The kitchen is not only evolving but it’s shifting in its significance in our homes. No longer an out of the way space for one person, it has successfully moved to the foreground, and is now its centre-piece.
Alongside this change in significance, the kitchen is also changing its function. No longer just the place where food is prepared and cooked, it’s become a meeting place for the family, a place to engage with children, to entertain friends, and to communicate social status. For many of us, it’s a creative space, where we can express ourselves in cooking and preparing food and drink. As such, it’s a space in our homes that we are increasingly prepared to invest in financially.
But what else is driving this change?
Overall, we are more and more interested in food per se. It’s no surprise therefore to see shows like Bake-Off and Britain’s Best Home Cook pulling in the ratings.
The food we eat and prepare in our kitchens is changing. Our palates are increasingly global, and we increasingly crave variety and discover. As we travel more, and eat out more both in traditional dining and street environments, we are experiencing foods from every corner of the globe, and many of us will try to replicate these dishes at home for ourselves, either cooking from scratch or using fresh kits, and other convenience options.
We are becoming more and more concerned with what’s in the food we eat particularly in processed and prepared food, particularly as allergies and intolerances seem to become more common.
But concerns are also growing about the integrity of the ingredients used, in addition to the unwanted inclusion of preservatives and other inclusions – the so called Clean Living trend. This too is encouraging people to cook for themselves – to control their diets in terms of both the quality and integrity of what they eat, its calorie count, and its fat and salt levels.
The world mocked Delia Smith back in the day when she showed Britain how to boil an egg. But alongside this growing interest in food from all perspectives, there is an ever-diminishing skill-base in terms of cooking know-how, and a growing desire for instant, effortless results. We want it all on a plate, to coin a phrase.
So increasingly we are look to appliances and gadgets to help us. We expect them to be intuitive to use and allow us the capacity to flex and improvise. They have to be capable of helping those of us who haven’t a clue how to get the results we are seeking, but at the same time work sympathetically alongside the more experienced knowledgeable cook who knows what they are doing.
And, on top of this, today’s appliances must have the right level of aesthetic appeal. Appliances no longer just tools – they are personal accessories – accessories that we judge beyond mere function – accessories that need to earn their place in our kitchens. We’ve seen research amongst creative cooks, telling us that they would much rather invest in tools, gadgets, and appliances for their kitchen, than in personal possessions.
If you accept that the kitchen is as much a social space as a food prep zone, then it’s clear that styling of products that might be left out on the counter top become ultra-important. Increasingly we will make our choices ‘because we are worth it’, no longer solely basing our judgements on function and performance.
Coming at this purely from the perspective of interior design trends, kitchens are becoming more colourful, with statement tiles, isles, and display elements in islands, and on shelving. Bars and islands also increase feelings of informality. So, within this context, what can we expect to see in the way of appliances and gadgets, both in innovation and design aesthetics?
A key trend will be found in the fact that consumers now expect products of every type to be technologically enabled. In turn, this means that product design in itself doesn’t need to signal the presence of technology, and so can focus much more on expressing its differentiation.
Compact design could become more significant, partly because kitchen spaces in some parts of the world are small, but also because we are accumulating more and more stuff that needs to be conveniently stored.
In recent years, many domestic appliances have followed consumer electronics more generally in shifting away from a traditionally cold and hard-tech aesthetic.
Just like our kitchens, we expect our domestic appliances to reflect fashions in interior design, in homewares and other consumer durables, so that they that integrate more seamlessly into our daily lives. We want our kitchens to feel comfortable and welcoming as well as connected and so the products we put in them need to follow suit.
Warmer colours, matte finishes, soft surfaces instead of hard edges and even textile materials are all likely developments, to ensure products feel warm and calm, as well as being well-made and clever. They need to reassure us that the complex is, in fact, simple. This is particularly true as kitchen appliances become more and more robotized, for example the new generation of smart cooking food processors that are hitting the market.
Intuitive interfaces will also be vital. Appliances need to be easy to use and care for, but also function as pieces of precision equipment – getting it right first time, every time, irrespective of our ability to programme them correctly. If a product looks intimidating or complex, it will surely be rejected.
On the contrary, appliances will need to account for our human inadequacies. Gone are the days when you wonder if the oven is on the right temperature, or if the fridge door is open, or if the dishwasher has finished – your smart-phone – the remote control for your life will keep you posted.
Here’s just a few of our favourite appliances and other kitchen gadgets for all you fans of cooking, eating, and design.
The GE Sous Vide. Sous vide, a restaurant cooking method that can be tough for home chefs to pull off, involves slow-cooking via temperature-controlled water bath, which results in tender texture and intense flavours.
The iRobot Braava Jet Mopping Robot – which keeps your hard floors sparkling clean.
The Simple Human voice activated bin, which opens at your command.
The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator really does it all. This smart refrigerator is aptly named, as it is truly a “hub” for your kitchen. From the touch screen on the front of the unit, you can perform a wide number of functions including planning meals, coordinating family schedules, and entertaining the whole family. You’re also able to sync it up to your smartphone see the inside of your refrigerator from anywhere.
The Kenwood Cooking Chef – which does everything that a multi-function stand mixer can but on top of that, it cooks! You can choose from 20 pre-set programmes, with temperature control from 20°C right up to 180°C