Kitchen design beyond all convention

Kitchen design beyond all convention

By returning to their Upper Franconian home, architect Christoph Faltenbacher and his wife Christina realised their very own dream home: On a hillside they built a house comprised of cubes. The focal point of this vibrant, Mediterranean-style house is a kitchen with delightful features starting from a unique island design with BORA Pure, all the way to secret doors and a jaw-dropping view.

Christoph Faltenbacher likes it “when one doesn't quite grasp the layout of a house straight from the entrance”. It comes as no surprise then that the house the architect built for himself does not have a traditional room layout. When he and his wife Christina returned to their home town of Naila in the Franconian Forest after many years spent in Weimar, New York and Munich, the time had come to turn his idea of a dream house into reality. By chance, they discovered a hillside plot in Naila that was perfect for their project. And because the local building authorities were extremely open to the project, the path was clear for the architect and the lawyer to put their ideas into practice.

Architectural practice: Faltenbacher Architektur,

Kitchen studio: Findeiß Küchen,

BORA Pure induction cooktop with integrated cooktop extractor, recirculation system

Photos: Sebastian Faltenbacher,

And they were anything but ordinary. The room arrangement alone breaks with tradition: Instead of situating the public area downstairs and the private one upstairs, Christoph Faltenbacher placed them next to each other. In this way, two building blocks were created, each with different levels. The public block is reserved for living, cooking and eating, while the private block facing away from the street houses the bedroom, bathrooms, and children's rooms.

Many become one

However, it should also be noted that the two blocks are subdivided into differently sized cubicles. The architect and builder explains how this came about: “We thought about how big our dining room should be, for example. How wide, how long and how high? That’s how we came to the spatial profile of the room. Then we did the same for all rooms.” As a result, no two rooms are the same size and height. Yet together they form a continuous spatial structure which is reminiscent of a Greek village. Moreover, they are on a slope, which gives the whole an additional Mediterranean touch. When counted, the house comprises of five levels in total, has an inner courtyard, a roof terrace, many steps and countless inside views, panoramas and vistas.

In fact, the visual dynamic in the house was extremely important to the architect. The view of the inner courtyard, staircases, fireplace, kitchen and even the landscape changes completely depending on where you are in the house and which way you turn. The fact that this small-scale design does not fall apart is due to the clever arrangement of the room elements on the one hand, and to the well thought-out, structured colour concept on the other. All joining elements, that is the connecting corridors and staircases between the private and public areas, are kept completely black, both inside and out, in contrast to the lightly coloured residential blocks which are plastered white on the outside.


A kitchen just as unconventional as the house

The light-dark contrast also plays a major role in the kitchen, which – how could it be otherwise – was designed by the builder-owner himself. At the centre is a completely black monolithic kitchen island flanked by kitchen units with light birch wood fronts. The Findeiß kitchen studio in Hof is to thank for the island with an integrated BORA Pure cooktop extraction system and stainless steel sink. For the remaining kitchen units, Christoph Faltenbacher had a few custom ideas for which he contracted a carpentry company. The contractor did an amazing job realising them: Behind the birch wood fronts of the wall unit extending across the corner are not only the refrigerator, oven and kitchen cabinets, but also two secret doors. One leads into the pantry and the other, to the opposite, into the cloakroom and guest bathroom.

There is also something to say about the choice of material. The Faltenbachers chose birch wood, partly because it is light in colour and thus emphasises the desired light-dark contrast, and partly as a reminder of the small birch grove that originally stood on the site. Two decorative stelae made of tree trunks stand as a testimony of the grove that fell victim to the clearing operation for the house. The light-dark contrast is also echoed on the other side of the kitchen: The owner's gin collection and the coffee bar are placed in an entirely black alcove framed by birch wood fronts.


The black cooking monolith as the highlight

For Faltenbacher, the kitchen is the hub of the entire house. It is located on the top level near the house entrance, but still in the centre of the cube ensemble. In front of the kitchen, perched atop the living room cube, is the sprawling roof terrace which was an express wish of Christina Faltenbacher. In Christoph’s words, ‘My wife said: “If we build a house on this plot and with this view, we need a roof terrace on the highest level”’. They both agree that it was a smart request. Christina is still continually amazed by the view over Naila which one has even standing next to the kitchen island.

However, the main star inside the kitchen is the dark worktop piece with a BORA cooktop with integrated extractor fan. BORA was chosen because “the view from the kitchen over the roof terrace should not be spoiled by an extractor hood or something similar”. The couple decided on the BORA Pure product for design reasons: the flush-integrated inlet nozzle appealed to the two design enthusiasts.

It was worth it: Thanks to the Pure cooktop with extractor, which is completely flush-integrated with the ceramic worktop, the idea of the black kitchen island as a central element really comes into its own. “The island is the starting point for our guests and visitors. It is where we put down and open our post. It is where we receive parcels, put down and sort our shopping – and it is where conversations are held in typical fashion at parties”, says the man of the house, and adds: “And it is where I cook and my wife bakes”. Whereupon Christina Faltenbacher remarks that this is not quite correct: “It was here in the house that I first felt like cooking and have done it several times now”. Is there a greater compliment to the designer?