But twist open its various modules and you'll find:
• A refrigerator and freezer.
• A sink, with a faucet that you tuck into the bowl when you twist the sink module closed.
• A four-burner induction cooktop -- plus an air vent and purifier powerful enough to clean the air of a 150-square-foot room.
• A dishwasher.
• A coffee maker.
• Storage space.
• An herb garden fed by gray water (that is, washwater).
• Three separate countertops adding up to 15 square feet of surface area, available for prep work or dining.
The Ecooking kitchen from Clei encapsulates a number of trends that Yahoo Homes saw at the world-renowned Salone del Mobile furniture fair, recently concluded in Milan: It's streamlined, multipurpose, transformable, space-efficient -- and secretive, hiding its functionality beneath a slick gleam. (Click here or on an image to go to a slideshow.)
Though the kitchen tower may seem like a gimmick -- albeit a stylish one -- its creators says it’s a practical vision for what you can fit into a small apartment in a way that's neither cluttered nor cheap-looking. It’s easy to imagine the tower gracing a pricy Manhattan loft or a San Francisco studio.
The kitchen was originally projected to hit the market by the middle of this year, but Clei's American distributor just told Yahoo Homes that one more technical issue is left to resolve, so it's now expected to go on sale in Europe in October; the United States will follow. It's "much more a reality now than a theoretical exercise," said Ron Barth, co-founder of Resource Furniture in New York, exclusive North American distributor of Clei. He offered as proof the fact that pricing information is available for the first time: 10,000 to 11,000 euros, or about $14,000 to $15,000 at current exchange rates.
Closed, the kitchen occupies floor space of 70 by 70 centimeters, or a little over 2 feet by 2 feet. But it's capable of expanding to triple its closed size, and three people can work or eat together at the unit, each facing a different direction. "Essentially a 27.5-inch square becomes an 82.5-inch corner kitchen," Barth said.
"Nothing like this has ever even been attempted before in terms of the rotating elements," Barth said. So perhaps it's no wonder that the projected for-sale date has been pushed back: There have been "a lot" of durability tests on the unit -- particularly the central point of rotation and its construction materials, which have been revised "over and over," since it's "the key element in the product's usefulness and useful life," he said.
The unit shown in Milan was a glossy sunshine yellow, but the kitchen will be available in satin or high-gloss versions of any RAL color.
Here's a (very) short video showing the motion of last year's version of the kitchen, shot at the Salone del Mobile 2013:
And here are some of the sights at this year's Milan Design Week:
Also on Yahoo Homes:
- Home & Garden
- Kitchen & Dining