There is a chronic shortage of housing in major cities. The response of architects and urban developers has been to design very small living spaces, known as micro apartments. The solution either involves single-room flats including a mini kitchen, or open-plan studios that need to accommodate various types of furniture. The trend is challenging the notion of the conventional kitchen. Designer Markus Benesch has now developed a “non-kitchen” for zeyko Küchenmanufaktur that is unique in the industry.
"Fire, water, air – that’s what a kitchen has to provide", says Benesch of Markus Benesch Creates. "But it doesn’t actually need to look like a kitchen. In places like Berlin, New York and Vancouver, where single-occupancy is common, inner-city building plots are in short supply and the cost of living is high, micro apartments are popular – especially among young people.
Not only because these apartments are generally cheaper than normally sized flats, but also because they suit modern, digital lifestyles. You can live in a central location, work in a co-working space around the corner, shop locally and get around by bicycle. A showroom kitchen simply no longer fits this lifestyle."
In view of this change, it soon became clear to the Munich-based designer that a kitchen would need to evolve into a piece of furniture that would adapt to suit different situations and take on more functions. "In our opinion, a kitchen is not complete when it’s built in", he explains. "It should live with its occupants, continue to develop and not stand stiffly and immovably in one place."
This vision is also reflected in Benesch’s latest design for zeyko Küchenmanufaktur: the zeykoRACK. As the name "rack" already suggests, the designer had envisaged a metal frame as a foundation that would be flexible enough in its shape, design and feel to adapt to any living situation.
"I had no kitchen in my first flat – but I did cook", relates Benesch. "I put two portable hotplates on a workbench, which left me plenty of space for prep – so it was a kind of non-kitchen. At the time, it was very important to me that my kitchen furnishings should function a team, and that’s what I also achieved in my set-up back then."
The idea on which his own first non-kitchen was based, can be seen in today’s zeykoRACK design: no detail is alike, yet it all works together. The shapes, colours and materials of the individual elements that comprise this piece of household furniture result in an overall look that is contrasting and harmonious at the same time.
The combination of vertical and horizontal structures, open and closed elements, light and dark materials leaves scope for creativity and enough space to accommodate the customer’s design preferences. "It was important to us from the beginning that the customer would be able to realise their own ideas through the design of their kitchen", says Benesch, explaining his concept.
“Young people – and the young at heart – want to express themselves through their homes, and the development of our own selection of materials and colours makes that possible." Twelve decoration and colour variants, which can be combined as desired with four different wood types: that is the basis of the zeykoRACK.
With the zeykoRACK, zeyko Küchenmanufaktur is also clearly distancing itself from the "on-demand" trend: thanks to the fully digitalised customer experience and the end-to-end digital implementation processes, the non-kitchen is ready for delivery just ten days after ordering.
"As we developed our kitchen, we always kept the customer in mind", says Benesch. "The zeykoRACK configurator allows the user to make changes to any type of kitchen design in real time, which is a fantastic buying experience for customers. Augmented reality allows them to see their kitchen design live within their own four walls, which is unique in this form."
The development process for the zeykoRACK was completed in double quick time. It took just three months from the first sketch to the finished kitchen. Markus Benesch’s team submitted a complete concept very quickly, which was then entered into the program.
"We had our first meeting with Markus Benesch in October 2018, and the design was ready by December", explains Dr Christian Hilz, CEO of BES zeyko Küchenmanufaktur GmbH.
"Development of the zeykoRACK configurator began in mid-December 2018 in collaboration with the Steinbeis Institute at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS), where it was headed by Professor Erich Schöls. The schedule was very tight, but we managed to get it ready in time for imm cologne/LivingKitchen in January 2019, where we were able to present our new product to the public."
The goal of designing a kitchen that is the quintessential opposite of a fitted kitchen is clearly reflected in the designer’s concept. As a piece of household furniture, it is easily integrated into open-plan spaces, where it fulfils the essential functions of a kitchen. Because both sides of its open metal structure can be used, the zeykoRACK can be simultaneously deployed as a kitchen, room divider, storage-space marvel or as a vertical garden. The so-called "non-kitchen" from the drawing board of Markus Benesch is not just a kitchen – it’s also a fun design feature that leaves enough freedom for individual lifestyles.