Practicality and efficiency on only 6.5 sqm. The Frankfurt kitchen was designed by Margarete Schütte-Liholtzky – the first Austrian woman ever to qualify as an architect – for a social housing project in Frankfurt, Germany.
A while ago we decluttered our kitchen. The technique we used was to take everything out of cupboards, drawers and off the shelves to dismantle the existing organising system. The first thing we then did, when everything was on display, was to admire the abundance we already had. Because you don’t really see what you have, when things are stored away neatly.
Before we started putting things back, we had a chat about what actually had worked well in our kitchen and what hadn’t. This helped us to come up with a new organising system, one that would work better than the old one. And whilst we were putting things back, we looked at every item deciding if we’d like to keep it or if we wanted to give it away.
Coming up with a new system made me think about the general workflow of a kitchen and how things could work best. For example, we decided to put most of the crockery we use everyday into the drawer opposite of the dishwasher. So each time we empty the dishwasher now, we just have to open the drawer and put things from one side to another, without even having to walk. It really saves us time.
This made me think about the Frankfurt kitchen I had heard about during my studies at Uni. It is the forerunner of our modern kitchens today, and it was designed by an Austrian architect named Margarete Schütte Lihotzky in 1926 for a social housing project in Frankfurt, Germany.
Back in the days women had to walk miles during the day to cook dinner and to do the dishes. Housework wasn’t as easy as it is today. Before the Frankfurt kitchen got designed the placements of kitchen furnitures weren’t thought through on the basis of efficiency. Kitchen design itself has gone through quite an evolution and went from being the focal point of the house to being pushed into the servants quarters. In art deco times the kitchen was ‘banned’ into the basement.
The concept of the Frankfurt kitchen was revolutionary and fitted onto 6.5 sqm. It even had an ironing board, that was mounted to the wall and could be rested on the sink when needed. And the most convenient of all was that the kitchen included a swiveling chair, which could be adjusted in height and made possible that most housework could be performed in a sitting position. Practically and efficiency was #1. And this was even before the “Wirtschaftswunder” [economic miracle] in the 1950 and 1960.
The Frankfurt kitchen is tiny for todays standards, and doesn’t accommodate today’s open plan living with big islands as center pieces. However, it is uniquely designed and highly practical, and made life back in the day effective and efficient.
So, the question we asked ourselves when we decluttered our kitchen was, why not going back to the idea of practicality of the Frankfurt kitchen. It would save us time, and that is exactly what people like to achieve these days. This is reason why we have all these fancy gadgets in our kitchens. And then I thought to myself, that this is exactly what declutter gives us. It forces us to know what we possess, and it makes us find a place for every item, to create a smooth workflow.
Just an example: I love baking bread, and if it would take me say half an hour to get all the ingredients together I would loose in total half an hour and the joy in baking. Therefore, I put all ingredients for baking into one container which I can take out whenever I need it. It takes me 20 seconds, and I can use the 29 minutes and 40 seconds for something more important.
One question remains. Why do we sometimes prefer to waste our time instead of spending it wisely? We could spend this time on things that bring us joy and to focus on things that we really love to do. They might be things we dread and therefore like to postpone. However, they don’t go away by not addressing them. You might want to do those things first, and reward yourself with the things you like to do afterwards. And for things that are repetitive and get postponed regularly, it pays out to make a habit out of it in doing them first. Until it becomes second nature and you might not even feel the need to postpone it. This will leave you free to do the things you enjoy!