For homecooks and friends Eunice Byun and Dave Nguyen, the struggle to find beautiful and contemporary kitchen sets that worked for their spaces is what really led to the creation of their kitchenware brand Material. As a brand for the “discerning homecook,” Material, which launched in March of 2018, offers a thoughtful, pared down selection of cookware and tableware for the home. In September, the brand collaborated with fashion stylist Beverly Ngyuen to release a new gorgeous green colorway for its signature Trio of Knives.
Apart from Material’s commitment to creating high-quality, functional and aesthetically-pleasing pieces, giving back to the community is also central to the brand’s identity. In partnership with Heart of Dinner, which provides the elderly AAPI community in NYC with groceries and meals, Material donates 50% of the profits generated from the sale of its reBoard in the colorway To Pó-Po with Love. To learn more about the brand, we spoke with Byun about the brand’s bestselling products and the future of Material.
Eunice Byun: When Dave and I first came up with the idea of Material, it really came from a place of personal need. We really struggled with finding sets that were more modern, whether it was the size of the sets — we don’t need 32-piece kitchenware sets in a New York City apartment — or even just the style and the aesthetics. Trying to find a more modernized version of beautiful things for the kitchen was something we both wanted. We realized there was something there as we started talking to friends and family to learn more about their cooking habits, what they had in their kitchens and things that they couldn’t live without. As we started to put pen to paper and started designing some of the initial pieces, we were lucky enough to have friends around us that are home cooks as well and really saw the need and opportunity to have more beautiful, yet more practical things for their kitchen.
EB: I love how the word “material” can mean essential, like what are the most material things that one needs. But I also liked the juxtaposition of it’s just a material item. Being able to find a word that played on so many different meanings was something that was really striking to me. It popped into my head while I was walking through Union Square and I remember bursting into the restaurant being like ‘Dave, I think I have a name.’
What products did you launch with and why?
EB: We launched with a collection called The Fundamentals and the vision behind our initial collection was editing down this really big, confusing world of kitchen tools and gadgets to the things that you’re gonna reach for every day, for every meal. We love creating practical indulgences — things that are well-designed, beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, but also highly practical that will stand the test of time — and The Fundamentals really served as the foundation for that vision.
EB: One is the reBoard and it’s compelling because of the sustainable materials. We searched high and low to find the right combination so that it would not only perform well, but also be produced in a way that was going to be as eco-friendly as possible. And then I would say the knives and the stand. It made Oprah’s Favorite Things last year. It’s one of our core products because not only are the knives made with three layers of Japanese steel, but the weight of it is really nice, the handle material is nice and grippy and also the stand is really unique in that it is a magnetic block that allows you to store up to eight knives.
EB: My favorite mainly because I use it every single day and I’m still using the sample from 2 1/2 years ago and it has held up so nicely is The Coated Pan. It is our nonstick pan. It’s made without PFOAs, it’s lead-free and cadmium-free, so it’s a really safe option for nonstick coatings, and it just performs beautifully. I cook breakfast on it for my two girls every single day and it has really weathered the many days that I’ve used it nicely.
For people who are unfamiliar with your products, what do you most want them to know about your brand?
EB: What we think today’s home cook is looking for is substance over stuff, sustainability over disposable things in their kitchen and a value-driven organization. We really focus in on those elements and design a product that will work in the kitchen so it can be as easy and effortless as possible to put together an assortment that’s right for you. We’re really meticulous about making sure that everything isn’t just beautiful but also practical and long-lasting. We put a lot of time and care into thinking about how long things will last, like our nonstick pan, and we think that’s important because people are deserving of things that are not going to be disposable and fail on them after a certain amount of time.
EB: From a design perspective, there are some new categories that we will be launching. For us it’s always just trying to continue to bring that effortless style across the kitchen and your table. We have some partnerships that we’re working on and we’re continuing to find new ways to engage our customers.
This BPA-free and dishwasher-safe cutting board is made from a combination of recycled plastic and renewable sugarcane. Available in six different colors, I love how beautiful the reBoard is. It’s a lovely marigold color that looks so cheery against the countertops in my kitchen. It also comes in a mini version that would be perfect for cutting up small fruit like apples. Because of the color of the board, I was initially concerned about staining, but I’m happy to say that staining hasn’t been an issue and the board is easy to clean.
A favorite of Byun who uses the Coated Pan to cook dishes like bibimbap, it’s quickly become a favorite of mine too. For starters, the pan, which has a nice weight to it, looks so elegant in the warm sandy color Dune. It has made cooking everything from pancakes to bacon so much easier. To prevent the nonstick coating from getting damaged I wash the pan gently with a dishcloth.
With the holiday season right around the corner, having a whisk in the kitchen can be a huge help. The Air Whisk, which is stainless steel and dishwasher-safe, is available in a mini version that’s perfect for kids and is designed with a flat head that allows it to stand on its own.
Available in two different colors, this refined ceramic set includes The 11” Full Plate, The 8” Half Plate and The 8.5” Open Bowl. Crafted from different Korean soils, the brand’s ceramic line is made in the same part of South Korea Byun’s parents are from. And as Byun shared, Material’s ceramics have, “really delighted our customers because it’s very beautiful and refined but it’s durable and it can go in the microwave and in the dishwasher.”