During the pandemic, people cooked at home and ate with their families. We talked to Volker Irle, Managing Director of the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft Die Moderne Küche e.V.”, about innovations, brands, trends and why no two kitchens are the same.
Twelve kitchen furniture manufacturers decided to found the AMK in Darmstadt on 20 January 1956.
Yes, they didn’t want to build past each other.
In the German industry, we have achieved such a high level of quality that we have now noticed bit by bit: Well, Europe likes us also after we have turned the European market upside down and continue to do so. Every two years we pick a region and ask the members: “What do you want to do next?” And then we prepare a country information day to clarify for the decision-makers on the industry side: Is this a market I want to look deeper into?
Or do I say, “Thank you very much for the information, I don’t want to have anything to do with that.” You don’t sell a product that the customer unpacks and uses. Therefore we founded the AG China nine years ago. KBIS belongs to the North American Kitchen Association, NKBA, which we know very well from AMK.
Singles suddenly found it important to have a great kitchen because they cooked with guests at the weekend. It’s not only the dimensions that have changed, and not only have cooking islands and preparation islands been added.
Suddenly you can see the kitchen from any point in your living room. For me it’s like this: when I watch TV, I look at the TV in front and at my kitchen to the right. For that reason alone, you have completely different design requirements.
Does the question of status also come into play here? I’ve been with AMK since 2018 and I’m always asked, “How long will there be kitchens?” Then I say: well, as long as I don’t hire a robot to watch the football game, there will still be people who enjoy it because it’s not about simply preparing food. In cities, it probably wouldn’t be much more expensive if I had all the food delivered.
You can’t open the window like in a separate kitchen. All those little utensils standing around on the worktop – it doesn’t look tidy, and yet you want it to be functional. The innovative power is correspondingly great, and the innovations range from roller blinds with electric support to large apothecary cabinets that you can hardly pull out without motor support. And you have a lot of smart supports in the furniture.
If you have your hands full of dough while baking, you can control drawers or pull-outs by gesture or by voice. At first you might think: I don’t need that.
The oven is not always just white or black. A lot of work is done with glass, patterns are used so that there are no design breaks with the innovative surfaces.
The second point is: you have a lot of combination appliances to accommodate all functions in every kitchen. That’s why production takes place domestically and not abroad where it might be a few cents cheaper. In China, you just need a fireplace with a wok; and you have to work with gas because people there want to flambé. There are exceptions at the higher end in regions like Russia, where a lot of work is done with gold.
In the USA, there is the framed kitchen without a classic carcass; they more or less build a truss frame and screw walls and doors onto it. There, construction companies build several houses at once, kitchen included.
But if I were to put you in a kitchen – and we are talking about planned kitchens – in ten regions of the world, you would not be able to tell which country we are in.
With a few exceptions, we can say: as far as the modern fitted kitchen is concerned, what you see in Europe is also what you see worldwide. The big volume manufacturers have not appeared as brands at all so far, neither in Europe nor in other countries. That’s changing now, because in Asia nothing works without a brand.
Such, let’s call them “solution worlds”, will come. At the moment we have a lot of matt and dark surfaces. I can’t tell you if and when everything will become light again.