From ovens to wine cabinets, Gaggenau creates high-end kitchen products that are functional, innovative and beautiful

“I LOVE IT when people don’t just say they have a kitchen; but they have a Gaggenau kitchen,” says Sven Baacke, head of design at luxury German home appliance manufacturers Gaggenau. “You realize that, OK, they’ve thought about this. They’ve thought this is not just about a machine, but they have taken a decision and they’re serious about their appliances.”

Being serious about appliances is part of Sven’s job. He oversees the design and manufacture of beautiful, innovative and functional products, from fridges to washing machines, ovens to wine cabinets, automatic espresso machines and more. He also sees it as his duty to remain true to Gaggenau’s extraordinary heritage.

This is a company that was established as a metalworks in the Black Forest in 1683. Since then, Gaggenau has undergone numerous reinventions as it has responded to the demands of each age. But a lineage can be traced via its engineering and handmade craftsmanship through to the modern day. “You could call it slow innovation or this concept of traditional avant-garde,” says Sven. “A design can be both traditional and avant-garde, there’s a tension there. A form of consistency and thoughtfulness.”

A century after the Bauhaus school stated that form follows function, the most important attribute of Gaggenau products is that they work perfectly and do everything an amateur or professional cook could want – but they are also beautiful. Handle-free oven doors open at a touch, and five layers of glass ensure that the outside remains cool no matter how hot the oven is. Options include convection and combi-steam ovens, warming trays and vacuuming drawers for low-temperature “sous-vide” cooking. A symbiosis between aesthetics and function is crucial for Gaggenau. “One cannot live without the other,” says Sven. “It is only good design when everything comes together: when the beauty of a product is matched by its functionality.”

For Sven, this means infusing Gaggenau’s appliances with soul, and what he calls an “extra surprise”. “There must be this magic moment,” he says. “Even three years after owning a product there has to be this moment of realization. This moment when you go: ‘Oh, it can also do that!’ This can be hard to achieve because a lot of companies can do good product design. This is why I call it soul; something that really makes a product special.”

The guiding principle is to marry the traditional and the modern, and provide what cooks need and want today, without compromising the company’s high standards. “It’s a reality check,” says Sven. “It makes you design good products and good services. It’s balanced.” The company’s iconic 90 cm-wide oven, the EB 333 (pictured, opposite, with Sven), exemplifies this philosophy. And with 21st century homes getting smaller, the 400 series ovens are available in 60 cm and 76 cm widths to fit any size of kitchen.

“I think the big challenge for Gaggenau will be to remain different,” says Sven. “And relevant. You have to move forward. The needs of people are always changing. So what I’m interested in is what will the concept of luxury look like in the future? What is luxury in a digital world? There are a lot of things that we incorporate to understand how people live and how Gaggenau will be part of that. And be relevant in creating these magic moments – because that’s what it is. Otherwise it’s just an oven.”