In my talk at Bucks New Uni on the future kitchen this weekend, I highlighted three trends: kitchens of the future will be adaptable, productive and smart.
The ‘smart’ piece follows on from our theory about ubiquity: if someone can gain some advantage by applying a piece of technology, then they will. The internet fridge has been roundly ridiculed, and Amazon’s Dash buttons met with a degree of scepticism. But at some point I do think our kitchens will start to do some ordering for us — and probably some cooking too. At least in the short term, retailers and brands will do what they can to strip friction from the shopping process, and find ways to collect more valuable data about our behaviour.
The adaptable piece follows on from the trends of agility and diversity. With more properties now private rentals, growing multiple occupancy, and a much more diverse range of social and cultural influences, people are going to want a lot of different things from limited space. Whether it’s a new tenant every three years, or multiple tenants in the same property, over the course of its lifetime the kitchen — a major investment expected to last a decade or so — is going to have to adapt. That means reconfigurable layouts, modular units, and perhaps smart surfaces that can be digitally reconfigured. Think coloured e-ink reflective surfaces (cheap, low energy) rather than the OLEDs as you have on your phone screen (too bright, too expensive to run).
The productive kitchen is about making it a place where we grow food as well as prepare and consume it. Back to the Future (as usual) got there early with the ceiling fruit garden, but given the incredible groundswell of grass-roots development around this idea, I think it will be reality fairly soon. As I’ve written about before, the idea of a new appliance in your kitchen, the size of a dishwasher (or maybe even part of the fridge) that grows food rather than stores it is increasingly practical. LED grow lights are cheap, microcontrollers and internet connections ubiquitous, and appliances already contain all the pumps and valves that a hydroponics system might need. Given what the middle classes spend on salad and herbs, it’s probably not far off making economic sense to do this (though I’ll have to do the maths and maybe some practical experiments to be sure — time is always my enemy…).