AS CONSUMERS’ MEALTIME ROUTINES EVOLVE, HOW WILL KITCHEN DESIGN CHANGE IN AN ONLINE WORLD, WONDERS GRAHAME MORRISON
Mention ‘online’ when you are talking about kitchen design and there is a pretty good chance the person you are talking to will either think of one of the online planning tools springing up on a growing number of websites or of WiFi-linked cooking appliances.
Less attention has been paid so far on how the online world is going to change the function of the kitchen. As architect Louis Henry Sullivan – the father of the skyscraper – once remarked, ‘form follows function’, so if the way kitchens are used in the future changes, so will the form or design of the kitchen change as well.It was ever thus... I’m old enough to remember advertisements with ‘OXO Katie’ emerging from ‘her’ kitchen with a delicious gravy-smothered meal for her adoring husband Philip and their two perfect children.
Philip’s sole contribution to the feast was to help Katie load the dishes after the meal into ‘her’ dishwasher.Fast forward to today and so much has changed. The kitchen space is now frequently found as part of the whole living space rather than a dedicated room of its own. The dining room has all but vanished and the once essential kitchen table is today frequently replaced with a dropped down working surface area. This in itself is ironic, as the standalone kitchen table, beloved of many an Enid Blyton myth, frequently doubled as a food prep area.And talking of food, this too has changed for many households.
Even the Sunday lunch, where the whole family gathered to enjoy a ‘roast beef and all the trimmings’ belt-buster of a meal is a lot less frequent. And in the week, it is not unknown for a family of four to have individual meals at individual times.There is much talk about ‘The Internet of Things’ at present, and the networked kitchen is already upon us. Okay, in some of the demos at exhibitions the technology is a little glitchy, but it is getting there. According to a recent report 45% of German consumers want a networked kitchen.
And in the world of kitchen design and features, what German consumers want, we all will start to love sooner or later.However, The Internet of Things has little impact on future kitchen design in itself as it is mostly about the control of appliances, we are already familiar with. Those barcode-enabled refrigerators that can plan a meal based on its contents and their use-by dates and then set the oven at the correct temperature to cook the meal, use regular sized ovens and refrigerators. Ovens with built-in menus and cooking instructions take up the same amount of wall space as a basic fan oven. But what is going to stir things up is the dramatic growth in ready meal services Currently a mostly urban trend, ready meal services fall broadly into two categories; the ready to cook and the ready to eat. Both will impact on the design of kitchens in the future if the services continue to grow as they are predicted to. A ready to cook meal is basically a box with all of the ingredients needed to cook the dish, already measured out in the quantities required.
FRESH is one of the market leaders in this arena. According to its website,
FRESH delivers 16 million meals per month and has almost two million customers. Andthis is just one of dozens ofcompanies now offering a ‘meal in a box’ delivery service. It seems obvious that if ingredients are going to be delivered and stored in precise quantities rather than bulk packets then a change of storage systems – and by extension the cabinets containing storage systems – is going to happen too. If all you need to cook the perfect meal is just a mouse click away, will tomorrow’s kitchen take up as much space?“
Companies like FRESH are doing well and are meeting a need to supply good food, very easily and simply,” says Keith Myers of The Myers Touch. “These meal systems still need cooking and people seem to be moving away from microwave meals in to cooking fresh and will therefore need some equipment to do that. “I would say it will be dependent on the skills they have to cook, how much space they have and how much cooking is a pleasure verses a chore. Just look at the interest in cooking shows and the sale of cook books.“Kitchens are so much more than food.
They are social spaces and cooking meals together is a big element of a family and relational groups. So, if you like cooking I still think people are going to be adventurous and enjoy the whole range of exciting experience that cooking together can bring, and therefore will be require equipment within their budget to meet that objective.”“Generally speaking Miele customers love to cook from scratch,” adds Neil Pooley, Category Manager for Kitchens at Miele.
“They may well subscribe to a recipe box subscription service, taking advantage of the automatic ordering and delivery and the opportunity to try new dishes, but the raw ingredients still need to be prepared and cooked perfectly. The most successful recipe box services will offer food that is of the highest quality, organic and with excellent provenance.
“My view is that in the future, it is
not necessarily that appliances will need to become smaller or have less features – certainly Miele’s Perfect Fresh refrigeration technology will be as important as ever in storing fresh ingredients that may not be cooked for a few days. I suspect the real change will be in kitchen design and storage as customers will need to eficiently store the dry goods from their recipe boxes.”If ready-to-cook packages still rely on traditional appliances to do the actual cooking, the same cannot be said of ready-to-eat meals. These are not in themselves a new idea; very few people have not enjoyed take away meals either collected from or delivered by the local Indian or Chinese outlet, pizzas and of course ish & chips. But there is a whole raft of companies springing up to deliver restaurant-quality cuisine.
Deliveroo for example offers a delivery service from local restaurants. Founded in 2013, just three years later the company was worth almost £130m. And Uber Eats says it has hundreds of restaurants to choose from. When you open its app, you can scroll through the feed for inspiration or search for a particular restaurant or cuisine. When you ind something you like, tap to add it to your basket and start laying the table. Your dedicated Uber driver will soon be knocking on your door to give you tonight’s supper.If a customer is getting some of their meals delivered ready to eat, do they still need a state-of-the-art oven and large capacity cooling and freezing appliance? If not, how will this impact on future kitchen design?
“We have noticed a shift towards unexpected kitchen furniture,” says Matt Phillips, Head of UK Operations for Rotpunkt UK, “where modular solutions like room dividers, wall-hung designs and asymmetrical space planning are allowing the homeowner to interpret the space ergonomically, instead of spatially.
“This is also working to naturally kerb the domestic qualities of a kitchen space with modular solutions introducing dedicated herb storage, an open ice trough for cooling drinks or an easy-access room divider that is raised for extra utility or transform a typical ‘box-shape’ island unit into a multipurpose workstation. We have also introduced a new stack-up frame shelving system which works on its own or as part of a itted kitchen concept and can be wall or loor mounted, freestanding or integrated for the utmost lexibility.”
“When it comes to kitchen size, I'm not of the opinion that they are reducing,” says Carmel Diggins, Designer at Halcyon Interiors. “I just feel that the use of space has changed. Pantries and utility rooms are beginning to be more common, thus removing certain appliances and additional storage space into different areas within the household. “With the wealth of options when it comes to kitchen appliances, it’s hard to say that certain appliances will become redundant as they are all tailored to the individual’s needs. The choices people make will be subjective, client A may be fond of entertaining guests so a choice of an oven, combi and warming drawer would be suitable, whereas client B may decide that a combi will be suficient enough for their needs. One thing that seems apparent is the use of microwaves has begun to diminish. Could this mean the beginning of the steam era in the UK?”
“I live in the countryside and I work in a city and while I don’t yet have access to Uber Eats, I have ordered an organic recipe box on occasions,” admits Darren Taylor, Managing Director of Searle & Taylor. “This is certainly a burgeoning trend in households, which may one day shape the way we design the kitchens of the future by only needing the minimum amount of cabinetry, together with some nifty compact appliances, but that is a big leap forward.
“In some ways, and for different reasons, we are already incorporating more modular and compact options in the kitchens of today and this trend is certainly set to continue. I often design kitchens for clients that have oil-ired ranges already installed or that want a range styled cooker that will also heat the home, and that has to be incorporated in the scheme. This is all well and good until the summer months when they need to be switched off due to excessive heat in the room.
“Gone are the days when you had to specify an additional single oven and 60cm electric hob with hidden canopy extractor above and have them all on show, taking up valuable storage space and disrupting any clean lines. This is thanks to some very savvy appliance brands that have developed advanced dual-purpose compact ovens, which enable designers to hide them within cabinetry when not in use.
A number of premium brands make 45cm compact combination microwave ovens and/or with steam functions in the same appliance. This is a boon, because the product is ostensibly a fan oven with grill options, and unless you want to roast a 36lb turkey, it performs most of the functions of a single sized version just with extra useful features. Many brands offer fantastic modular induction hobs, some with zoneless cooking, so even if the hob is slimline, you can still place a larger pan on it. “While ingredient boxes tend to have recipes developed for surface cooking, I can’t see the day when an oven of some sort will not be a standard requirement in any kitchen, large or small,” adds Taylor. “However, I can see a future where it will no longer be seen within the layout. Already, the fashion in European design is to create a kitchen that conceals many functional aspects behind pocket doors, so that the room itself can be truly multifunctional and will hardly look like a kitchen at all until it is being used.”