Photo: LEICHT Küchen
Innovative power, quality „made in Germany“, proximity to the dealers and top-quality kitchens in every price category: there are a number of factors that come together at Leicht to orchestrate the company‘s success. The company founded as a carpenter‘s workshop in 1928 by the brothers Alois and Josef Leicht was sold to the Welle family in Paderborn in 1975. In 1993 the company became LEICHT Küchen AG and is today a non-listed subsidiary of Welle Holding.
Stefan Waldenmaier joined Leicht in 2002 and this was to prove to be a turning point for the company. He described the new strategic orientation concisely with the concept „product, service, brand“: in other words developing a durable, top-quality product that can be planned in a variety of ways and selling this product to end consumers through dealers. Furthermore, the brand was to be given more charisma at international fairs. In the industry statements, Waldenmaier talks about kitchen terminology, room concepts, the differences between Europe and North America and about kitchens in space.
Why has the kitchen once again become such an important part of our domestic culture?
For years, the kitchen was defined by language that emphasised function. But the terminology has changed recently: terms such as “comfort”, “elegance” and “interior architecture” have been added to our kitchens. Kitchens today are integrated spatial concepts that, just like the living room or a bedroom, can be furnished with a personal touch. Contemporary kitchens are designed for comfort.
Which direction will the development of kitchens take and what importance will they have in domestic life in 10 to 15 years’ time?
Life is becoming increasingly mobile and portable, especially in our own homes. There’s a growing trend for many things to be constantly “in flux”, and the conventional division of space is being gradually eroded as a result. This is especially true for living and eating spaces. This transformation process can already be felt. It is transforming the kitchen as a place for preparing and storing food into a room with a leading role whose importance is growing.
The Solid programme of Leicht Küchen. Photo: LEICHT Küchen
The fitted kitchen is a German invention from the 1950s. It went on to conquer the whole world, and its appearance has kept on changing as its popularity spread. What makes German fitted kitchens so popular in other countries?
What’s normal for a kitchen for us in Germany and Europe – kitchen cabinets as complete units – is not the standard in some regions of the world. In North America, so-called in-frame kitchens are still widespread today: instead of complete cabinets, storage space is created with open shelving with doors fitted to it. German kitchens clearly have many strong characteristics in their favour: the material quality, the high standards of workmanship and a highly digitalised service throughout – by that I mean the latest payment and order processing systems and supplier quality. But German kitchens have also set standards in design, and they have increasingly drawn on the timeless modern tradition, the Bauhaus style, among other movements.
How do you see the future role of Cologne as a key location for the kitchen sector and what will the importance of the public days be?
It all comes down to what those involved make of it, of course. For us as an exhibitor, it’s about making the best possible use of the dynamism of a trade fair. That means that we want to show both the trade and end customers clearly which market segments the LEICHT brand has ranges for. Our aim is to give the trade orientation and clarity, and the same applies to end consumers. For consumers in particular, going to a trade fair is like a glimpse of the future. It’s their chance to see products, planning ideas and room concepts that will only appear in showrooms months later.
The kitchen is becoming the centre of our homes again. Is kitchen design moving further away from pure functionality to offer greater comfort? And what does that mean for you as a kitchen manufacturer in terms of colours and materials?
Kitchens whose integration in space is open and visually striking achieve their effect in different ways – it’s not just about their materiality and colour palette. The composition of the furniture in the space is also crucial. The more demanding customers are in terms of material, colour and form, the closer they come to meeting the challenges of interior construction, which are closely linked to the building’s interior architecture. In terms of the materials used, there’s currently a trend for matt surfaces with a more understated and more liveable effect. With this new direction, wooden surfaces are becoming more important as they also convey comfort and warmth. Kitchens that are a striking presence in space dominate the adjacent rooms materially, and that means that a certain level of comfort is required.
Metropolitan Merge by Leicht Küchen. Photo: LEICHT Küchen
Kitchen design is going through radical changes at the moment. Closed walls are being opened up, and open structures are breathing more life into the kitchen. What role does design play in modern kitchens?
If kitchens are to be visually striking in space again, they should be designed so that they have less of a technical effect and instead underscore the aspects of comfort and aesthetics. In short: fully functional, but with a stylish effect. This can be achieved, for example by reducing the visibility of appliances with cabinet systems, integrating open shelving and glass display units, or by having cabinet fronts that run right down to the floor and concealing bases. There are many stylistic devices that can be employed to create comfort in a functional kitchen.
Increasing urbanisation is resulting in a growing shortage of living space. How can small kitchens be visually attractive and make optimal use of their storage space?
With modern fitting technology, today almost every space behind a cabinet front can be transformed into an ergonomic and easily utilisable storage area that makes optimal use of all the surfaces. In terms of aesthetics, planners must take the principles of symmetry and proportions as well as the use of materials and colours into account in order to create an elegant overall look, even in a confined space.
For years now, the idea has been promoted that the kitchen is opening up into a living space. We’re now moving towards a complete merger of the two – the kitchen as a walk-in room within a room. What does this mean for kitchen manufacturers?
LEICHT’s “room in room” concept symbolises the transformation of interior construction. It offers interior architects and kitchen planners the option of integrating whole rooms into an open area. Access to this space is provided by a door made from the same material as the kitchen furniture so that it blends in perfectly with the form, colour and the position of joints in the kitchen. They have complete freedom in planning the furnishings for the external sides, which can be adapted to the adjacent rooms. The interior of the room also leaves all options open: it can be a storage space, washroom or the central control room for household technology.
Photo: Stefan Wladenmaier
Stefan Waldenmaier, born in 1962, has been a member of the LEICHT Küchen AG Management Board since April 2002. Before joining the company in 1998 as Head of Marketing and Product Development, he was Marketing Manager of various companies. Today he is also Chairman of the Association of the German Kitchen Furniture Industry.