A well-designed kitchen works at two different levels: the aesthetic and the practical. I love a kitchen that wows me, but after one has ooohed and aaahed over that sort of thing, there are still the practical aspects of the kitchen itself. How well does the work flow through it? What arrangements have been made INSIDE those eye-catching cabinets? The stove looks sharp; does it function well? And on and on through a whole myriad of questions and subjects one can raise—and really should be raising if one is to make intelligent choices on a new kitchen. Face it, if your kitchen looks as bad as ours, just about anything you do with it is going to be an improvement, but if you’re not fairly introspective when you look into a new kitchen, you may wind up with little more than a shiny new kitchen that works no better than the old.
bulthaup tends to approach this whole issue of kitchen design with different eyes, and it starts with their minimalist designs. The difficulty with minimalism is that it is not just less. You don’t just draw a few straight lines and call it a day, not by any stretch of the imagination—or maybe that IS the trick, a profound stretch of the imagination. The idea is to start with a design and then begin taking away as much as you can without distorting it, but add to that these caveats: what’s left must be both interesting and beautiful. You can’t just tack a shoebox to the wall and call it a cabinet! A quick glance at any of bulthaup’s products assures us that they have passed the first test, visual appeal. But the other part of a wonderful kitchen design is that it cannot be just a pretty face. It has to function well, which brings me to the concept that prompted this blog, namely bulthaup’s upcoming release of Functional Panels for their b3 design system.
It’s a small detail, really, where one puts things when one is working in a kitchen, right? You’re cooking, you have a countertop, you put things on the countertop, right? It’s not a big deal, certainly not the sort of thing you’re going to be obsessing over if you’re in the midst of kitchen design concepts that extend far beyond a kitchen facelift, but instead call for an entire rethinking of everything that has gone into kitchens at this point in time. But the new kitchen owner tends to view things a bit differently, and that is the heart of superior design work—anticipating the needs of the end user.
Here’s the problem with a small kitchen. There’s no place to put anything. Well, OK, that’s hyperbole. Actually, there ARE places to put things, but not nearly as many places as we would like. And if, like so many, you tend to put things on the countertop, you have compounded the problem. Clutter simply makes a small place look smaller. Not only that, it flat gets in the way of the work that needs to be done. Now add to that, if you will, the minimalist lines of the European kitchens I have come to love so much. Where in the world does one put things in a kitchen that prides itself on clean, clean lines without a single trace of clutter? And yet, and yet, and yet… one does have to put things somewhere for one’s use in cooking, right? And with that I can share one of the slicker ideas I have come across.
Let’s start with their multi-function wall, which is one of the more innovative concepts I have ever seen in modular kitchen systems. It’s a solid, stainless steel frame that is secured to the floor and to the wall, and they then hang the entire kitchen on it: cabinets, worktops, cooktops, water points, electrical appliances and an incredible number of accessories. So right at the start, really, they come up with an innovative idea that adds considerably to the versatility of the end kitchen. With a system like this, the kitchen you ultimately purchase from bulthaup is the kitchen that suits YOU to a “T.”
I started this by stating that one of the things you need to do in a small kitchen is to make full use of all the available space. If you’ve seen some of the kitchens I’ve written about over the years, you would believe—as I surely did—that all the space had been fully accounted for and fully put to use. But one of the things I certainly never thought about was the space behind the wall! Or, to be more specific, the space between bulthaup’s multi-function wall and the kitchen wall.
What they have done is create Functional Panels that are divided into four sections, or louvers, which can be opened to create pouch-like compartments where chopping boards, cookbooks, towels and utensils can be placed during food preparation. And this, in turn, frees up the work space for, well, for work! If the chopping board or other utensil is not immediately needed, it can be placed out of the way, but near at hand. And, yeah, I know, that’s a small thing, but if you’ve worked in one of those tiny kitchens, you know at once the frustration of every blessed thing being on top of everything else. Move it out of the way, and you normally end up moving it to the other end of the room, and how convenient is that, really?
But the space between multi-function wall and the kitchen wall? Who thinks of using something like that? Well, the people who came up with the multi-function wall in the first place, but more than that—and more to the point, really—it’s been designed by the people who have worked so hard at designing other aspects of what for me really is the Holy Grail: the clutter-free kitchen.
This is a company that has gone to such lengths as to completely redesign drawer interiors. Do you see those cylinders in the drawer we’ve shown here? Actually, they’re holders for wax paper and the like. We have some of those wax paper boxes, and you probably do too. They’re jumbling around in a drawer that is normally wedged shut with them! It’s a pain to get them out and another pain to put them away, but this! This is elegant. Spice jars go wherever we find a place to stick them, but here we see diamond-shaped jars that have been especially designed to fit in the drawer slots without rattling around. Think of the sheer indulgence of a kitchen drawer that has been so effectively designed!
Who in the world puts so much effort into the designing of efficient drawer interiors or the Functional Panels bulthaup will introduce later this year? Why such a focus on what must be, when one considers the scope of the project, just little details? Asked such a question, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe surely would have answered, “Because God is in the details.”
Leave a Reply