Home technology integrators and manufacturers everywhere have realized the importance of design in technology. It’s rare, however, to see a company living that principle. Selective Design is one of those unicorns, putting design above all, but with performance genuinely worthy of a high-end luxury home.
The company offers a selection of audio brands—Nakymatone, Gray, HTE, Waterfall Audio, and Architettura Sonora—that all put design first, delivering solutions that homeowners and designers want to see. (Or, in the case of invisible speakers, not see at all.) In fact, some of their wares become a design centerpiece of their chosen spaces.
In this interview, we spoke with co-founders Eric Nakkila and Todd Sutherland to see what makes their products so attractive to designers and homeowners, as well as integrators.
What is the driving philosophy behind Selective Design?
Todd: Leading with design. Eric and I are conscientious about not importing just anything. If it doesn’t make sense from the perspective of superior design and performance, then we don’t feel it belongs. We approach with design and know we have the performance behind us to back it up.
Why did you join HTA?
Eric: We recognize that the price and products of Selective Design brands are not for everyone. We want to be positioned at the top and be differentiated and talk with the best of the best—both integrators and designers.
Because the homeowner does not necessarily know our brands exist, we rely on integrators and designers to expose them to something better. Something different. Just like these homeowners have the best custom furniture, fine artwork, and superior kitchen appliances, they deserve audio that is the best in all aspects.
How do your integrators typically approach a project?
Todd: For one, we don’t go in talking about tech performance. We know we have that in our back pocket. Too often, “design-forward” speakers are not the best quality; clients are left with inferior performance and a tradeoff in design. The market should be making clients who can afford it aware of superior performance and design. We have to hook them with design and then performance. We know if we go in with a technical approach, we are not going to be successful.
Eric: It’s a balancing act. The balance between design and performance. We often get integrators who are disappointed with other solutions. They were using speakers that looked good, but the performance lacked. We give them both.
Many brands have this philosophy, as well. What makes Selective Design different?
Todd: We aren’t alone in the market evolution. It’s a culmination of brands, like Sonos, who have made design and user-friendliness so addictive. Our industry meets the quality of the consumer’s life. We meet them where they live and try not to force them to interact with our products in a clunky way. Even products like Apple have taught the market that design matters: A beautiful interface and product matter more to consumers’ lives than geeking out on performance.
Eric: In the case of Nakymatone [invisible speakers], we’re responding to homeowners who want wonderful speakers and exceptional performance, but they do not want to look at speaker grilles. With Nakymatone, our goal is to be able as an industry to convince clients and designers that they can have what they want, audio anywhere, with minimal impact on their design and way of life. When you approach it from a design perspective, the budget is of secondary concern. But when you approach from a purely performance perspective, it’s a battle.
It seems like your brands complement each other. For example, not everyone will want an invisible speaker; some will want a design statement, as you mentioned.
Todd: They do, and they all have their place within our portfolio. Yes, Nakymatone is the finest invisible speaker in the world, but they don’t solve every desire, like a theater, for example. And they can’t be out by the pool. Gray Sound is our small aperture speaker designed to look more like lighting fixtures than speakers. Architettura Sonora are outdoor speakers that look like sculptures. [See below for a complete lineup of Selective Design products.]
Those speakers are absolutely beautiful.
Todd: Architettura Sonora is the complete opposite approach for outdoor speakers, which are typically speakers that you hide in the dirt or that pretend to be bushes. This is a professional speaker that is a sphere or cube and uses natural materials of the customer’s choice to create omnidirectional sound outdoors. We can even match a similar quarried stone used, say, around the pool, with similar materials out of Italy.
And the Waterfall Speakers, just wow.
Eric: There is nothing else like Waterfall. I have dealers approach us, asking if it sounds as good as other high-end speakers. And I tell them they are missing the point. These are design-forward speakers that make a statement. They are conversation pieces. They are GLASS speakers for people that want something different and who are tired of the look of every other speaker on the market. And yes, they also have a higher level of performance. Glass may not be everyone’s friend. Still, it’s unique and bridges the gap between European traditional to wholly modern and minimalist, and blends with any interior because it’s transparent. Plus, you can still enjoy your magnificent view.
Do you ever work directly with designers?
Todd: It’s often the case that we are approached by designers, in which case we usually show them our range of options and connect them with one of our dealers in their local area.
Eric: One of our integrators met with such an architect and their client, and what was supposed to be a 60-minute meeting turned into hours because they fell in love with our Architettura Sonora line. After the meeting, the integrator received a call from the architect, who wanted to discuss eight more projects with him. This design approach gets the excitement back into the process. Our approach and our cool portfolio are so tailored to design and architecture that it’s a refreshing perspective. You can just imagine how excited and happy our integrator was to share this story with us.
What do we have to look forward to from Selective Design?
Todd: We have a new relationship in Europe that we will be ready to talk about shortly. We’ll keep you posted as that develops!
Selective Design Brand Profiles
Nakymatone. When complete invisibility is the goal for music and theater systems. Nakymatone has succeeded where other invisibles have failed...sound quality that will shame even some in-wall brands. Performance and ease-of-installation advantages way above the alternatives. You need to hear a demonstration. Manufactured in Canada. Visit Nakymatone’s page.
Gray Sound. The step-up in performance from the invisible speakers is the small aperture category. Enter Gray Sound, manufactured in The Netherlands using custom made German speaker components for superior sound and listening coverage. Gray’s VOX Series can be perfectly integrated into the ceiling or wall to create a completely flush finish. VOX’s state-of-the-art design and easy installation make it a revolutionary product for architects and interior designers. Visit Gray Sounds’ page.
Waterfall Audio. To enjoy even more engaging levels of performance with music and multimedia systems, there’s Waterfall Audio. Manufactured in France, the Waterfall line is unique in its appeal to designers and clients interested in featuring the gorgeous glass designs throughout fine interiors. The Pro Custom Series extends the Waterfall experience into private cinema rooms, delivering clear and intelligible high-impact performances. Visit Waterfall Audio’s page.
Architettura Sonora. With 70 years of experience in the pro speaker industry, Architettura Sonora is a range of high-performance speakers that will suit any need - indoors, outdoors, in your residence or your business. Designed and handcrafted in Florence, Italy, with stunning high-end material options, gorgeous sculptures meet professional performance to deliver statements in both beauty and sound. Visit Architettura Sonora’s page.
HTE. HTE is an Italian company offering customized treatments that are visually stunning and completely integrated with the room, whether it be a dedicated private cinema or a multi-purpose living space within the home. Recreating an immersive movie experience at home requires flawless design and accurate acoustics, and above all, comfort and livability.
Distributor for The Americas. Visit HTE’s page.