Given that the kitchen is the central hub of any home on both a functional and an emotional and psychological level, it follows that the room could take the reins in guiding the home’s sustainability.
Copenhagen-based designer Tobias Tøstesen has noted the influence of the kitchen as a space to encourage a change towards sustainable living.
While it is well-known that these highly used – and highly energy reliant – spaces can be the catalyst for drastic carbon reduction if energy efficiency retrofits are undertaken, Tøstesen believes that sustainable design in modern times needs to go back to the basics of what is natural and raw and and that there is no better place to get there than in the kitchen.
“Sustainability is for me, not necessarily the color blue or the sound of an electric car, but the color of the soil under my nails when cleaning potatoes, or the smell of freshly cut parsnips on my newly sanded table countertop,” he says.
In response to this, the designer has not only drawn awareness back to the grass roots necessity of sustainability and its relevance to a kitchen space, he has developed what he calls the ‘ethical kitchen project’. Constructed out of north German FSC-certified ash, the kitchen unit is formed in a modular fashion without screws or brackets, and can be disassembled and reassembled over the course of its lifespan to cater to the different needs of the user. The Larch Table, which is assembled and disassembled with the aid of rope ties rather than hammer and nail components, offers the same flexibility.
Not only are such kitchen pieces far more efficient and multi-functional, they serve as a reminder of the life cycle of a piece of furniture and where pieces come from.
“The goal has been to focus on the construction in order to broaden the understanding of the life of the materials and how they can be used, but also to show the dynamics which surrounds furniture in general and the simplicity that characterizes Nordic design tradition,” Tøstesen says.
While sustainable kitchen fitout elements are not a new concept – a wide variety of green kitchen design elements are coming into the mainstream consciousness – the notion behind the design of such elements has not been well-explored.
In a green building sector that is advancing at a booming rate, it is only natural that the industry and wider general populace would confuse the terminologies of green building, energy efficiency and sustainability.
But the latter, as Tøstesen points out, is more about simplicity, and getting back to the really mean of sustainability – living within ones resources – more than anything else, as symbolised in his no-frills furniture piece.
Pieces such as the ethical kitchen project and the Larch Table are highly sustainable interior design elements due not only to their built form but also to the concept that allows them to be repurposed in the future, lengthening the life cycle of these pieces and allowing users to go beyond the norm in terms of green thinking.
“I would like to tell the story about the lifecycle of the materials around us and the hands that touches it during that process,” Tøstesen says. “Basically the project has been about taking a step backwards and asking what we really need.”
If ever there was an interior space to exemplify sustainable living it is the kitchen – a space that offers to not only maximise the potential of green features, but also to act as a base for sustainable ideological encouragement.