The products of EMKO, which produces smart, functional and creative furniture and accessories for contemporary interiors, really fascinate. We talked to the company's Sales Executive, Inga Markovska-Malinauskė, about the details of the simple but useful, elegant and premium quality products.
Interview by Ummuhan Kazanc
Dear Inga Markovska-Malinauskė, you are very lucky that you are Sales Executive of a company where you can see stylish and beautiful products every day. Can we listen to the establishment story of EMKO from you?
It is a great question! EMKO as brand was presented into the market in January 2013 during the IMM Cologne furniture fair. We were there with only two products: My Writing Desk and Foldin Shelving Unit (unfortunately, cancelled from the collection in 2019 September). However, that fair was rather a success, since we met there our first customers and started sales in Germany, which is still our biggest sales market. However, the most interesting part of the start, we believe, took part in the 2012 when we decided to establish a brand. We: CEO Erika Markovska-Mikulskienė, Head of Development Aurimas Kalpavičius and me, Sales Executive Inga Markovska-Malinauskė. Till 2012 our company was acting as an agency for the foreign furniture chains to help to find the suitable producer in Lithuania already for four years. Erika previously worked as a Sales and Marketing Manager in Vilniaus Baldai – one of the biggest furniture producers in Lithuania, Aurimas was involved in furniture business already for a decade and I had an international experience due to my jobs in Slovakia and China. That made us a great team in understanding of the process of production and development of the product, putting it to market and also a very high level of a customer service.
We were successful in our business when we met young Lithuanian product designer Inesa Malafej, My Writing Desk was her bachelor project in the Vilnius Academy of Art and she needed some help in developing the project. Aurimas was interested in the product from the very first view: it was unique, problem solving, with exclusive aesthetics and, most important, a challenge to develop. So he decided to help Inesa and that how future first product of EMKO was born. After Inesa defended her bachelor work and gained a degree she came back to us with a question if we would like to sell the product on the market. And then we had a talk which changed all the course of EMKO. Of course the product was and still is great, we all loved it from the first view: unique, problem solving piece, which looks light and minimalistic, suits every interior and is beautiful. On the other hand, even with all our know-how we were missing the piece about brand developing and putting the high-end product into the market. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a try, and when the invitation to participate in the IMM Cologne came it was like a sign that we are heading in the right direction.
What makes EMKO’s furniture and interior accessories different? What is the main design philosophy of EMKO?
There are few keys to EMKO personality: exclusive aesthetics (according to our partners and customers EMKO has kind of Scandinavia style, but a bit warmer, maybe this is our Baltic roots talking), simply smart solutions, with our care and exclusive high customer service we create a circle of trust and belonging. Besides, we keep the production local, through that we not only invest in the local community and long lasting traditions of the woodwork in Lithuania, but also decrease the CO2 consumption in terms of the shipping.
You have group of designers who design furniture and interior accessories for EMKO. What kind of method and approach do you have in working with designers?
EMKO does not have in-house designer, what actually keeps us of being more open-minded and open to the interesting sometimes unexpected collaborations. At the moment we actively collaborate with 13 design studios and are in touch with more. Since EMKO is participating in a lot of International Design Fairs, designers see us, our style and want to make a collaboration of course. So we have a large data base of the design studios interested into working together and normally once a year we make a call for design where they can find the list of pieces we would like to include into our collection in the future and some guidelines on where to emphasize. After we have all the offer, we do an internal discussion and select pieces that fit our style, philosophy and aesthetics the most.
What is your best selling product and what makes this product special?
We have few best-sellers: Multifunctional Pill (Multifunctional Cabinet Pill | Wall Mounted Desk) – it is a product with most attention from the press and it truly deserves it. One of the Pills is also hanging in the chateau of Claudia Schiffer in England (you can find it between the photos in this article - We Go Inside Claudia Schiffer's Tudor Mansion | Architectural Digest). What makes the Pill so special? First of all, it’s round shape, it is not common in the furniture design, because it is hard to achieve, Pill is one of the most expensive items in EMKO collection, but that is also because the special technique we have to use to produce this product. Besides that, it is really interesting piece of furniture, sculptural one. You can open the top doors and make a tabletop of it, they can hold up to 10kg, means, you can put your laptop on it, some other materials, there are also sockets in the corner for charging. And, after the work is done, you just put everything inside the Pill, close the doors and there it is – a beautiful object on your wall and guests would not even think of it as a desk!
Naive Side Table (Naïve Side Table | Round Coffee Table) – not only they are made entirely from solid ash wood which has a beautiful colour and keeps its structure even when painted, they bring really light and playful style to any environment. They are available in 3 sizes and 7 colours, what makes it very uniques piece of furniture, as you can choose a nice variety of the tables and make then a central piece of the interior.
7.1 Chair (7.1 Chair | Upholstered Dining Chair) keeps a very high class and brings sophistication whenver it travels. The frame is made entirely from the solid oak wood, and the seat as well as the backrest are upholstered with fine, reach texture uphosltery. There is also one special feature about this chair – the brass holders connecting the frame with the backrest, not only they look beautiful, they are specially designed and made from EMKO brand, you cannot find this exact shape anywhere else in the word. That makes the piece not only beautiful and of course comfortabel for the sitting, but also unique in its selection.
4.9 Desk (4.9 Desk | Wooden Home Office Desk) has a nice straight lines and suits each room of each home, but there is a beautiful story behind the name. Designer of the Desk Marius Valaitis wanted to name it 4.9 because he strongly believes perfect can be only imperfection, that’s why not the round 5, but 4.9. The desk has also a beautiful detail in the back “a crack” which also symbolizes this perfect imperfection. Apart from that, it is of course convenient to work on, has a drawer or two which also can fit a laptop and will make a difference in each interior.
Let’s talk about Naive Line. Naive Sofa, Naive Chair, Naive Low Chair, Naive Ottoman, Naive Bench Naive Pouf, Naive Stool, Naive Semi Bar Stool… These are your products from seating group and they are very contemporary, timeless and cude. Can we learn their design story? Why did you call them Naive?
Well, it all started with a chair in the year of 2014. It feels as if the Naïve Chair could have been drawn by a child – six sticks and one seat. That’s all there is to it! This playful chair is stripped to the minimum: a carved solid ash seat and six legs of equal length to screw in. It takes pitch-perfect accuracy to design its simple looks. Every single detail is carefully studied, the length and angles of the legs are engineered to obtain the best proportions and offer superior ergonomics and a great sitting position. All this and the added flexible foam backrest make Naïve a surprisingly comfortable chair. It takes a minute to assemble it, and another one to flat-pack it back into a small box for transportation or shipping. As an extra feature, the easily interchangeable parts enable the user to play with the chair’s colour palette, from classical solid wood to a mix of joyful tones.
And since the chair was and still is incredibly popular: in the sales as well as in the interest of the international magazines, we decided to go for more: coffee tables, dining tables, lounge chairs, sofa, etc. Needless to say, all the members of Naive family have their fans and are a beautiful pieces in EMKO collection.
You have new product called Bean Sofa? It looks very comfortable and fits every kind of interior. What can you tell about Bean Sofa?
Bean Sofa is a very special item to EMKO team, as almost each team member contributed to its birth, was it a search for design, chose of the fabrics or understanding the demanded measurement. Now when the sofa is already a live addition to EMKO’s family, we all feel very proud about it and it is starting to be very popular in North and Western Europe. Here is also more information on this piece: Bean modular sofa combines simple design with functionality.
Due to its rounded corners, it is easy to join the segments and form a lounge of two, three, or more seats. Meanwhile, a pouf works well on its own or as an extension for your sofa.
Elegant wooden legs also add some lightness to a bit chubby base and ease the floor cleaning. Finally, pleated velour fabric brings a bohemian feel and is extremely soft to touch.
Bean sofa comes in five colours. Choose from royal blue, moss green, burgundy red, concrete grey, or always stylish beige. There are also two cushions that ensure the best comfort.
Lastly I want to talk about Babel Fruit Stand and Chaos Rug. What is their design story?
These are two separate stories, in fact. Let’s start with a Babel Fruit Stand. It is designed by Italian design studio ZP Studio, I personally in the 2016 in Turin, Italy. I was participating in the design event as an expert from the sales and brand development and they were presenting the product design. The Babel was the piece of the design that I immediately noticed and fell in love with. It is not only all natural and made from the ash wood, which as mentioned have a beautiful texture and is very common here in Lihutania, the Babel also brings special premium aesthetics to your house and being such a small detail it can a make a huge difference! So, after a short talk, we decided to move forward with colleaboration.
Here is also more information on Babel: The creation of the modern and classy Babel Serving Stand was inspired by the children’s game Throw a Ring. It’s a composition of two scooped wooden plates and a central pole combined with a solid brass handle. Just as in the game, the plates are easily removed and might be used separately, and afterwards mounted back onto the central pole. All the wooden parts are made with precision from solid ash and finished with oil certified for contact with food. Babel will easily become a part of your daily life with a use for fruits, nuts, chocolates and more. The plates can also be flipped over when a flat surface is needed, for instance to serve cupcakes. This art material fits perfectly in every home due to its minimalistic design and the warm materials used.
Chaos Rug is created by Lithuanian designer Audronė Drungilaitė which was a director of the Lithuanian Design Forum for few years. Firstly, let mention that before Chaos we already had a few rugs in our assortment an all of them, including the Chaos are made from the linen using special tufting technique. What we learned from our producer that there are quite a lot of leftovers in this industry and we wanted to create the product with the usage of these leftovers, so there are as few waste as possible. As a result, we talked to Audronė and the Chaos rug was born!
Here is more information on it: The very best parties usually leave us with a chaos and confetti on the floor. And like the great memories we get from such celebrations, the Chaos Linen Rug will bring joy and happiness into your daily life. Yet the item is made out of the rug industry’s leftover yarn. The base of this linen rug is hand-tufted with one-colour yarns, then the weaver selects the rest of the details from the leftovers. Every single rug is therefore uniquely coloured and made from 100% linen that has hypoallergenic features. Available in two sizes (2x2 m and 2.5 x 2.5 m) and two different background colours (dark blue and caramel brown).