by Zoe Jenny
It was a particularly cold and gray December day, when my husband and I travelled to Floridsdorf for a first meeting with the design team of Neuvermoebelt. Their showroom is situated in a small industrial building of a former paint factory. Architect and designer Christian Bachmann met us at the door and immediately guided us up one flight to the showroom, a beautiful bright room, where several high-end designer kitchens are displayed. What a pleasant surprise! The kitchens did not have a cold feel at all, on the contrary, "we immediately felt like moving in and starting to cook."
"That's the response we always get!" said Christian Bachmann with a smirk. The space felt warm and inviting. There was a gorgeous ashtray on the table, which I immediately had to investigate. The label read Kosta Bora, - a Swedish glass manufacturer - " That one's from the flea market .... two Euros!" said designer Manuela Freigang with a smile.
Stage designer Manuela Freigang has the infallible sensibility for selecting beautiful things. She knows how to find these "props" and how to present them in the best light. Many of the objects she frequently places in her film and stage sets are furniture pieces by IKEA.
That's where the idea came in, to exchange the fronts on IKEA kitchen furniture and thus to create something special. To upgrade IKEA furniture in this way is not completely new - there has been an active "Ikea Hacking Community" for over ten years, but the young design team from Vienna has taken the idea one step further - applying professional know-how from architecture and interior design, creating a wide range of design possibilities for the customer.
What started as an idea on a vacation in Greece has grown into a flourishing business. "It was amazing how much response we had, we were shocked!" - says Christian Bachmann - but then again, considering how many people own an IKEA kitchen, it is only natural that the demand is high!
The amount of wood used by IKEA is enormous. Therefore it is great to see, that at least 30% of customers are recycling their kitchen furniture by investing in new fronts and so extending the life span of their existing furniture by decades. This trend contributes massively to avoiding waste of natural resources and it is strengthening the idea of environmental sustainability. For Neuvermoebelt this is a core issue.
"We must get away from the prevailing out with the old and in with new - attitude," says Christian Bachmann. "We exclusively work with certified European natural wood, that means it comes from ecological forestry resources and suppliers." This no-nonsense attitude is what makes this company so special and likable.
This results in a highly aesthetic product with a high-end look, under which nobody would suspect an Ikea frame work. Neuvermoebelt's creative sensibility and joy in experimenting with new materials and color combinations has lead to highly appealing design options. Most people will know linoleum as a 40ies floor covering, but Neuvermoebelt is using a new version of this material to make wonderful kitchen fronts with a pleasant feel upon touch.
Manuela Freigang does not only work from her desk, she has also become a hands - on carpenter. Since starting the company about two years ago she has taken up working in the wood shop. "Learning by doing" says Christian Bachmann enthusiastically, talking about his partner both in business and in private life. "I can't think of another woman, with whom I would have dared to embark on a business idea like this. When I saw her working in the carpentry shop I knew: This is going to work!"
An interesting detail: the kitchen designs in pastel colors are Chrisitan's design, the black fronts Manuela's. Neuvermoebelt does not only switch the fronts of your kitchen, they also do away with standard cliches.
For Manuela, who loves to design, construct and develop, it is a great that the furniture is now at the center of focus. In her work in film and theater, there was always the need to push herself up front in order to be noticed as an artist. There is no need for that now. Her design creations are well noticed and are being ordered by customers all across Europe.
50% of all customer contacts are dealt with solely online - but Manuela stresses the importance of being available for customers. There are always questions, that need to be dealt with, whether by phone or mail. This personal touch sets Neuvermoebelt apart from other online businesses, A kitchen is an investment you don't make every second day!
Their success proves them right! Recently a customer requested a kitchen with cabinets and fronts made from solid wood. She wanted to avoid using any plywood in her house! For a two person team this was a big order. But I guess they will have to get used to it. Already now, they produce 4-6 kitchens a month.
But that's not all! Manuela is full of ideas! Her next project is to develop neon kitchens and to experiment with anodized colors (aluminum eloxal). This will be the next trend, she says, and I am sure she is right!
Christian Bachmann on the other hand plans to enlarge the product range: the next line of new fronts will be for wardrobes and bedroom furniture. He also plans to use the showroom social gatherings and cooking events.
One can see that Neuvermoebelt is a highly promising company that will expand rapidly and do well in theyears to come. I can only describe Neuvermoebelt in this way: The right concept, by the right people at the right time!