Bulthaup, an independent family business, is deeply rooted in its history beginning in 1949. Right from the very start, bulthaup has been synonymous with uncompromising quality, a passion for meticulous attention to detail, high ethical standards while working with premium materials, and values such as craftsmanship and design. Even in times of rapid change, bulthaup has remained a company that sees itself as a place of constant questioning and insatiable curiosity.
In 1949, in the period following the Second World War, Martin Bulthaup founds the “Martin Bulthaup Möbelfabrik”.
In 1951, Martin Bulthaup buys a sawmill in Bodenkirchen, not far from where the company’s headquarters are based today, to pursue new, modern, and efficient ways of working and designing furniture. The sawmill commences operation on May 1, 1951. The team at the start comprised 7 men and women.
At first Bulthaup produces kitchen sideboards made from superlative materials and exhibiting an exceptional level of craftsmanship. In his view, many families saw the kitchen as more than just a place where the woman of the household worked. It was also a cozy space for people to congregate in every day. Kitchen sideboards are “for people with a sense of home”.
The kitchen sideboards are supplied to the vicinity on horsedrawn carriages. The company’s good reputation enables it to advance rapidly so that little by little, it starts to supply the whole of Germany.
Even during the early stages of its history, bulthaup uses market niches neglected by others to achieve spectacular sales successes far beyond Germany’s borders.
The 1950s and 60s are characterized by continuous factory expansions, investment in new production facilities and equipment, growing staff numbers, and the introduction of a market oriented branding policy. Even during the early stages of its history, bulthaup uses market niches neglected by others to achieve superlative sales success.
In 1969, bulthaup introduces the Stil 75 system, which features innovative modern benefits, a sophisticated understanding of clear lines, natural forms, and well considered fittings: It sends a signal to the industry, highlighting bulthaup’s independent design. “We are calling it Stil 75 because it’s a completely new kitchen solution. It encapsulates the developments that we anticipate will take place over the next few years. In 1975, these kinds of kitchens will be commonplace” (quote from the product brochure of the time).
It becomes increasingly clear that the production facilities used to date will no longer be sufficient to meet future demand.
The “Aich” project sees the start of plans to build an industrial-size kitchen factory of a scale that goes beyond traditional conceptions of the furniture factory. The foundation stone for the new works is laid in Aich in 1971, with on site production starting in March 1972.
The foundation stone for bulthaup’s innovation leadership is laid in 1974 with the launch of the Concept 12 kitchen range. With its unusually modern design language for the time - functional, practical design with a consistently aesthetic implementation - and its intelligent installation and planning concept, bulthaup gains recognition throughout the whole industry.
Gerd Bulthaup, son of the company’s founder, and his twin sister Ingeborg Eckert, join the company’s management board in 1976. From 1979, he is the second generation to then lead the family owned company. He continues to spread Martin Bulthaup’s vision: “Put simply, we wanted to produce first class kitchens. Rather than focusing on existing functions, we wanted to invent new uses for the kitchen and to create a living space that people could gather and communicate in.” With his love of architecture, Bauhaus philosophy and timeless design, he fundamentally changes the image of the kitchen. His vision is to make the bulthaup brand the market leader in design oriented kitchens.
In 1980, Gerd Bulthaup persuades Otl Aicher, the design commissioner of the Summer Olympics in Munich and pioneer of the concept of corporate identity, to work with him. “Form follows function”, the Weimar Bauhaus movement’s guiding principle for design and architecture, becomes central to the design of bulthaup products, which are developed on the basis of their function and purpose.
Gerd Bulthaup and Otl Aicher seek to be familiar with the dining culture before drawing up the blueprints for a new kitchen culture. On more than 50 trips, the pair investigate the way people live and dine. Otl Aicher, an amateur cook, describes this philosophy in his book “The Kitchen for Cooking”, published in 1982.
In summary, kitchen design should focus on the essentials. Alongside authenticity in terms of function and material, emphasis is placed on enjoyment, cooking, and communication.
The initial findings from Bulthaup and Aicher’s joint research are showcased in system b in 1984. For the first time, a kitchen set-up is presented that is based on revised notions about the kitchen. System b gives rise to a complete living space, not just a place to work in. Ergonomics is the watchword here: The space is designed with system b to make work of any kind as easy as possible. This is only possible when the kitchen equipment plays a secondary role to the cook.
The times and the demands placed on kitchens are changing. With the kitchen workbench of 1988, bulthaup is the first manufacturer to create an entirely new style of kitchen adapted to meet these changing needs. Based on the duality of fire and water, the elements originally used in cooking, the freestanding unit is the first ergonomically designed unit to bring together all essential kitchen work areas in one place. Today the kitchen workbench is considered a design classic. The media proclaim it to be the first innovation since the Frankfurt kitchen.
The love of architecture, the Bauhaus philosophy and timeless design will continue to shape the image of the kitchen in the coming years.
In 1992, bulthaup sets new standards with the launch of the flexible modular system 25. The concept recognizes the fact that functionalism and living culture do not have to be at odds with one another and have in fact always complemented each other. Kitchens should be spaces that people enjoy spending a lot of time in. The design is not therefore an aesthetic afterthought; it’s a functional component. Thanks to its modernism, functionality and versatility, the brand becomes synonymous with the progressive notion of “kitchen as a living space” architecture.
The freely combinable functional elements of system 20, which are launched onto the market in 1997, satisfy people’s needs for flexibility and resilience. A modular system with no fixed elements ensures that the units can adapt to continuously changing living spaces. system 20’s freestanding units are made from high-quality materials throughout. This minimalist functional design guarantees lasting value and full style autonomy.
Over the next few years, bulthaup launches three new systems: bulthaup b3, bulthaup b2, and bulthaup b1.
bulthaup b3 of 2004 activates walls into the kitchen concept for the first time. The static base element is the b3 multi-function wall, which can be fitted with units, appliances, lights, and other functional components. The floating, lightweight nature of the kitchen is underscored by a clarity of construction and thin materials. bulthaup b3 is an enchanting kitchen and living space set-up that can be combined in almost infinite variations. The customer is given free rein to design their individual living rooms according to their own needs and ideas.
The bulthaup b1 of 2008 exhibits a tasteful, economic design and clean forms: To create individual design freedom that matches an ever-changing lifestyle, people want pure simplicity. The wall line, tall unit block, and the central cooking island are a hub for the most important things in life: Family and friends, enjoyment, and communication.
bulthaup b2, which was launched in 2008, creates an inimitable and outstandingly personal atmosphere and features elemental, clear forms that are both efficient and practical to use. The unique combination of workbench, tool cabinet, and appliance housing cabinet pares the “kitchen workshop” down to the essentials. All that remains are the real essentials: Carefully selected materials, the most important tools, the finest ingredients and the most favorite crockery.
Innovation requires a solid foundation of values rooted in tradition.
Marc O. Eckert, the grandson of bulthaup’s founder, takes over sole management of the company in 2010, consolidating bulthaup’s position as an independent family business. He remains true to the brand values established by his grandfather and uncle, since “a company requires a strong foundation of values that are rooted in tradition”. To take the company forward into a vibrant future, he introduces an ongoing development process at bulthaup that incorporates the enormous societal changes in consumer behavior, distribution and digitalization.
In 2012, bulthaup launches the bulthaup b3 internal organization system, bringing an end to the fixed order in the kitchen and facilitating a new, intuitive-led approach. The interior of the drawers can be flexibly arranged and reorganized or added to at any time. The only factors influencing organization are the user’s own imagination and workflows in the kitchen.
bulthaup b Solitaire, introduced in 2017, represents the entire living space. The b Solitaire elements offer space for flexibility but can also be integrated as familiar elements. Their basic form is an open, matt-black aluminum frame in three sizes. This platform can be changed with various tops and equipment in order to accommodate wishes and needs both now and in the future.
The table is both the center point of home life and the core of bulthaup b Solitaire. In line with the idea of the bulthaup b Solitaire, the table also rests on a frame made of matt-black aluminum. On the matching bench, people get together more closely than on chairs. As a result, both the solid wooden table and the bench extend an invitation to linger, echoed by the matching bench cushions and seat shell made from naturally tanned leather.
Discover the values that inspire us to develop kitchen and living space systems.
Order the books on the bulthaup kitchen and living space systems, as well as the “bulthaup culture” magazine.