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Q&A with Barbara Kessler from Fisher & Paykel

"The Atelier 211 project was the most fun for me thus far since I was involved from design planning all the way to photo shoot after project was completed. It...

To gather a deeper and more intimate connection with the artisans we work with and the agents that represent them, we asked each to answer a series of questions. We will be showcasing each Q&A in correlation with our familial content. Enjoy!
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Without giving away your location, describe where you are right now. What are the things you see, smell, or hear around you?
Where I am is not very exciting, I am currently sitting at my desk in my apartment  facing a tree lined street with the window open. The sun is shining brightly, the temperature is beyond delicious and the birds are chirping alongside the sounds of traffic & horns honking.

Taste, touch, smell, sound, sight — which of the five senses do you rely on the most? Why? 
This is a tough question for me, since I love food - taste & smell, I love to touch things, especially fabrics on clothing before I would purchase it, I love the sound of nature ex: the birds chirping. I am a visual person; I love to see “what” I am talking or hearing about. Once the pandemic hit, I realized how important the sense of sight is for me. I never realized as much as I listened as people spoke, I read lips also. Once we were all wearing masks, I realized I was saying “What” all the time when someone was talking. That's when I noticed along with listening (hearing) I was also reading lips (sight) when speaking to someone. So my short answer is sight!

Tell us about your relationship to Studio Zung. To begin, when and where did your relationship with Tommy start? What drew you to working with us?
I actually met Tommy back in 2019 at the Arch Digest show where my company was displaying products for the 1st time. From the moment I met Tommy and heard about the projects he was working on, I said, I’ve gotta work with this guy, he is so cool! Once I was educated on the projects that Studio Zung created, I was even more excited to work with the Studio.

Three Fisher & Paykel stainless stovetops in their showroom

How has this relationship evolved over time? Could you describe one of your favorite moments or projects working with Tommy and our Studio?
First I must say that Tommy and his team are beyond one of my favorites to work with, reason being - they are beyond creative, professional and on top of their projects. This makes my job a joy to work with them.

We started working together on one of his projects in Amagansett, which led to a few more. The Atelier 211 project was the most fun for me thus far since I was involved from design planning all the way to photo shoot after project was completed. It honestly doesn't seem like work when working on a project with Tommy. 

Fisher & Paykel oven and stovetop at the kitchen Atelier 211 made with white marble countertops and oak cabinetry

The bespoke oak kitchen at Atelier 211 with Tommy Zung moving in the back

To boot - he invited me & my coworkers to his house for dinner one night. He said he's a good cook, I am looking forward to it!

We want to know more about your creative process, walk us through it. How do you begin your projects? Do you anchor it with an image, a material, color, feeling? How do you come to a stopping point and know your work is complete, if you ever think so?
My creative process really starts with me listening to my client and their needs. Once I get a good read, I then put together an email with all of the following; appliance recommendations - I like to give several options in each category specification links to each product pricing if necessary. I personally don't have a stopping point, although I’m supposed to, once the order has been placed. The reason I don't stop I guess is, the caretaker part that's embedded in me, needs to follow through to make sure everything is ok, I guess all the projects I work on are kind of like my children, I'll never stop caring.
How would you describe your work? How do other people describe your work?
I am quite passionate about my work/job since I am taking care of clients/people. I am very much a people person, I care about what I present to a client and care how they perceive it. I can become quite passionate/excited about certain projects, it fuels me to do more and more.

I think that my coworkers love my energy and enthusiasm, they are quite the same, so, get a few of us in a room together and the energy is positive and high!

What is your favorite product from Fisher & Paykel? What about one from a different designer or brand?  
My favorite Fisher & Paykel product today is our bottom mount Refrigerator/Freezer, we launched this last year off of our column platform refrigerators, its available in 24” & 30”- the reason I love this is, since my primary focus in NYC is Multi Residential Development, this is a perfect product for this market which we did not have. 

The standout with this product besides being beautiful standing at 84” tall is it has Variable Temperature Zone giving you the choice of four food modes, pantry, fridge, soft freeze or freezer.


Looking into the bottom mount refrigerator/freezer by Fisher & Paykel


As for another brand that I think is just beyond gorgeous is La Cornue, everytime I see one I am just gaga over them.

Think of an object in your home that has the most significance to you. Could you share with us what it is and the memory behind it?
My family is extremely close, immediate and extended, it helped shape who I am today and continues to do so. 

I have a Tea Set that was my grandmothers which she bought back in the 1920’s its sits in my living room. My Nana was an incredible woman, she not only taught me how to be a confident strong woman, but more importantly, to always be a lady.

We live in a society where so much of our identity is surrounded by the things we consume whether that be the things we buy, the food we eat, or the content we see, along with the fast paced nature of it. How do you approach mindful living and sustainability in the context of your work and in your everyday life?
I will first start in the context of work. Since Fisher & Paykel is based in New Zealand, across the world from here in the middle of the ocean which means they have very limited resources,  they are very resourceful. Sustainability and mindfulness is one of our key focuses as a company, so that is a word I/we use everyday. 

As for me in my everyday life, I feel that before the pandemic I was caught up in the rat race of life/work balance, there was none! As we are edging out of the last year, I did a lot of soul searching (as we all did) while we were in the stay at home stage, I will not allow myself to go back into the crazy life/work non balance that I was in. It just exhausts me when thinking about it. We all realized how very much we missed our families, loved ones and maybe a meal or two out. I have cherished every moment I have had doing each since we have eased back into “normal” life. I said many months ago, god gave us all a pause button to reset ourselves. 

What do you envision for your brand in five years? 
We envision designers, developers and homeowners alike to be drawn to our products for their beautiful aesthetic, incredible performance, and enduring quality. We love sharing our story, which includes our founding in New Zealand in 1934, and our culture of curiosity. With the many new products we have introduced over the last few years, it’s exciting to showcase the elements that help create what we call Kitchen Perfection – (1) Ultimate Kitchen Solutions – the breadth and depth of our product line, (2) Design Freedom – the opportunity to install our products wherever they need to be in one’s home, and (3) The Beauty of Choice – a variety of styles to align with any kitchen design.

Between our Fisher & Paykel and DCS brands, we strive to be the leading provider of luxury premium appliances for the indoor kitchen, the outdoor kitchen and even your laundry room. 

What do you want people to take away from your brand? How do you want to be remembered? What is the legacy you imagine for your brand?
Our human-centered design philosophy means we put a lot of effort into understanding how people live and what they need to get out of our products to ensure we meet their needs. By engaging with end users and designers especially, we continue to gain insights, from which innovations are born. We seek to continually solve real problems, always keeping in mind the world around us – both the macro changes that are afoot as well as the impact we have upon the earth. There is nothing better than sharing a meal with friends and family and we hope our legacy will be the brand that truly put people first and created products that brought them joy, while respecting the planet at the same time.

Are you looking forward to anything in the next few months? Any new exciting projects or plans?
We have so many exciting projects going on these days! First, I can’t wait to work with Tommy on his next home. His last project with our appliances was just stunning! We’ll be quite busy this summer as we reactivate our showroom and resume hosting designers for one-on-one meetings and demonstrations in our live kitchen. Later in the summer, we will be a partner at the Galerie House of Art and Design in Sag Harbor, where we’ll have over 20 appliances on display between the main kitchen, other interior spaces and the outdoor kitchen. We are looking forward to a fabulous month out in the Hamptons. Please come visit!


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