This week S&W KItchens hosted a CEU seminar on European Kitchens, presented by Alison Weidner from Poggenpohl. It was a wonderful look at how kitchens developed in Europe and how those developments are reflected today in the US and in Europe.
In 1926, Margarete Shutte-Lihotsky designed an efficient, low cost kitchen. It is referred to as the 'Frankfurt Kitchen' and is considered the first modern fitted kitchen. Kitchens before this tended to have whatever furniture the homeowner could find or was passed down to them: a large prep and eating table, a cupboard or armoire for dishes, perhaps a deep tub for washing dishes or food. Probably, the adoption of reliable indoor plumbing and electricity helped to make a fitted kitchen more practical.
Modern European kitchens are engineered from this foundation. Even though the kitchens were fitted, they tend to be mobile. If the owner moves, they take the kitchen with them! The ability to move your kitchen with you - still practiced in Europe today - required a different kind of engineering. Always up for that kind of challenge, European cabentry companies have designed cabinets that are self-leveling for whatever floor issues might be encountered. The boxes are simplified and have more room inside them - every inch counts. And they can be completely assembled with only a screwdriver. The top cabinets are hung on a rail, instead of bolted to the walls.
It's not unusual for a European home to be 100, 200 or even 300 years old. While living with history is important, they also want all of the modern conveniences. They certainly don't still use the hearth for cooking! So they are comfortable putting modern kitchens in their historical houses. Clean lines and fewer embellishments, such as drawer handles are popular. Engineering again helps to make the kitchen functional and minimal at the same time: doors and drawers that open at the lightest touch or channels built in to allow a natural grasp. There are even cabets that open and close electronically.
Storage solutions have long been popular and are finally being included in many American cabinets - every corner and every inch is functional. On the left is a corner cabinet where the shelves swing all the way out to store large pots and pans that aren't needed every day. On the right is a step ladder stored in the toe-kick.
Europeans have long had to deal with fewer resources as their far older populations gobbled them up. For example, solid wood is rare because of deforestation hundreds of years ago. Recycled materials with weneers are common but engineered to last - cabinet doors are completely sealed and designed to never peel or warp.
They also use the most current technologies in the construction of their products - using renewable hydro-electric power for their manufacturing plants.
The European kitchen designer carefully consider all ergonomic needs right at the planning and designing stage, in order to prevent bad postures and health problems. Proper work height for each client, practical inner dividing systems, a sink near a cooktop; every detail of the kitchen is part of a well-thought-out whole. As far back as the Frankfurt Kitchen - countertops were varied for the work that would be required in that space.
With the skilled input of a Poggenpohl designer to make the best possible use of the space, and the flexibility that comes from offering a near-infinite range of cabinet sizes, the finished kitchen will look completely in harmony with all guidelines of ergonomics.
Call S&W Kitchens or come by one of our five showrooms to see just how beautiful and functional a European Kitchen can be!