Interview with Roland Spieth of Bulthaup, Designers of Bespoke Kitchens

bulthaup creates unique kitchens and living spaces in which traditional craftsmanship melds with state-of-the-art manufacturing. They consider all key aspects of ergonomics, aesthetics and production in each custom-designed and custom-made kitchen. We interview Roland Spieth, Director of Export Sales at Bulthaup GmbH & Co. about the bulthaup philosophy.

A: Could you describe bulthaup’s design philosophy?
RS: At bulthaup, we live and breathe the conviction that many people think has been abandoned: the conviction of architects and designers who do not just design furniture, but are also creating a personal vision, a glimpse, if you will, of their own worlds. This is the reason that bulthaup is renowned for creating architecture of living spaces that go beyond the kitchen area. It is through this reputation that international standards have been set, innovations have been created which are comparable only to the finest products in terms of form and function that were born of the Bauhaus tradition. Our understanding is that products have to be quiet rather than loud, timeless rather than following fashion trends and minimalistic instead of ornamental. bulthaup does not follow any current trends, but we follow our way of timeless design, highest requirements when it comes to quality and function as well as precision to the smallest detail. We concentrate on the essential and thus create minimalistic products through simple and authentic materials, colours and clear lines.

A: Do you find that breaking down your designs into sections (b1, b2, b3) helps to identify a customer’s lifestyle and individual aesthetic quicker than with a traditional bespoke service?
RS: With our systems bulthaup b3 – the kitchen living space, bulthaup b2 – the kitchen workshop and bulthaup b1 – the essential kitchen we clearly define diverse types of kitchens that correspond to the lifestyle of different types of individuals. The bulthaup b3 product line offers unbeatable versatility. Instead of focusing on conventional floor plans, bulthaup b3 makes active use of the walls. Elements can be hung as desired from the bulthaup b3 multi-function wall, creating open spaces that interact with the living area and the people who live there. The floating effect is underlined by thin materials and streamlined forms that emphasise the horizontal – whether the elements are floor-standing, foot-supported or wall-mounted. bulthaup b2 looks at kitchens and the use of space within them from a fresh perspective. It offers a unique combination of kitchen workbench, tool cabinet and appliance cabinet. These elements can be used to create a personal, yet unmistakably bulthaup environment where simple, clear-cut forms meet logical, practical function. bulthaup b2 can be mixed and matched as individually desired. bulthaup b1 is the “essential kitchen”, a blend of the functionalist tradition prevalent in Scandinavia, Japan and the USA with Germany’s Bauhaus style. It was designed and built for the growing number of people who have a keen eye for elegance of form and quality of construction. bulthaup b1 is for people who want a kitchen that is young and fresh in terms of appearance, features and pricing.

A: Do you find that your customers are demanding a wider selection of unique and natural materials to be featured within their living spaces?
RS: Wood becomes more and more popular as this natural and vibrant material adds an individual touch to each living space. Wooden kitchens are a key feature of bulthaup and many customers choose bulthaup because of the extraordinarily high quality of our wooden kitchens. Kitchen fronts and doors are very popular in veneer, as wood brings in warmth. Sensuous lightness in the kitchen is not only communicated through technical innovations, but also through the care and skill of the craftsman. At bulthaup, we go one step further, creating special, custom-built, veneered fronts. The veneer is selected from a single tree trunk and processed with painstaking care. The grain of the wood continues flawlessly over the entire front either in horizontal or vertical direction. The advantages of manufacturing and industrial production are combined and make it possible to create a unique level of quality for the front surface and edge finishing, making this front easy to take care of and scratch-resistant.

A: Design has become an integral part of the global marketing dialogue; do you find that specific markets are more interested in buying into bulthaup?
RS: People who accept no compromise regarding the aesthetics of functional design, material authenticity, quality craftsmanship, technical precision, timeless originality and durability will feel at home in the world of bulthaup. We work together with more than 400 exclusive bulthaup partners worldwide. Every bulthaup partner is a specialist who is familiar with the cultural background of his market and his customer’s demands on design. Therefore, our customers can rest assured that their individual requirements are included in their own kitchen planning and in their bulthaup kitchen.

A: Over the past 50 years there has been a socio-behavioural switch in the function that the kitchen plays in the home; currently kitchens are considered as multifunctional living environments, within the ecosystem of the home. Do you see this trend persisting, or do you anticipate a reversal towards individual use of spaces?
RS: Cooking, food, taste and quality have become more important for people. More and more customers want their kitchen to be an integral part of their living area. The boundary between the kitchen and the living space continues to blur. Consequently the role of kitchen furniture changes and has to fulfil more than just functional demands. This development can be seen everywhere in the world. For bulthaup, a kitchen is the cultural centre of a house and should not be “hidden”. If you buy a bulthaup kitchen, you not only buy the furniture for storing, preparing and cooking your daily meals, but also a place for living. The integration of a kitchen in an overall architectural concept of a house or an apartment requires a decent design of all elements. If the kitchen is a part of your living room, you do not want to see all appliances or daily used kitchen accessories all the time. However, you might also desire to display some of your personal belongings and this again requires intelligent and flexible solutions. The goal is not just to hide away your kitchen, but to make it an integral and admirable part of your interior architecture.

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1. Image courtesy of Bulthaup GmbH & Co.