Founded in the years following the Second World War, to this day, Bulthaup continues to show that the best kitchens result from the blend of quality, timeless design and functionality
The Germans may be best known for their car and pharmaceutical industries, but the ‘Made in Germany’ quality promise is also spread throughout the world by small and medium-sized brands, the hidden heroes of the German economy. Bulthaup, founded in 1949 in Lower Bavaria by Martin Bulthaup, is one such hero, and after decades revolutionising kitchens, it remains true to the principles of quality guiding it since its foundation.
“We always say Bulthaup starts when the machine ends and the human eye and skilful hands bring perfection to the material,” says Marc O. Eckert, Bulthaup’s CEO, adding that, “when you reach this perfection, you reach a certain depth of material. This is something that you not only see, but you also feel and this is why we talk about sensuality”. You need only look at the German brand’s kitchens to understand that Eckert’s words ring true and that Bulthaup has accomplished the perfect balance between innovation and tradition, technology and craftsmanship.
Having revealed its individuality throughout its history, through kitchens such as the C12, from 1974, or the creation of independent workbenches in 1988, as well as the decisive collaboration with designer Otl Aicher, Bulthaup remains to this day a purveyor of the finest kitchens, and an important benchmark for amateur chefs around the globe. At a time when kitchens once again take centre stage, thanks to the slew of cooking shows and books invading the market, featuring impressive names such as René Redzepi, Alex Atala and Eric Ripert, Bulthaup is at the forefront of this renaissance, producing functional and durable kitchens; spaces in which to relax and get creative.
“In the age of digitalisation and globalisation, people are longing for a place that is tangible, a place where they can work with their hands, a place where they can physically create something, where they receive personal feedback and have an individual experience,” says Marc O. Eckert, the founder’s grandson. Having been founded on Bauhaus principles, the German brand has assumed rationalism as one of its major premises since the outset, but this philosophy is more evident than ever now, through its linear design systems.
Despite the almost austere minimalism, at first glance, Bulthaup kitchens aim to place the human being in the centre of the space, offering functional, long-lasting and extremely sensuous solutions. “Louis Sullivan once said that ‘form follows function’, but on its own, this phrase is not enough, and should read ‘form follows the function, which has to serve the people’,’” explains Eckart, before concluding: “The kitchen is a central room of the house, it’s the centre of the communication of the family. Hundreds of years ago people met around the fire place and this is still valid today, it’s not only a place where people cook, it’s a place where people communicate.”
Architect Fernanda Mendonça, owner of the Bulthaup Chiado store and representative of the German brand in Lisbon, adds to the idea: “Our customers are increasingly looking for a kitchen that is a place of pleasure and socialising. Kitchens are no longer just a space for household chores, they have also become somewhere to spend your leisure time, an appealing setting in which to share experiences.”
Focusing on nothing but the essential, Bulthaup offers three functional systems: the B3, the B2 and the B1. While the B3, designed by Herbert Schultes, is particularly appealing, due to the clever use of wall-hung elements, endowing the kitchen with a sense of lightness and great versatility, the B2 is the result of simplifying the function of the kitchen, revealing independent workbenches and practical wooden cupboards for storage, all developed by the EOOS studio. For its part, the B1 system incarnates a refreshing vision, in which proportions and geometry play a key role, introducing a system dedicated to people that want a young kitchen in terms of appearance, characteristics and value.
Regardless of the differences between the systems, Bulthaup presents timeless ranges in perfect sync with our era. “We believe in a world where everything is available in abundance; what people want, in fact, is less; they are looking for things that are authentic, pared-down and simple and this is what we want our products to reflect,” the brand’s CEO explains. Designer Herbert Schultes, backs this up, explaining that “the challenge of a minimalistic approach is that the simpler the forms are, the easier it is to discern even the slightest of errors. There are no distractions, so it’s a given that everything we do is performed with the greatest precision”.
In addition to minimalist design, innovation and recognised quality, attention to detail sets the brand apart from all the rest. “At Bulthaup, we often talk about the authenticity of our materials. We don’t manipulate them in any way. We don’t cut corners. We don’t conceal or hide materials; we keep them very visible, in all their natural beauty and splendour,” Schultes concludes. This obsession for quality is something that Bulthaup doesn’t leave to chance and every step is supervised by its expert team, whether in the faultless polishing of the lacquered surfaces, in how they treat metals, or in the careful selection of wood, an area for which the brand has its own specialist, in the form of Johann Pantmeier.
“Each Bulthaup kitchen is made to measure and tailored to the individual customer. And each tree is unique. It takes a skilled eye to determine which one is ideal for a Bulthaup kitchen,” Pantmeier explains, before concluding: “The combination of man and machine is the key; machines are extremely precise, but the human eye is even more important. It ensures the veneer is finished to perfection.”
The dedication of the entire Bulthaup team, from the designers to the craftsmen, is clear to see in the final product installed in the customer’s home, something which Herbert Schultes says is key to the identity of the German brand. “I believe that our experts, who create these works of art, who manufacture these kitchens, know that what they make is unique and of first-rate quality. And when they stand in front of a finished product, you can sense the pride they feel in their work.”