"I was living in a tiny 200 square foot storefront with a large dog and a lot of other animals ranging from chickens to quails and houseflies ... Because my space was so tiny, and because there was so much going on in it, it was extremely chaotic and always a real mess. One day I started thinking about how to deal with the chaos of my own life and decided to have David weld a frame in the 40 square foot space in which I was living. We devised the frame as a flexible grid system so that I could install cupboards, shelves and table exactly where I needed them. I built my loft bed on top of this structure. I used to refer to my first Living Unit as "a little nucleus of perfection" which could be transported to comfort and protect me no matter what sort of larger environment I might live in. It was also sort of like owning a home since it provided that feeling of consistency and security in my life." (cited in Vischer, p. 15)
The belief in the redemptive power of design is reminiscent of Modernist ideology rooted in Constructivism, epitomized in the work of Le Corbusier and eventually disseminated to characterize the ideal 1950s suburban home. As in the history of Modern design, however, perfection could also prove to be uncomfortable and dull. "Interestingly enough, once I had 'perfected' my unit," Zittel explained, "my life actually seemed rather dull. This led to my theory that most of us don't really want perfection in our lives. Rather, we want eternal progress towards a distant and ever improving ideal." (cited in Vischer, p. 16)
Zittel thus designed additional prototypes and when she found one to be particularly successful would produce a limited quantity for sale. New owners were encouraged to customize their Living Unit to meet their individual needs. (Owners of Living Units include Eileen and Peter Norton and the Jedermann Collection, N.A.) "I understood that part of it was to make the owner participate, making out of him an artist and an interior designer at the same time," recounts the owner of A to Z, 1994 Living Unit Customized for Leonora and Jimmy Belilty:
In our case we dressed the Living Unit with objects that are part of our daily environment and with objects that are clues to our way of facing our relation with art ... The bedroom has satin sheets, the library group of small sized books on pre-Colombian art, it has a photograph by the Brazilian artist Vic Muniz and three small pre-Colombian Venezuelan terra-cotta figurines. This has to do with our involvement in collecting pre-Colombian art. The dining room has a Limoges set of chinaware from the personal dinner service of the last Venezuelan dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez (1952-1958) that probably was the most glamorous time in recent Venezuelan history. It also has a photograph of Leonora by the Venezuelan artist Alexander Apostol." (Jimmy Belilty in Vischer, p. 44)
The work may be recustomized by the owner. The Living Unit was the first of many products designed by Zittel (a.k.a A-Z Administrative Services) aimed at liberating people from the pressures of everyday life. Other products have included A-Z Uniforms to be worn by the purchaser everyday so as to avoid anxiety over dressing and A-Z Escape Vehicles, trailers with custom-designed interiors where owners may escape from the exterior world.