A FIRE FIRST
INTERLIGNE | PRODUCTS | OCTOBER 2022
Text | Dave Richard
Photos | STÛV America [Audric Gagnon_PENGUIN + Oblica ]
Founded in 1983 in Europe, Stûv is synonymous with quality and beauty for its unique design and manufacture of stoves and fireplaces. By continuously striving for the perfect balance between leisure, performance and sustainability, the company has spurred numerous innovations that influenced the evolution of the stove and fireplace industry. Since 2007, its appliances are adapted and certified in Canada to meet North American heating standards, to suggest a contemporary vision for auxiliary heating and to create products of the highest standards in terms of performance and aesthetics. It’s a couple of Quebecers, Vincent Boudreau and Nadia Gilbert, who had the brilliant idea to import these exceptional appliances to North America while leafing through magazines one afternoon. Today, Stûv America is an independent entity that builds its own stoves and fireplaces at its factory in Bromont.
“When he fell upon an ad for European Stûv, Vincent was blown away by the artistic presentation of the product—it’s not very common in the field of heating appliances,” explains Nadia Gilbert. “He was the visionary entrepreneur who immediately saw the potential and pertinence of importing the brand to North America. At the time, the company was witnessing a huge growth spurt in Europe, while there were just no wood-burning appliances with a contemporary design in North America. Vincent quickly contacted the company in Belgium and the people there invited us to come and visit their facilities. We felt their openness to get to know each other, to hear what we had to say.
It was also very important for Vincent to confirm if the quality of products matched their brand image. Once there, we met people who were very simple, passionate, and action-orientated, who were defending values that corresponded to ours. It was like love at first sight! We also discovered innovative products that truly exceeded any of our expectations. For the first time, we saw swivel appliances that allow users to orient the fire and offer multiple types of combustion thanks to a two- or three-door system, as well as appliances that offered ambiance, proximity to the flame, direct heat, and high efficiency!”
And so, Vincent Boudreau returned home to Quebec with an agreement to import and distribute Stûv products in North America. At the beginning, the appliances were imported from Belgium, disassembled, modified to meet North American standards, then reassembled, which doubled production labour and cause inevitable material loss.
“It was very a long and expensive process to obtain certifications. At least two years passed by before we could even sell two or three American models… Then the EPA certification to regulate particulate emissions came into effect and we had to start a whole new process for certification.”
It was around then that Vincent asked Nadia to officially join the company. For them, it was a once-in-lifetime opportunity.
“Suddenly, it simplified everything, both from a family and a business point of view,” explains Nadia. “We have complementary qualities; Vincent needed someone with event-planning experience like me to take over operations, brand image and communications… It became a couple’s project, even if we don’t manage as a couple—we both have our well-defined areas of activity. There’s never been a domestic dispute at the office!”
While Quebec-based architects and designers raced to snatch up the newly available products, first contact with retailers was much more difficult.
“They were acting as if there wasn’t a market, but mentalities quickly changed. People suddenly wanted a heating appliance that exceeded its base function, one around which we could gather, disconnect and reconnect to a slower pace… By offering a full view of the fire and concealing rather than showcasing the appliance, Stûv was the solution for these desires. It reinvented the heating experience by adding an emotional aspect. At the time, it was the only company to do it. Stûv also lead the way in terms of design with its contemporary, simple, and sleek appliances that no longer needed to be hidden away in a basement, but could be integrated within a kitchen, dining room, or living room. Consumers were ready to spend more, because they knew they would also get more from their purchase.”
For Stûv, « to improve is to simplify.” The brand’s stoves and fireplaces are designed to offer optimal efficiency and comfort. Their simple and sleek look blends with all styles of décor, while the uncompromising minimalism of their design leaves the limelight focused on the fire. The optimized functional aspects of Stûv’s appliances enhance the traditional user experience. Due to the ecological challenges of auxiliary heating, Stûv constantly invests in research and development to improve the principles of combustion of its appliances.
“We don’t want to be opportunistic or just do things to be trendy,” explains Nadia Gilbert. “Awhile ago, we tried to sell gas appliances, but the experience convinced us that it was better to stick to wood-burning. We didn’t have the feeling we were standing out or innovating in this part of the market. Our heart wasn’t into it… We’re passionate about wood burning—that’s where our expertise is. We were scared to lose our way and preferred to keep pushing the limits in a field where we’re already the forerunners.”
In a nordic region like Quebec, it’s essential to reconcile heating and sustainability. We can confidently envision the future of heating systems thanks to a company like Stûv, which dedicated itself from its foundation to the design of appliances that are exceptionally high-quality, fundamentally beautiful, and intrinsically efficient.