Thursday, April 10, 2008


I've received a couple of emails over the last year or so, plus the odd comment, asking me which kitchen company we used for our own Huf Haus and why. Well, here's the post I've been meaning to write to give a full and structured answer.

The Capucho kitchen (by Leicht)

One thing that's very noticable when going through the design of your dream Huf Haus is that the Huf people don't include a "standard" kitchen as part of the "standard" house.

Compare that with the bathroom situation where a decent standard comes as, erm, standard, and then a set of options can be applied to upgrade it right up to posh hotel levels of luxury. And if that's not enough for yer, then they have their StilART people waiting in the wings who can design you a bespoke solution, at a cost mind, which would make the Onassis family jealous. But I'd say that 99 times out of 100, there's still plenty of the standard bathroom somewhere underneath even the wildest StilART creation.

So why don't they offer a similar approach for kitchens?

Well, it's because kitchens are too personal, too emotional, too non-standard by their very nature. 99 times out of a 100, the Huf owner wants something different; something completely different, as the Monty Python people would say. So the Huf people pragmatically offers us a 'kitchen base' as part of the package, and that base includes the following:

  • Floor tiles - similar to the bathrooms and entrance areas
  • Water pipes sticking out of the walls
  • Electric sockets in the walls
  • Electric cables sticking out of the walls
  • Painted walls and ceiling
  • Glass in the kitchen window
  • Air
  • Erm, that's it

    Lemme see, I'll carefully review that list to see if I've forgotten anything. Da di da di dah. Nope, it's all there.

    Now most people would consider that to be a bit too minimalist, although I have a mate who wouldn't notice as long as he has somewhere to plug in a kettle. But for the rest of us the concept leads yer to two possible solutions: Call in the StilART people, who will suck on their pencils and work with you to design your wet-dream of a kitchen; or to call in some non-Huf related kitchen people to do likewise.

    What's important to remember is that the water and electrical channels are built into the very guts of the Huf Haus, so whatever kitchen layout you end up going with needs to be with the Huf people before they start to manufacture yer house in their Hartenfels factory. They'll make a few clicks on their CAD-CAM design software and lo and behold yer electrics and water'll be in the right places when your kitchen people turn up months later to do their work. As we found out, they have some limited flexibility to move a few water pipes and electric cables about once the house is up and standing, but they can't make any radical changes without open heart surgery - and that comes at a serious cost.

    So yer want to have a kitchen layout figured out before the build, or you're sunk.

    The second thing to remember is that no pesky kitchen installer is allowed anywhere near yer Huf Haus until after the formal handover. This might seem like a case of over-formality, but there're a myriad reasons that make this a necessity: site insurance is an obvious one; workers tripping over each other, is another; water and electricity flowing as needed - or not flowing, as needed; floor tiles in place; etc etc etc.

    So, here's a recap of the research that Claudia and I went through before landing on our own kitchen.

    During our trip to Hartenfels, we had an afternoon with the StilART people; mostly on the bathroom 'cos we wanted a fancier double sink unit than comes as standard. Anyways, we also discussed the kitchen 'cos the setup in the showhouse really did look good. We left them with an outline of what we had in mind, and then waited to see what their offer would cost out as.

    In parallel, we looked at some of the fancier kitchen suppliers that we're up to our necks in around Zürich.

    First stop was Poggenpohl, a German manufacturer.

    Poggenpohl - 250% of our budget

    Now you should understand that out here in Switzerland there are people who would rather cook on an open fire built into a refugee camp gutter than to choose anything other than Poggenpohl. It's posh, it's stylish, it's tasteful, it's the tip of the top. We walked into a veritable Aladdin's cave of cool kitchens, drooling as we looked left and right.

    Unfortunately, Poggenpohl's also bloody expensive.

    The 'representative' took one look at my shoes and clothes, and then rushed us through a design to see how the costs might look. That quick estimate told us that the bare units without the electronics yer might need for cooking, indeed without the doors yer need to hide them pots and pans and cutlery, would be significantly outside our price range. Like 50% more than we had in our budget for the lot. I'm serious. We exited stage left feeling like tramps that had accidentally walked into Claridges instead of the soup kitchen next door.


    I have to stress that the Poggenpohl bloke was really very tactful with us, and very likely saved us all a lot of time and bother.

    What would I recommend to you? Well, in theory yer Huf Haus is the Bentley of "factory-made component houses", so it deserves the Bentley of the kitchen world. Is that Poggenpohl then? Well, very likely. They're both German nowadays anyway. Maybe Claudia and I were in the wrong movie, as they say, and massively unbudgeted for what should be a significant cost in our Huf Haus project? Maybe we really are skinflints, and we should have devoted about 10% of the entire project budget to the bloody kitchen. But we didn't, so there.

    Go and see for yourself, and if yer appetite and budget stretches to Poggenpohl, then go for it. What they have is beautiful, truly beautiful.

    Next stop was with a local supplier who handles the SieMatic brand, also from Germany.

    Siematics - 120% of our budget

    The first thing we did was to establish whether we could afford the bloody prices. This rather upset the salesman who's more used to discussing such indelicacies as dosh somewhere towards the end of the sale process. Preferably while you're reading the final invoice placed upon the worktop of your new kitchen that'd been installed some weeks previously.

    Slimey salesman git.

    Still, this was our first opportunity to do some real research. And here's what we found: The better of yer modern kitchens have doors and drawers that don't make scraping and banging noises when you shut 'em. Oh no. They slide almost shut in a single silky motion, and then, by virtue of their built-in dampers, slowly but surely close the last bit all by themselves. The drawers themselves should be made of wood laminate or metal, and abso-bloody-lutely not be made of plastic. As goes the cupboard and drawer handles; if they have 'em, 'cos the fashion these days is to have door-width slots to break yer finger nails in. And yer can stand in them drawers, and in fact when you open the bottom drawer in the kitchen showroom, look for footprints. If there aren't any, flag a passing pimp, erm, I mean helpful kitchen salesman, and dare him to do it. The door surfaces should be as hard as nails, nay harder than nails - as hard as a decent kitchen surface which is very very hard indeed. The designs themselves are too subjective for me to discuss here, but for sure the kitchen range should include something that'll make yer dreams come true.

    And SieMatics of Deutschland offers you all of the above.

    Indeed, as we found out a little later, it may be the cheapest entry to that level of quality that's available here in Switzerland. Your experiences in the UK or elsewhere might differ, but have a butchers at those details just in case.

    Well, the pimp salesman did for us, so we moved on... and up up up to Bulthaup.

    Bulthaup - 200% of our budget

    How best to describe Bulthaup? Well, Swiss designer stylish. Ever seen that Wallpaper* magazine? It's one of the few English language magazines available in a foreign airport newsagents without a photo of Keira bloody Knightly on the cover. If you know it, then you know it. Well, Bulthaup supply designer kitchens that even the snottiest and most elitist design snob couldn't sniff at; the kind of kitchens that yer see in Wallpaper*.

    There're a couple of Bulthaup showrooms in Zürich, but the one we went into had easily the coolest kitchen salesman that ever existed. He was really a great guy, and we had hours of fun going through the Bulthaup range. When we'd found our look and feel, he waved his magic wand and created... art. That's what he was: an artist in the medium of kitchen sculpture. We discussed the philosophy behind the design, the original designer himself (twas some French bloke, I think). We discussed surfaces and textures and tones and shades and and and, and we discussed space and proportion.

    Stainless steel worktops? But they'll scratch to buggery? Oh yes they will, but after a good few years scratching they'll look as scratched as a restaurant kitchen: i.e. they won't look scratched, they'll look glorious. Er wot? Downstairs for a look see into their training and cooking club centre, where the worktops get a serious hammering. Stainless steel worktops after a few years look... bloody glorious. We'll be having 'em.

    I felt like a designer myself at the end of it all. Or as close as some git from Manchester gets.

    But, and there was a BIG BUT, we couldn't afford the end result. No way. All concerned looked pained that the lack of readies had doomed all of this glorious creativity, but twas so. He choked with his pain. Claudia sighed wistfully. I clutched my wallet, and sighed with relief.

    Still, there was a good outcome to all this wanky designer stuff. Up to the point we walked into Bulthaup, we were hellbent on fire-engine red cupboards and dark grey marble surfaces and a sort of barrier-reef row of tall kitchen cupboards. In between sobs into his handkerchief, our Bulthaup designer made us promise that we'd commit to the white cupboards, stainless-steel worktop and general layout of the pinnacle of kitchen beauty that he'd created for us. We promised, and exited to the sound of his heart-rending sobs.

    Oh the horror of surviving alone in this world as an artist.

    Next stop was Leicht, so back to the Germans. No more crying then. We walked into a major Swiss electronic chain (Fust, a sort of Comet equivalent) that supplies Leicht kitchens on some sort of strategic corporate deal, whatever that means.

    Leicht - 150% of our budget

    By now we were kitchen veterans, and swooped in on the salesman fully prepared for battle. Poor sod never stood a chance.

    We'll be having that design, with, erm, those cupboards and this layout. Nope, we said this layout. Yep. And a stainless-steel worktop, thanks muchly. Yes, we know it'll scratch. Yes. Yes. Look, we're having the bloody stainless-steel, alright? Alright. Cupboard doors in white. Yes we said white. Look, what part of white don't you understand? Right, so white it is. Oh, and those handles over there. No, the other sort breaks yer finger nails.

    Oh, and open that bottom drawer and stand in it.

    Now jump up and down.

    Can yer sing?

    No, yer can't sing can you.

    Total cost in the post? Ta muchly. Bye.

    He tried it on a bit, in a similar fashion to the SieMatics pimp, but to be honest we left him with no area to play his salesman games in.

    But! But! But!

    But the story continues just a little longer. The offer we received a week or so later contained a little cost time-bomb (on the electronics) that I wasn't going to put up with. So, Claudia and I walked into a small kitchen supplier in a nearby town called Baar. We'd noticed that it had a Liecht logo in the window, so worth a shot. We handed over the spec to the blokey (imagine a big cheery bloke with a red farmer's face and a vicelike handshake) and an hour or two later walked out with the deal done. He'd even spotted an implication that'd slipped past quite a few expert noses; a minor detail not worth noting here. Not telling. No.

    Is there a moral or six in this story?

    Probably a few: We had under budgeted on the kitchen. Which is equivalent to me confessing that we've blown our kitchen budget by 50%. Take yer pick. Oh, and using the 'all fur coat and no knickers' line of reasoning, what's the point of spending a bloody fortune on a Huf Haus build if yer gonna slap in some cheapo kitchen? Well, actually there is a point, and a family we visited a couple of years ago had done just that (Ikea) to get 'em through the first few years before they could afford their dream kitchen (a bloody Poggenpohl, of course). But the most important point to all this is not one of design or cost or whatnot. It's all about service and people and trust.

    Look, I've really ripped the pee out of the Bulthaup designer, but the reality was that here was a salesman bloke who really cared a damn about what he was doing, and who he was doing it for. He's the star of this story, followed by the farmer who finally sold us the Leicht. One did the design, the other provided the good service. A bit rough on the designer and his sales figures, I must admit. The other salesmen were, to be honest, the kind of salesmen that we've all learned to fend off over the years.

    A week or two later, the StilART offer came through the door: someone had been on holiday or sick or something. And the cost? Way way up there with Poggenpohl.

    Some time later I'll go through the electronics story, but that'll have to do for now.

    Pete, Jersey said...

    Great kitchen story Ric.

    I now have a mental image of me being arrested on Saturday afternoon, for standing in kitchen drawers in my local kitchen supplier. Thanks! :-)

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Ric,

    Great story - we live in Luzern and are going through the kitchen hunt right now. Just got our first offer and it is not bad but blows are budget for other things we need. Where and what is the name of the Kitchen dealer in Baar you finally went to.


    bob said...

    Oh yes....the Who..that was it !!!!

    I didn't think anybody would remember anything that far back !!!!

    Regards bob

    Ric Capucho said...

    Hi Anonymous,

    Here's the link...

    Are you building with Kurtz?


    Dan said...

    Hi Ric,

    OFF KITCHEN topic
    I think I asked before, what is your heating system? Can you tell how much Energy (KWh electrics or cubicmeter of gas or whatever) you used during a year?



    Ric Capucho said...

    Hello Dan,

    Hope you are well.

    We have what's known as an Air to Air Heat Pump (Wärmepümpe in German) which is an amazing thing wot sucks heat out of the atmosphere.

    You might want to do some research about these things. It uses electricity to drive the heat pump itself, but it generates masses of heat from about 40% of the electricity you'd use to generate the heat in the first place.

    Look, hard to explain, but a visit to Wikipedia or whatever might help.

    Bottom line is that it's almost the greenest thing since sliced brown bread. Only thing greener is a Ground to Air Heat Pump which uses about 20%.

    Things have really moved on since the only options were electricity storage or gas boilers (or coal fire).

    Hmm, I might do some research and get this all written up.


    Dan said...

    Thanx for the infos, I'm OK with the technical part of heat pumps. The interesting part for me would be to know how much KWh of electricity it takes per year to operate your system.


    Ric Capucho said...

    Hi Dan,

    Sorry matey, but no idea. Can only look at the paperwork and believe what it says about 40% of the equivalent storage heater or whatever. Somewhere on the electric bills is probably the KWh but lord knows where.

    I reckon you need a different source of information. Heat pumps cost a lot more than the equivalent gas boiler, so I guess yer got to get your sums right before you splash out.


    Chris said...

    Hello, Ric.

    We've been following your blog since the early days and have really appreciated the mine of information you have provided....and your style of writing!

    Having finally located a suitable plot near Koblenz, we have turned our thoughts to the planning process for more or less replicating the grey 'haus' in Hartenfels.

    As we are not keen on gas for heating, we were wondering how effective your air heat pump was in the depth of the winter, and how noisy it is when in operation?

    Hope that you are still 'living the dream of ownership', and look forward to reading future postings.

    Thanks and regards,

    Ric Capucho said...

    Hi Chris,

    I'm guessing the grey haus you refer to is the 3-axis? If so, then you're on a similar track to us. We of course skipped the slightly camp wellness area they've installed in the basement.

    Right, that heat pump...

    One of these days I need to write a full post on the heat pump concept, even if it's only to give the Brits a meaningful (and far greener) alternative to the default gas boiler.

    We have the air/air heat pump. In winter, it sparks up every few hours, and from outside you can hear the hums of the intake/outtake fans as they scavenge the temperature difference between the inside and outside of the house. In summer the temperature difference usually works the opposite way around but there's some sort of inner gizmo that allows it to work in either direction.

    The thing that makes the (visting) Brits sit up is that the electricity used to drive the two fans is the *only* energy used by the system... the rest is scavenged for free... and free is a nice word. I've been 'informed' that our system uses about 40% of the equivalent energy that a more traditional system would consume (those fans). However, the alternative (and more expensive to install, and longer to explain to the local authorities) air/ground system can be as low as 20%... depending on building size/location/etc.

    The fan noise *is* noticable... similar to the gas boiler combustion noise and fan in the old system in the house I was brought up in (ahem) a few years ago. I acknowledge that more modern gas boilers are quieter than the old days, and that many of us have got used to that. Is the heat-pump noise too much? Well, someone used to total silence might think so, but it doesn't bother us a jot.

    Rather comforting, actually.

    There's a back corner of the house where the leaves get stirred up by the fans (Marilyn Monroe would be pleased to stand above the gratings) and also you wouldn't want to leave the Keller door open when it's in operation.

    Oh come on. Install the bloody heat pump and save the planet. How many metres is Koblenz above sea level?


    Chris said...

    Hello, Ric.

    Most informative - thanks for that.

    Yes, it will be the 3-axis - with a basement - but, like you, without the fitness/wellbeing accoutrements. As soon as we walked in to the grey house at Hartenfels, the attraction was instantaneous and, size-wise, it felt like a well-fitting glove.

    There are only two of us, plus the hounds. I should explain that we don't in fact live in the UK. I'm English (Newcastle upon Tyne) and my wife, Belgian. However, we've lived in the deserts of the Gulf for a great, great many years. So, I know the ins & outs of airconditioning, but very little about heating!

    We know Zurich quite well by virtue of visits to Adliswil. In fact, our search for a place to settle down began in Switzerland - Ticino and then Fribourg. However, after being offered one plot which was basically atop a mountain and would have necessitated a helicopter to airlift everything in, we realised that the sort of plot that we were after would have been far over our budget and that we had to look elsewhere.

    Going back to the heat pump, it presumably hooks up to the underfloor heating system without too much difficulty? We are also planning a wood burning stove as a supplementary heat source and, with a south-facing exposure, possibly some solar arrangement as a heat source for hot water.

    Googling the elevation for Bad Ems (nr Koblenz) hasn't produced anything intelligible to me. It is situated on the River Lahn (spelling) which is a tributary of the Rhine. I'd hazard a guess at between 250m and 300m above sea level.


    Ric Capucho said...

    Hi Chris,

    You've probably figured that we live just a few kilometres from Adliswil. Our village is just a bit further up the Sihl valley from there.

    We mountain folk laugh and point (downwards) at anyone living under 600 metres... global warming is coming matey, and your great-great-great grandkids will need canoes to get to the shops.

    Know what you mean about the selection and costs of land here in Switzerland. Gorgeous country, but not much choice... we were very very very lucky in a number of ways. I always say that the only flat bits of Switzerland were nicked by the French and Germans years ago. Still, if you have a look at you'll see a whole host of steep land solutions... although I'll concede that the very tip of a mountain would be a bit too ambitious.

    Yep, the heating system does indeed plug straight into the standard Huf underfloor plumbing, as would anything else. Not sure how the wood stove would contribute though. The ones we've seen a basically decorative things for the cat to sleep in front of. Saying that, my old boss at my previous sweatshop (who coincidentally built himself a Huf Haus) installed some sort of wood pellet burning stove in his keller which he's chuffed to mint-balls with. Sole heating source too, so he was fully committed. Apparently they're greener than a pair of Greenpeace wellies, 'cos the wooden pellets come from sustained tree farming... or some-such.

    Like the idea of some sort of solar panel myself. Electric or water heating or both. Will cross the bridge when our dosh batteries are a bit better recharged. However, the local authorities take a dim view of 'em 'cos the snow slips off them a little too easily, especially when compacted and nicely iced up... perfect for decapitating the local vicar.


    Huub said...

    Hello Ric,
    Thanx for this usefull information. We are actually looking for the same kitchen dealers as well. Today we have visited poggenpohl and leicht. Bulthaup a couple of weeks ago. Fantastic designs... good to know the budget comparison. Do you have any idea what part can be negotiated from this brands (10%)?

    Ric Capucho said...

    Hello Huub,

    I seem to remember there are discounts available on Leicht, but probably not much better than the 10% you've got in mind. Maybe a tiny discount on Poggenpohl and Bulthaup, if any at all.

    The big savings are to be made on the electronics (I keep meaning to write up our adventures with Electrolux, Siemens and whatever). The unposh brands such as Electrolux are usually 40% discounted, and anything up to 60% for "last years models". The posher models are about 15%-30% depending on the sexiness of the model in question, if yer catch my drift.

    Do yer sums and you'll see that the undiscounted costs of the electronics are about the same as for the kicthen units themselves. Hence the electronics are a big big part of all this.


    Z said...

    Glad to have found your blog!

    We've been in the house planning stage for several months already and we realized early on that we ought to be thinking Bulthaup-level (incidentally also a German company) expenses for the kitchen. This is actually a good thing because anything else will be cheaper (Poggenpohl just doesn't do it for me) and we'll be delighted to have 'saved' money!!

    Gregor R said...

    Hey Ric, i'm a university student studying Architectural Technology, and my group and i have been doing a project on Huf Haus', specifically your Huf Haus thanks to the amount of information and detail in your blog.

    We were hoping that you'd be able to give us some extra information on a few bits and pieces;

    Particularly, in what order was the house was constructed, we know you werent there while it was being put up, but if you know, it would be an excellent help. So far we understand that the foundations and basement are laid first, but after at are the posts placed, then the 'solid' panels and then the glass and beams? Or is it another way?

    And do you have the original elevations? We need to construct an AutoCAD model and currently only have the floorplans you posted on your blog. We are going to buy the Huf Haus compendium off the proper Huf Haus website, but we dont think that includes elevations of your standard design format, 3.09.xx.

    If you are uncomfortable sharing this information, that is understandable.

    Here is my email if you wish to get in contact with me personally.

    Thank you in advance!

    PS. Thank you for making the blog funny aswell...It made studying fun haha.

    Ric Capucho said...

    Hi Gergor(y),

    Yep, you'll need the proper Huf Haus schematics for the elevations. Just pop into yer friendly Huf Haus showroom and hopefully they'll give yer the 3-axis/4-axis compendium which covers the standard designs up to zillionaire levels.

    Not totally sure wot yer mean by the building sequence, but I assume yer already know that the cellar goes down first, then the ground floor, upstairs and then the roof. Stands to reason, right? If you have a butchers at the blog entries for October-November 2006 then you'll see the house going up blow-by-blow.

    What you should know is that the ground floor sections come in prefabricated chunks. So yer can forget the idea of nailing in the posts first... post and windows are already pre-chunked at the factory, so they simply swing 'em off the truck in a single section and bolt the whole kit and caboodle to the concrete base.

    With regards to which sections come first? Well, they choose a corner and swing in the first section and bolt it to the floor. Then the neighbouring section one at a time until they get to the next corner. Then they turn right... and onwards to the next corner, and then left. No! Right! Sorry... and then onwards McDuff and two more right corners until they reach the original corner. That's geometry that is. Window sections and solid sections are much of a muchness to yer Huf Haus bod. In fact window sections are load-bearing.

    You've got to see a construction in action to appreciate the story, but hopefully the above gives you and idea.

    And believe me, the windows already "open" and doors "swing", and both "lock" within the prefab sections before they leave the factory.


    Gregor R said...

    Wow, thanks for the speedy reply!

    Tiny wee problem though, im studying at Aberdeen, just slightly too far from Cobham to go pick up a brochure :) (Might be able to bribe some Londoners i know into going there for me!)

    Also, i don't suppose you know if Huf-Haus make the glazing themselves? Or do they buy it in from a specialist glazing company? If so, which company if you know?

    Again, thank you alot!

    Carol said...

    Great information, fab to read.
    I live in Cyprus( summers and can be v.cold in winter)
    Not sure all that glass is a great idea, but we have solar panels which provide hot water when the sun shines)
    I too made an error with forgetting the shed, but since I have plenty of room it was added later.I am new to Huf Haus and Blog, so need to study this end a bit more before obtaining quotes

    Dan said...

    Hi Ric,

    now that it's winter again, you might have some info on how much energy your heat pump is using. Could you pls share this with me?

    I'm missing your posts... Whats new in the white castle?


    cheapest-double-glazing said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Siravi Kitchen said...

    Nice thanks for sharing this kitchen maintenance tips.

    kitchen cabinets bangalore