German Kitchens ...
An introduction to German kitchens
Welcome to LWK Kitchens London, a London based German Kitchen specialist. Please take the time to explore our website and learn more about us, our kitchens and the service we offer. We aim to provide a very high standard of service, based upon the principals of professionalism, honesty, fairness and intimate design knowledge. Our team of people are all extremely committed to this ethos, and when allied to the wide range of high quality kitchen products we can supply, the resulting service we can offer our clients is first rate.
These virtues can be seen in our open and honest approach to pricing our German kitchens, with every item on our quotation individually priced. Many clients love the way our design team will produce as many variations of design themes and layout alternatives as they require to make their final choice, all free of charge or obligation. Other clients take reassurance that our required deposits are as low as 5%, with nothing further to pay until the day prior to delivery, and you are more than welcome to come and view all of your kitchen components prior to paying for them. When we are installing your kitchen, you don't pay the installation fee until your kitchen is finished.
German kitchen specialists
LWK Kitchens London are a specialist dealer of one of Germany's leading Manufacturers who produce over €380m of kitchen furniture each year, and are the recipients of multiple design and quality awards. At our London showrooms you can view all of our German kitchen ranges, encompassing a huge variety of designs and finishes, available at prices to suit a range of budgets. German kitchens are famous across the world for quality, innovation and style. At LWK Kitchens, all of the kitchens we retail are built to order in Germany for every individual client who commissions us to supply their kitchen. As these are the only kitchens we work with, all of our people from our designers to our installers have a deep understanding of German kitchens. Using the wealth of knowledge accumulated through years of working with German Kitchens, we can advise you on every last detail of your dream kitchen. The support of one of the leading German Kitchen manufacturers ensures our kitchens are amongst the best built and most durable in the industry.
London kitchen specialists
LWK Kitchens London work almost exclusively in London and the surrounding areas, and have accrued a deep knowledge of our local market. We have designed hundreds of London kitchens for apartments, town houses, mansion blocks, period conversions, gated developments, riverside docklands warehouses etc, etc. We have developed a specialist understanding of how to make the most of storage space and accessibility without overwhelming small spaces. We know how to design a kitchen that sets the perfect place to eat breakfast, to cook dinner for ten, or at which to help out with homework.
Our designs typically exhibit the results of thoughtful application of storage solutions, careful selection of colour and diligent use of materials to achieve the 'look' our clients aspire to and the function their circumstances require.
A history of German kitchen design, from Bauhaus to the present day
The Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar, Germany by Walter Gropius. It operated from 1919 – 1933, under Weimar's vision of creating a 'complete' work of art that would bring together all arts including architecture, design and technology.
From the point of its emergence the Bauhaus style has had a significant influence on developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, and industrial design, and continues to do so today. Some of the most outstanding architects and artists of the day worked within the school and created iconic furniture, buildings, fabrics and designs that we all recognise, and still use and apply within our day to day lives nearly 100 years later.
The Bauhaus school believed men and women were equal and unusually for the period it was pure talent and skill which were the electing factors for admission, rather than gender. The outcome of this was that through Bauhaus women were able to reap opportunities that previously were not available to them, and fulfil their capabilities in traditionally unobtainable male jobs.
Many women excelled within the school, an example of whom was Benita Ottie. Ottie wanted to liberate the housewife by providing a comfortable workspace which reflected the merit and seriousness of her job. Ottie designed a kitchen for Bauhaus' 'Haus am Horn' exhibition in 1923 and within this she realised her ambition through the creation of level, same-height worktops, as well as drawers and cabinets for tidy and accessible storage, and a large window for a bright and airy feel. The kitchen marked an absolute action towards a modernist language of kitchen design.
Exemplified through the ascetic and plain exterior of the kitchen doors, the Bauhaus style is distinctive by the absence of ornament and unnecessarily decorative facades. Much like Otties' kitchen the units are simplified on the exterior as well as within the internal area arrangements. The fitted kitchen units were built in the Bauhaus workshop but kitchens before this time would have free standing dressers and cupboards with no uniformity to their shape size, height or storage capacity.
Bauhaus believed in being attentive to the ideas and influences of the modern industrial world and that excellent designs must marry both superior and beautiful aesthetic design with technical engineering; Birthing what we today refer to as modern design.
An example of this is that Bauhaus presented containers as well as glassware storage on the worktops for specific utensils and foods, forming the origin of organised and defined storage. Further to this, improvements were also made at the renowned Bauhaus school to the design of kitchen utensils and appliances themselves.
Bauhaus embraced the scientific approaches to ergonomics and design, creating what we would now recognise as a unit, or 'fitted kitchen' and the teachers' houses, or "Masters Houses" (as they became known) built at the Bauhaus school directly emulated the design schools revolutionary work.
The Masters houses included sleek streamlined kitchens that amongst other elements contained work surfaces that were both easy to work on and wipe clean; there were drying racks, conceptive storage space and one big sink that was effortless to use, all of which reveal how the designers hoped and strived to liberate the German housewife.
Following the Bauhaus Kitchen, was the arrival of the Frankfurt Kitchen, designed by Austrian architect, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926, who's intention was to reduce the amount of space occupied by the kitchen within a family home. Previously people tended to live in two bed apartments, with the kitchen providing not just somewhere to cook and eat, but also somewhere to work, wash and sleep (mostly due to it being the warmest room of the house). Instead Lihotzky aimed to reduce the typical size of the working kitchen and segregate it from the subsequently increased main living space, manifesting a physical reflection of her belief that there should be a distinction between people's work life and time for relaxing.
Lihotzky's vision was first realised when she was asked to design a kitchen for a new housing development in Frankfurt, Germany. The Frankfurt Kitchen was intentionally small in part because this was a large project for multiple apartments, and secondly to reduce the number of steps you had to take between tasks within the kitchen. As with Bauhaus, the Frankfurt Kitchens had continuous worktops and integrated units. There was a strategically large window in place to maximise light and airflow, and a small stool where the housewife could sit at an ergonomically desirable height to prepare food under the (added) light of the window. The stool could also be adjusted to enable access to the top of the higher units. These were newly introduced features that Lihotzky created to save unnecessary labour and movement and instead facilitate it at a comfortable physical level. This concept also applied to ironing in the kitchen through the use of a highly innovative fold-away ironing board.
The outcome of such pioneering inventions was a day-to-day ease of chores that permitted a higher quality of life and also pleasure within the kitchen; everything was simplified for ease of use and placed in convenient areas such as dish racks and shelves being adjacent to the sink. Just like Ottie's Bauhaus kitchen, the Frankfurt Kitchen had allocated storage containers, as well as aluminium label-stamped drawers for provisions. There was even a chopping board with a drawer underneath for vegetable peels & other associated waste.
The Frankfurt Kitchen was a complete revelation, a" fitted kitchen", and undoubtedly the Frankfurt Kitchen design was the most successful of its era and its achievements in making the workspace both more functional and professional has meant it was also one of the most influential to date.
In modern kitchen design, lighting is a very key element that is taken in consideration, yet only 30 years prior to the creation of the Frankfurt kitchen there was no electricity within many household kitchens. However the Frankfurt kitchens developed the concept of lighting use through the implementation of a movable track light that could be adjusted as desired when carrying out different functions within the kitchen.
The Frankfurt Kitchen must have seemed alien at the time of its introduction, and not least due to the inclusion of a built-in oven. The oven came with the kitchen, since all the units and appliances needed to fit neatly together. Previously when you moved into a house it was only the big heavy cast iron sink that remained in place after the previous occupants left, as this was too big and heavy to move; You simply kitted out the kitchen yourself with your accumulated non-matching assortment of units.
During the Second World War everything had slowed down in Germany but by the 1950's the afflictions of WW2 were slowly fading and life in Germany was resuming. Germany held its second annual 'Internationale Mobel Messe' Furniture Fair in Cologne, otherwise known as the 'IMM Furniture Fair' which is still held to this day. Within kitchen design, Germany further modified the interconnected fitted cabinets to give a clean, continuous style. The worktops streamed and flowed following the 90-degree turns of the kitchen units that sat neatly against the kitchen walls and fitted with integrated sinks, hot and cold taps, electric ovens, gas stoves and imminently the refrigerator. This arrangement created a larger internal working space within the kitchen area. The units at the bottom attached to walls became "base units," the eye level units above the working counter "wall units," and the full height storage units "tall" units. All became standardized unit and appliance sizes, typical of the new-technology filled German Kitchens.
This design was hugely successful, and following the Furniture Fair Germany began exporting kitchens to neighbouring countries. Germany had advanced the concept of the all-in-one kitchen. It is also the German manufacturers of this period that we have to thank for creating the lacquered door finish and a 10-lacquer coated door effect. To their credit Germany is still at the forefront of expert lacquering to this day and use machines worth millions of Euros within their factories to produce and export lacquered door finishes worldwide. Towards the end of the 1960's, another pioneering feature of German kitchen manufacture emerge– the solid wood kitchen. This type of design proved very popular and featured within many homes throughout the 1970's. Worldwide!
Within the 1980's, new developments in German kitchen design took place that echoed the ambitions of the Bauhaus and Frankfurt kitchens in designing creations to facilitate the housewife in cooking and completing kitchen tasks with the upmost ease and efficiency.
There was a shift in the general outlook on cooking and more increasingly cooking became perceived as a skilled, creative, artistic and even therapeutic pastime rather than just a necessary chore as it had previously been viewed. It also became very fashionable, with greater emphasis on meals forming the basis of a social event amongst family members, associates, colleagues, peers and so forth. These new trends led to the creation of the informal dining area; a breakfast bar integrated into the kitchen area from the kitchen worktop. In contrast to the smaller separate kitchens of the previous fifty years and as favoured by Lihotzky, the invention of the extractor enabled kitchens to be opened up within the living area, but without cooking smells and grease filtering all over the house.
It was also no longer just the role of the housewife to cook; men came to enjoy it too and the kitchen became a tool of empowerment, enabling both sexes to show off and exhibit their cooking professionalism and varying culinary successes within the kitchen! Furthermore, the kitchen itself became a statement within the home reflecting personal wealth and lifestyle. Within this period we see the more familiar design and concept of open plan living which remains prevalent today.
To conclude, modern German kitchen design still very much reflects all of the initial ideas, innovations and components first introduced during the period of the Bauhaus and Frankfurt kitchens, such as the aluminium containers of the Frankfurt kitchen which today are emulated in the endless availability of internal organisation and storage configurations. Earlier designs focused on innovation with the purpose of enabling efficiency and a higher quality of life; architects such as Ottie and Lihotzky laid the foundations which have remained in place but continued to evolve over time, and in conjunction with the need for aesthetically pleasing design their ideas and developments still remain very much at the core of, and are reflected in, any successful German kitchen design of modern time.
An exploration of the Germans reputation for being excellent manufacturers of high quality kitchens, looking at why kitchens need to be of such sound quality and how German manufacturing processes underpin this reputation and give it credibility.
The general perception of German kitchen design is that German kitchens are unsurpassed by any other in Europe. They have their own Germanic style which can best be described as sleek and minimal, with the high quality of their structural form further enhancing their bold appearance. Within this article we are going to explore why beauty is definitely not only skin deep in the case of German kitchens! To truly understand this we need to begin with looking at some of the reasons for why German kitchens need to be as exceptional as they are.
The German housing market is very different to that of the UK. Germany experienced a very slow growth in the market of approximately 2-3% since the early 1990's. They have very strict lending stipulations, as well as a minimum requirement of 20% deposits and the result of these factors combined means that most young Germans rent rather than buy. Renting is a more accessible option as German letting contracts are nearly always unlimited in timescale and there are tightly controlled and transparent renting rates based on a nationwide renting index, with capped rates of rental increase over 3-5 years. This leads to tenants opting to stay in their same rented property for many years at a time, and throughout the period of their stay they will usually seek to develop and improve the house or apartment they are living in. This home-renovation generally includes the purchase and installation of a kitchen, and then when the tenants do finally move out, they will take the kitchen with them. This is not just restricted to the kitchens but wall sockets and light switches are also often removed as standard.
Because of this lifestyle there is a need for a quality kitchen that will withstand being unassembled, withstand moving and withstand being reinstalled on up to 3 or 4 different occasions in its lifetime. Enter the Rigidly Built Kitchen...
...The rigidly built kitchen is designed, cut, edged, drilled, glued and built by machine. This is better known as a CAD/CAM system (Computer Aided Design / Computer Aided Manufacturing). This system enables the manufacturers to use one system for designing the kitchen and then use the design information to export all of the individual components to create the complete kitchen.
After exporting the kitchen information it is batched together with up to 20 other kitchens based on material, unit colour, unit thickness, range, and door types and consequently sent to the CNC Machines (Computer Numerically Controlled). By combining all of the kitchen parts the CNC configures the individual components into the best cut patter, optimizing up to 98% of the sheet material. This means you get a very lean manufacturing process that provides Energy efficiency, reduced emission and reduced waste. Most large kitchen companies conform to environment and quality management systems EN ISO 1400 and this practice is ensured through the sole use of FSA certified timber from managed/certified forests.
After this efficient machining process comes the backbone of the kitchen, which is the construction process. Unit components are positioned in jigs or template holders and the machine then presses all of the items together, clamping them from all four sides. The parts are held in place while a UV light bonds and sets the glue in position. Following this, when the unit is taken out it is square and even. It is this clamping process that provides the main rigidity of the kitchen carcasses, rather than the 6mm MDF back that comes with the unit. This backing is present simply as a façade rather than a structural aid that would stop the unit moving from side to side, as is most common in UK built kitchens.
During the assembly process the hinge plates which connect the doors to the carcass are inserted and all internal holes for adjustable shelves are bored. The drawer runners that enable movement of the drawer are attached very precisely by machines so that when the drawer is in motion all components are running 100% in line. This produces a smooth, silent and soft closing system which aside from its sleek appearance also increases the life span of the drawers.
A number of the biggest names in the German kitchen industry work on what is known as a Mittelstand model. These are usually privately or family owned businesses that deal with a high value and Quality driven product, and are primarily business to business export companies. They have an emphasis on long-term profitability, and are frequently based in small rural communities close to good resources for skilled labour; this is essential because the processing plant cannot run without a highly trained and dedicated workforce.
The skilled labourer becomes involved in the process once the units have been assembled and then progress down a production line to separate work stations. Prior to the door/drawer fronts being fitted the labourers manually insert internal fittings such as lemans corners, pull out larders, cutlery inserts or any internal accessories required. Following this the completed drawer boxes are inserted, drawer fronts attached and the soft close functionality checked. Full assessments are carried out at each station where the units are checked for quality; any marks or defects are quickly spotted and in such cases the individual unit would be rejected and its details scanned for immediate reproduction.
Some of the doors are manufactured in the same parts of the factory as the kitchens, whilst other doors are manufactured in separate parts of the plant due to the complexity and delicate nature of the finishes. For example the high gloss lacquer doors are individually sprayed in high pressure vestibules to ensure dust free environments, guaranteeing the equal level of thickness of lacquers between coats. The end result of this is an increased depth of lustre, only achievable from a lacquered finished kitchen. The typical number of coats for the average Hi-gloss and Satin (matt) Lacquered finish is between 5-7 coats.
Throughout this entire process the movements of all materials and components is monitored by the central CAD/CAM system by way of barcodes. At each stage the system will have scanned in the information of all parts involved and tracks their progress to ensure that each unit is built within the allocated/required time slots.
After the production process the furniture is ready for packaging and at this stage each unit or individual item is both boxed and coded. Up until this point individual barcodes have tracked the items through the assembly line but the entire product is now wrapped in a box, packaged and barcoded, with the outside packaging displaying both the distributor and clients name, as well as its rack allocation within the storage facility (so it can be easily located). Most modern German kitchen manufacturers have automated storage facilities and their computerised systems reduce the labour requirement as well as the risk of human error by taking control of all product movements and monitoring each box's transfer from the end of the factory production line to the warehouse. Each unit is allocated a space as directed by its barcode and this allocated spot becomes filled with all related items of the product order and will remain there until the point of required delivery. At the time of dispatch the System will retrieve all order items from their allocated shelving area and move them to a container for delivery.
In summary the Germans are successful because they recognize that the quality of the end product is determined by the quality of the materials as well as labor force used within the course of manufacture. All of the processes used throughout the entire production cycle guarantee an exceptional level of quality and efficiency, and conform to government and environment accreditations for high quality standards. Furthermore the use of timber that is PEFC certified and extracted only from managed forests helps guarantee the lifespan and durability of the end-product. Whilst the manufacturing processes aren't necessarily unique, the German attitude towards these processes most definitely is; they use the right materials, the right people and they are prepared to spend that little bit more to ensure their products are truly up to standard. The combination of these factors and the proof of the finished product truly substantiate the Germans reputation for quality kitchens, a reputation they can proudly stand by and which will prevail for many years to come.
Latest design trends for German Kitchens
Throughout history the Germans have always been exceptionally good at designing iconic products and buildings, E.g. Bauhaus (1919 - 1933) but also in revolutionizing technical engineering, as apparent throughout the 1760-1850 Industrial Revolution.
This success is still apparent in the modern era and over the past few years, the European kitchen design industry has seen several new trends emerge that have continuously grown in popularity, and which increasingly show signs of being here to stay! Is less actually more now-a-days? Are we reverting back to simple minimalism in relation to form and function? These are the most common questions being asked of German kitchen designs latest trends for 2013, and the rest of Europe is set to follow in their footsteps.
When was the last time you saw bold, bright colour incorporated as a main feature within a kitchen? Did you stumble across it in a sixties magazine article? Or maybe a television program about retro design icons? If you find yourself nostalgically remembering these colourful objects of art – here is some good news…..old is back, with people opting for bold, not black! A strong trend in the overall kitchen appearance, this influence originates from the Far East; Minimalistic, clean and straight lines typical of Japanese design.
The colours are somewhat monochromatic but a splash of deep red, or an equally vibrant alternative, is not out of the question if you have a more intrepid design taste. In spring 2013, bold colours will dominate, including lacquered yellow, red, orange or purple. These colours will not just be used for kitchen doors but also many appliance manufacturers such as Blanco and Miele will be producing more bespoke and vibrant pieces to suite a wider range of tastes, E.g. Miele are producing an amazing choice of more than 200 colours, so a blue sink or orange extractor hood might work brilliantly as either an accent or focal feature of the kitchen.
High-tech design is another hot appliance trend for 2013. Manufacturers are bringing the functionality as well as the streamlined design of high-tech gadgets to appliances. For example, the Horizon extractor hood by Zephyr was designed by the former Apple Computer designer, Robert Brunner. Touch screen interfaces have been available in a more simplistic form for some time but the current Smartphone and tablet craze has spread like wildfire to the appliance category, and newly developed models will provide far more functionality than basic pre-sets. Cooking time, mode and recipe memory will be widely used by homeowners all over Europe. Furthermore as most people now have Smartphones we will soon be using Smart stoves. For example the new AGA iTotal Control, is the first Aga that you can operate from a location outside of your home, via a mobile phone, Smartphone, PC, laptop, iPad or tablet. Simply text from your phone, use the available app, or access online to turn on (or off) one, or all three of the ovens (baking, roasting or simmering). This is what I call 21st Century!
In modern times the kitchen would be one of the best places to install a video screen. It is time to start thinking of this screen as a portal that enables access to all content in the cloud, including recipes, cooking demonstrations, breaking news, weather alerts, research for a child's homework, access to a school's calendar or assignment list, and yes, television programming. Of course, it should also make sense aesthetically.
The dominating requirement of kitchen design is a marriage between science and design; a perfect match to accommodate the everyday worker's needs. Kitchen tools and food supplies that facilitate comfortable use of the kitchen and allow easy access to everything are on every consumer 'wish list' of modern times. It has become fashionable to have larder cabinets, spice racks and a kitchen full of gadgets but this popular trend emerged primarily through the desire and search for functionality that will best help us multi-task.
Recent multi-tasking releases of 2012 include built-in fridges with a convertible fridge/freezer drawer, a countertop microwave/steam oven/grill and pro-style range with steam oven, unique and useful combination microwaves. This shift in design has occurred as a result of two conflicting trends: firstly, the average home is shrinking in size if compared with the 'boom-time mansions.' Secondly, it is that larger and more affluent homes tend to have big open plan show kitchens and smaller back "prep" kitchens. Multi-tasker kitchens come in handy for both.
In 2013, White colour, with its timeless look will be returning in sleek modular glass-front appliances, emulating the latest trends in technology design such as computers, television and phones. The IMM Living Kitchen show in Cologne, Germany presented the latest of Miele's European line. Many of the other appliance brands there were showing similar glossy, glass-fronted whites. Expect to see these styles later this year! Whirlpool already has an iPhone-inspired White Ice series planned for the US market.
The conclusion we can draw from examining the latest German kitchen trends is that in recent years they have reverted back to a greater emphasis on form and function. Apart from desiring the latest design, gadget, or most advanced of technology, we consistently aim for functionality and comfort within our home and kitchens, no matter how big or small. It all depends on how well we organize our lives around us and any trend that helps us with everyday tasks and that simplifies the way we live today, we will accept as something to aspire to and welcome with warm embrace.