Steel drums have been an integral part of the energy industry for more than a century. Now Urbn Barrel, a start-up from Cologne (Germany), is turning this utilitarian piece of equipment into a design statement for contemporary living. Using steel barrels which would otherwise be destined for the oil sector, Urbn Barrel handcrafts practical coffee tables which fit into almost any interior.
The idea for the coffee tables originated when Katharina Siepe and Moritz Kinkel met at university and decided to create a product together. Inspiration came from the full-size barrels which are used across Germany as standing tables in bars.
Moritz Kinkel (left) and Katharina Siepe (right) formed Urbn Barrel after meeting at university
“Industrial living is very big in Germany so materials such as steel and concrete are quite popular,” notes Katharina Siepe who is responsible for marketing and co-design of products at Urbn Barrel. “But we quickly realised that a whole 220-litre barrel was too big to fit into a modern living space. What followed was a process of learning by doing.”
The barrels are made by Siepe, a company which specialises in the production of containers for consumer and industrial applications. Each barrel is formed from the cold forming grade DC01A which is produced at ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt (Germany). The thickness of the steel is just 1 mm, making each barrel relatively light but strong. “We’ve tested the stability and load-bearing capacity of all our designs,” notes Moritz Kinkel. “They easily cope with loads up to 250 kilograms. The tables are very stable, very strong, even with two or three openings.”
Once the full-size barrels arrive in the Urbn Barrel workshop they are cut in half and painted by hand using colours sourced locally in Cologne. Openings are then created so that the interior of the barrel can be used as storage.
The 220-litre barrels arrive in raw condition and are cut in half by Urbn Barrel
“We experimented with the number of openings before we settled on the final designs,” explains Moritz Kinkel. “One thing that we discovered was that a steel top was quite noisy when you put down a glass. I contacted local carpenters who are now creating wooden tops for us in oak, cherry, alder, and nut. As it is removable, the top can be easily swapped if the owner’s decor changes. But if the customer would like to secure the top and add to the industrial look, we can include a clamping ring with the table.”
Customers can choose from six colour options, although custom colours can be provided on request. The paint system is extremely robust explains Katharina Siepe: “You can scratch the paint and it won’t mark. It’s ideal for homes with children or pets. The paint system and wooden top are both water resistant, so you can use your Urbn Barrel in the garden.”
A key goal for Urbn Barrel has been to source quality materials says Moritz Kinkel: “Wherever possible we source local raw materials and labour. That’s done out of respect for people, nature, and the environment. The wood comes from FSC-certified forestry plantations in Germany or France and is cut to size in a joinery near Cologne. We cut, rivet, drill, and paint each table by hand in our own workshop.”
Urbn Barrel coffee tables are available in three designs and six standard colour options
The top of Urbn Barrel’s ‘Barrel Box’ lifts off to provide 110 litres of storage space
Openings are marked out to create the different designs
The number of openings varies to provide different storage options
Holes are cut with a circular saw to provide access to the storage space
In the Barrel Buddy and Barrel Butler options, a central shelf is fitted to increase storage
In one of the final steps, the top is added to the barrel and fitted with a wooden disc
Each barrel is finished with trim to ensure there are no sharp edges
The coffee tables can even be used outdoors thanks to the robust paint system
Openings in the barrels provide valuable storage space for modern living
With the coffee tables in full production, the Urbn Barrel team are turning their attention to new products. “We’re currently experimenting with smaller 30 cm barrels which will make perfect bedside tables,” says Katharina Siepe. “Another idea is to create a clock made from a small barrel. We’re aiming to have these new products to market by the middle of 2018.”
More info: urbn-barrel.de
Copyright images: Urbn Barrel