Feature_1_PerSelvaag_433x382Per Selvaag knows a lot about the machines we drive. But, perhaps most important, he also knows a great deal about the machines that drive us.

So when the former lead designer for BMW and Peugeot decided to turn his attention to creating an espresso machine for the home, he considered the other brands currently on the market, evaluated what they offered the consumer, and asked himself how his own model would best serve the stay-at-home barista using it each day.

“When you’re a product designer, an industrial designer, you think critically about anything and everything around you. To imbue something with originality is important,” Selvaag explains.

“So, if you’re going to make a new coffee machine, you take a step back and ask yourself, if it’s made of the same materials, and if it is making the same level of quality [coffee] that you can get from any other machine in this price group, then where is the added value?

“Honestly, we’re surrounded by great coffee; there’s no void there. So our goal, definitely, was to create a beautiful machine.”

The design — a simple but beautifully balanced box — was a collaboration between Selvaag’s Berkeley design studio, Montaag, and Sam Kanenwisher. A former Divinity student, Kanenwisher founded Kanen Coffee in 2011, when he decided that “coffee was less complicated than religion,” and that his true calling was in the world of roasting and brewing coffee — and even servicing espresso machines. Selvaag joined with him to create The Anza, their flagship model. Kanenwisher’s role in the partnership was to build the machine, while Selvaag devised and designed. Placing an emphasis on proportion and materials, the resulting clean-lined creation is more like an objet d’art.

“Treating a coffee machine, which is an appliance, like a sculpture or piece of furniture,” was precisely Selvaag’s intent. “Nobody kicks their Eames chair around the house. It’s something to behold. It’s an investment.”

But make no mistake: Selvaag has designed his machine to be used. As devotees of coffee culture — a collection of vintage espresso machines, including a La Cimbali from the 1950s and a Pasquini model from the 1970s, sits like an art installation in the Montaag studio — the team outfitted their appliance with a number of smartphone-activated features. While Selvaag concedes the machine’s timer function is ubiquitous — “You could buy a smart plug and put any device into it and set it on and off” — the ability to control the temperature of the water to a precise setting is an attractive feature for aficionados. The onboard computer will also collect data about the overall health of the machine and monitor its need for maintenance.

But again, Selvaag admits that is practically expected from anything on the market now. “Smart tech elements in consumer objects [are] quickly becoming de rigueur. Nobody gets wowed by smart objects anymore.” Which is why the Montaag team determined the exterior design was so important when it came to fashioning a unique machine.

“I love the beauty of honest materials, everybody likes honest materials, but you don’t see it in people’s lives.” And those materials, specifically, were something Selvaag didn’t see in other coffee machines. “If you think of any coffee maker, any brand, they’re plastic or steel. That’s it. Why is that? It’s baffling. Why wouldn’t somebody make a coffee machine out of something else?”

That question helped to initiate the exterior design, and likewise answered the initial question of added value.

To date, two models have been designed and fashioned. The version made out of Corian, the ubiquitous polymer-based kitchen counter material — a model Selvaag says was “something that had to be done” — is accented by teak, brass, and an enamel water faucet handle that adds a touch of Pop Art whimsy, while the machine made of concrete looks like a scaled-down example of Brutalist architecture.

Plans for future models include a hand-decorated casement made of fine bone china, and another made of terra cotta. There was even a discussion about making one out of glass. “You would make it kind of like you would make a vase. [The glass] would be an inch thick. You could see through to the inside,” Selvaag says of the visual appeal, but adds, “It would be a bitch to make. It would require a specific setup, and you would have to industrialize it properly.”

Right now, the focus will stay on moving the original prototypes into production. Of their inviting materials that beg to be touched, Selvaag nods, “Haptic feedback is a wonderful thing!”

For more information, visit The Anza website or email anza@montaag.com.

—Steven Gdula

This article originally appeared in DINOSAUR No. 2. Subscribe today or find out where to buy the issue.

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