Even the most creative and waste-conscious culinary wizards have experienced the hand-wringing frustration of having to chuck perfectly good leftover ingredients because, when combined, they simply don’t add up to anything.

Or anything vaguely appetizing, at least.

Leave it to Swedish hide-and-seek hotspot IKEA to come up with an ingenious solution to a wasteful and all-too-common scenario in which comestibles wind up in the trash — or, ideally, the compost bin — and not in our bellies where they belong.

The Table for Living is the multitasking centerpiece of Concept Kitchen 2025, an IKEA-organized pop-up kitchen from the semi-near future — or “a tangible communication of what the behaviors of the future will be,” to quote IKEA kitchen guru Gerry Dufrense — unveiled last month in Milan's mega-trendy Zona Tortona district.

Designed specifically for dainty living arrangements (read: urban micro-apartments) where space is nil, Table for Living truly does it all: it’s a cleverly concealed induction cooktop, a dining table, a prep area, a "kid's play area," a central gathering spot for snacking and socializing. “It is a multipurpose table,” elaborates Ingrid Allenbach, a Lund University student who participated in the development of Concept Kitchen 2025. “You can eat on it, you can prepare food on it, you can cook on it. You cook with a heat-insulated pan so it does not leave any burn marks on the wood.”

But that's not all ...

A Table for Living, part of IKEA's Concept Kitchen 2025 installation in Milan

Most notably, Table for Living also functions as a kind of oversized, food waste-trimming recipe book with considerable built-in brains.

Somewhat similar to the Handpick app that MNN's resident foodie Robin Shreeves featured earlier this year, Table for Living suggests ways that seemingly disparate leftovers can be incorporated into a single new dish/meal or paired with other food. Just place said leftover food item on the otherwise normal-looking wooden table and a projector with integrated camera installed overhead will identify it and then project a recipe, cooking instructions and timer onto the table's surface.

Have multiple leftover items that you’re not sure what to do with?

Just set that motley assortment of I don't know what the hell to do with these veggies and a salmon filet out and Table for Living will come up with the something tasty.

Not sure how to get the most mileage out of your IKEA Swedish Food Market-sourced edibles?

Table for Living will find a way to make a proper meal out of that jar of gooseberry jam, tube of fish roe and half-eaten cinnamon bun.

Or maybe not — but you get the point.

“It sees what grocery you put onto it and decides through colour, shape and size what grocery it is. It will then suggest what will go well with it and give you recipes to guide you through how to cook them,” explains Allenbach in a short video filmed by Dezeen. “The things within your home should help you be more mindful of the food you have. We want to get people more engaged with their food — actually touching and working with their food — rather than just poking at a screen.”

A Table for Living, part of IKEA's Concept Kitchen 2025 installation in Milan

More on the nuts and bolts behind the prototype design:

The technology consists of a camera and projector positioned above the table and induction coils underneath the table surface. Networked together, they allow the system to recognise objects and their movement and to project a display.

This is ‘Casual Technology’: tools that give us control and guidance when we need it, but are otherwise hidden — a surface simplicity that minimises distractions and allows for mindful engagement with food.

In addition to the Table for Living, other waste-centric prototype designs on display at Concept Kitchen 2025 include a sort of compact kitchen sink grey water system and a nifty — and totally far-out sounding — 2-in-1 kitchen recycling/composting set-up called the Thoughtful Disposal System:

We’ll separate non-organic waste by material. The can, bottle, or container is crushed, scanned to identify what it’s made of, and for contamination. Waste is then vacuum packed and sealed in a bio-polymer tube. A thermo-printed label records what we’ve disposed of and potential future uses. Depending on how wasteful we’ve been, we receive an energy credit or debit. Organic waste washed from the sink into the composting system is blended, the water extracted, and it’s then compressed into a dry, odourless puck. These pucks can be stacked for pickup by the municipality. The waste water doesn’t flush away: it contains nutrients that can be safely used to feed our indoor plants.

Lots more on these mindful and thoughtful futuristic prototype designs — including a fridge-cum-pantry hybrid that places perishables out so food isn’t shoved away, forgotten about and eventually left to spoil in a cavernous refrigerator — can be found over at the Concept Kitchen 2025 website.

IKEA's Concept Kitchen 2025 installation in Milan

IKEA's Concept Kitchen 2025 in Milan

A nice summary of Concept Kitchen 2025's overall intent:

This concept kitchen is not really about the solutions; it’s about how we’ll behave in 2025. What will the world look like? How we will eat? Where will we get food? Our kitchen builds confidence and helps make day-to-day issues with food easier and more social. It reduces some of the barriers that stop people from cooking. This is technology that never shouts at you. You don’t want to be overwhelmed. You want to be busy in the kitchen with life and people, and be enabled by technology — when you need it.

The installation itself, the futuristic focal point of a “six-month-long exploration of life in and around the kitchen” called IKEA Temporary, was unveiled in conjunction with Milan Design Week. While the 2015 edition of Milan Design Week has come and gone, IKEA Temporary will remain open to visitors daily at Via Vivegano 18 near Porta Genova station until the conclusion of the also food-themed Expo Milano 2015. (To be clear, IKEA Temporary is a separate pop-up event that’s not held on the expo grounds and is not officially part of the expo programming).

In addition to Concept Kitchen 2025, new product launches and several vignettes revolving around IKEA's new METOD modular kitchen range, the retailer's wireless charging furnishings and light fixtures are also on display at IKEA Temporary. And, yes, those famous IKEA Swedish meatballs, including brand-new vegetarian and vegan varieties, are being served throughout the run of the event.

Organized and executed by IKEA in collaboration with international design consultancy IDEO, the four main design prototypes on display at Concept Kitchen 2025 — intelligent, food-identifying dining table included — were conceived by students from the School of Industrial Design at the Ingvar Kamprad Design Centre at Sweden's Lund University (Ingvar Kamprad being the obscenely wealthy octogenarian founder of IKEA) and the Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

What do you think? Would you be prone to tossing less food if your table told you what to do with it?

Via [Dezeen], [Core77]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.