living with a frankfurt kitchen

Photography by Ruby Woodhouse

Frankfurt Kitchen - Margarete Shutte-Lihotzky

We spoke to good friends of ours, Tim and David, about the Frankfurt Kitchen they had installed 6 years ago into their c.1830 terrace home. The kitchen was designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926 as part of Ernst May’s urban re-planning project in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Kitchen - Margarete Shutte-Lihotzky

“Davy decided he was gonna have it  and spent some time convincing me that this was the only chance to do this”

Why did you want this kitchen as opposed to any other or even a custom built one? 

We knew of Schütte-Lihotzky and her design for some time and had bought a small post war cabinet and some shutes many years ago, when we moved into the house. Serendipity did its thing and we found one by chance on line – that was from a group of them removed from flats in Frankfurt, the one in MoMA is from the same group.

They got the good one that did not need much doing to it but at the time ours was the most complete!  And Davy decided he was gonna have it  and spent some time convincing me that this was the only chance to do this and we would have a perfect mix of an artwork that is in daily use – not just sitting in a corner, on a shelf or on the wall.

How long did it take to adapt and fit it in your place?

It took some time to get it, and then we kind of sat on it for a while considering what to do. It was in a bit of a mess and needed repairs, the linoleum tops needed replacing. Luckly the best cabinet maker south of the downs, Mark, helped us out and took on the challenge. He is brilliant because he totally understood what we wanted. Once he was on the job it took a couple of months of on and off inputs to get the kitchen restored and installed.

How important is originality to you?

Its nice to do but not so important, it had been painted red, yellow and when we got the kitchen it was white and peacock blue – luckily the interior of some of the doors had the original blue colour still and so we just matched that. The blue was an old wives tale about it being repellant to flies and we kind of like that sort of myth.

Frankfurt Kitchen - Margarete Shutte-Lihotzky
Frankfurt Kitchen - Margarete Shutte-Lihotzky

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Have you had to adapt the kitchen to work for modern living?

Sure… we had to ditch the dishwasher – and no great loss – nasty things – it takes for ever to fill, then you have to unload the damn thing. And because our kitchen space is very narrow, it had to go largely on one wall rather than the triangle thing.

What is it like to live with a kitchen designed in 1926? Is it any different from a contemporary one? 

Hard one as never had a contemporary one; previous kitchens were all butler sinks and enamel topped tables with a new world cooker – mix up of free standing stuff from different era – what we could get cheaply. The one that was here before this was a mix too and had some modern cupboards (Ikea) and some Kandya units –  in comparison something all made of wood with proper hinges and wooden shelves is a warm thing to work with and nice to feel.

Have you discovered anything, from using it, that you would change or that doesn’t work?

You know, nada, it is pretty much perfect.

We like our food, a kitchen is where that sort of thing is made and you have to make it with love for it to be good and being in the warm hausfrau zone adds to that mix.

Frankfurt Kitchen - Margarete Shutte-Lihotzky