Luxury kitchens have overtaken the car as a status symbol. In this interview, Munich design professor Kilian Stauss explains why they perfectly match society’s changing values.
eggersmann: What do you think is a luxury kitchen today?
Kilian Stauss: “Luxury” has changed its meaning from having rather negative associations implying lavishness and indulgence to a more positive sense suggesting something extraordinary. That fits in well with people today, who are looking for ways of expressing and improving themselves. Kitchens provide a space where that becomes possible in a special way – both aesthetically and practically – with food and drink. Luckily today, the sensual pleasures of eating and drinking are no longer frowned upon but recognized as part of a fulfilled life. Kitchens that allow these things in the best possible way are, for me, luxury kitchens.
Is an expensive kitchen automatically a luxury one?
No, there are other aspects to it too. The material value in itself is only one thing. In this respect the kitchen has almost replaced the car as a status symbol. It’s a well-known fact that high-end kitchens today involve an investment similar to the kind you would make for a luxury limousine. But how you use a kitchen works on a completely different sensory level. If you look at how people experience the world – with their hands and with their senses – then kitchens cater for a huge amount of that.
“I CAN DESIGN SOMETHING THAT IS TRULY UNIQUE”
Why has this become more important to people?
Social values have changed. Environmental issues, health, community and fitness are increasingly important these days. An exceptional kitchen is more in line with those values. A luxury car is a technical masterpiece, but you sit in it alone and contribute to environmental problems. Kitchens, on the other hand, are a kind of source of good health and a new communal meeting place. They are often technical masterpieces too, and are decidedly sustainable, because their design and craftsmanship quality are built to last. That’s why luxury kitchens fit today’s value profile much better and are a more sophisticated status symbol than cars.
And they have become something of an individual means of expression too.
It’s true that people like to express themselves through their kitchens. But the question is whether it really expresses an individual, or rather an entire family or community. Unlike cars, which often reflect a big ego, the kitchen has become a place for “us”. Whereas in the 1980s it was still a separate space for the housewife as an individual, today it is at the center of an open architectural plan which belongs to everyone. That’s why the kitchen should be seen in the context of the entire interior design of a home where it is integrated and where the occupants can all express themselves.
Whereby they find a special variety of design and expression possibilities with extraordinary kitchens.
That’s right. In comparison, if you look at the parameters which I have to decide on when buying a couch, they are comparatively few. With a kitchen, there are many more details and components. I can design something that is actually unique, especially when it comes to surface materials. A natural stone surface with a great cut pattern, for example, is truly MY slab that no one else has. Of course, this is a question of cash: The more I’m willing to invest, the more such one-off things are made possible. That’s also what makes it a luxury kitchen. But there’s also the question of identification with the product; with a kitchen the buyers see themselves reflected in the product. This is created step by step in the more elaborate planning process that is necessary with regard to different floor plans and personal preferences. With a premium supplier like eggersmann, the result is always highly individual.
“ENJOYING ALL THE DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS WHILE KEEPING A CALM DESIGN”
If you look at the end products, they often appear discreet and restrained today. What do you put that down to?
I put it down to the fact that premium kitchens today are seen first and foremost as part of an interior design and then after that as a place with a function. When I look at the large, solitary kitchen modules, it’s more the language of an architectural structure. The functional units are perfectly integrated into them and often even made invisible behind sliding front elements when not in use.
Does this compare to the minimalism of modern digital devices, which conceal their true multifunctional wonders?
I can also see this analogy. We live in a much more complex world today than we used to, and we also own more objects than we did 20 or 30 years ago. At the same time, everyone claims to be minimalists (laughs). For kitchens, that leads to the challenge of bringing a multitude of functions into a homogeneous whole. That’s why you end up with the iconic black monolith. You want to be able to enjoy all these functions, but you still want clarity and tranquility for the eye. This aesthetic of “simplify your life” is also central to a contemporary understanding of luxury kitchens.
In our experience, there is another aspect to this, that the kitchen is itself a talking point.
In fact, people like to talk about their kitchens precisely because the values that make up a luxury kitchen today are not always visible at first glance. If you want to communicate to others what your individual choice of materials, features and details are all about, you have to tell them about it. In general, the status display is a form of communication: Look, I have something very special. And it’s also always about giving weight to what it means: Where does this kitchen come from, what is the manufacturer’s philosophy? You can only communicate that to others if you talk about it. Whereas for me, design itself is a form of language that brings objects into a kind of communication with people.
“THESE KITCHENS REPRESENT A GREAT PASSION FOR MODERN ARCHITECTURE”
When you look at kitchens from eggersmann, what do they tell you?
The kitchens express a great enthusiasm for architecture. If people have an affinity for modern architecture, then eggersmann is likely to appeal to them too. eggersmann kitchens convey to me that they don’t see themselves as separate from the other rooms of the home but see themselves as an essential part of the whole – on the same level as the architecture.
Often the “campfire” metaphor is applied to these kitchens, being as they are at the center of modern architecture. In your opinion, does that fit?
There’s a lot to be said for it. In the 1980s, the TV was considered the campfire or hearth around which everyone gathered. Since then, media usage behavior has changed significantly: Everyone brings their own mobile device along with them. It stands to reason that the kitchen has therefore taken on this social function. It is very well suited as a place where even the individualists who are constantly looking at their cell phones and tablets can still come together as a community. In addition, the daily social routine has changed a lot. Whereas it used to be the case that the housewife would prepare lunch for the children in her separated kitchen “cockpit”, today everyone simply comes home over the course of the afternoon or evening. They are then usually hungry and immediately flock to the kitchen, the new communal space. At least that’s how it was before Corona.
“IN THE KITCHEN, INDIVIDUALS CAN ALSO JOIN TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY”
Currently, a lot of people work from home. Do you have any insights into how often the laptop is also opened in the kitchen?
In this situation, when you spend a lot of time at home as a family, you can definitely consider yourself lucky if you have a modern and open kitchen that offers enough space for everyone. At the moment, however, I can only speculate about what role kitchens play in working from home. I am not aware of any current research on this. I suspect that improvisation is taking place in the best sense of the word. In the past, working from home meant that occasionally one of the adults didn’t go to the office. Today, on the other hand, in many households four or more people are working from home, or homeschooling, at the same time. This creates competition for space and the kitchen is certainly not left out in that – especially since it beckons as a place to indulge yourself too.
When we talk about luxury kitchens, as Germans we first see it from a western perspective. What are your insights into how other cultures view the subject?
There are massive differences. In certain Asian markets, for example, many designs and materials that German customers regard as high-end are perceived quite differently. There are completely different tastes. In Asia, there is a long culturally historical preference for certain metals and surfaces. In my opinion, German kitchen design has believed for too long that our aesthetics can simply be transferred to other markets according to the drop-down principle – but eggersmann serves the preferences of other countries and cultures very well when it comes to luxury kitchens.
Prof. Dr. Kilian Stauss teaches furniture design at the Faculty of Interior Design at the Technical University of Rosenheim. In addition, he heads the Munich-based design office, processform.
ANOTHER DIMENSION OF KITCHEN
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