphne 20:52
Alright, that’s wonderful. I mean, it’s always good to have options. I wanted to point out that behind me, this is an eggersmann kitchen. This is, I think, fine example of what you do and how things sort of integrate. Perhaps this one is more in the modern realm, but it’s nice to have those different styles to suit every taste. So excellent.
Well, Evan, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on kitchen innovation and how eggersmann is a leader in that regard. I’ve certainly learned a lot and it’s just fascinating to see how technology can change the way we live, and especially in an area that is as important as the kitchen. So it’s a very illuminating.

Evan 21:44
It’s my pleasure. And I would just say that we thank all of our customers and everybody out there because you are what help us innovate every day. Your needs and your demands, that helps us every day. So thank you.

Daphne 21:56
That’s true. Some of our best ideas come from our customers. There’s no question. Well, thank you again, Evan, and thank you to everybody for watching. This is FD Conversations and we will see you next time.

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