Excepting some appliance upgrades, the kitchen in 2019 is largely the same as it was in 1959. Our cabinets and pantries are still dark, enclosed spaces meant to hold food with a shelf-life of months or even years. Large refrigerators hide food that once forgotten goes bad, and countertops are cluttered by microwaves, toasters, and other gadgets. But as living spaces get smaller and consumer behavior shifts more towards healthy eating, fresh ingredients, and curbing food waste, the kitchen is desperately in need of a makeover.
At SKS 2019 this week, architect Veronica Schreibeis Smith, of wellness-focused kitchen company Vera Iconica, gave us a hint as to how the kitchen can evolve to meet those needs.
One of her biggest takeaways onstage was that what is old is new again. In other words, humans are moving away from the hyper-processed food bought in cans and boxes at the store and back towards homemade or homegrown meals and ingredients.
But most people aren’t moving back to a self-sustained farm to do those things, and her company’s vision for the kitchen shows how to accommodate the demand for healthy, local eating in your average household.
For example, Vera Iconica makes space in its kitchen design for a small hydroponic grow system built into the cabinetry. The cabinets themselves are climate controlled to better store fresh ingredients and ensure both a longer shelf life and better nutrient preservation in items.
Preserving food is one element of this newly designed kitchen concept. The other is making the actual space more efficient. For example, Vera Iconica’s kitchen includes a center island where users can prep food directly on its surface instead of juggling multiple cutting boards.
At SKS, Smith was joined onstage by architect Suleiman Alhadidi, who is reimagining the kitchen via MIT Media Labs’ City Science Group project. As he demonstrated onstage at SKS this week, this version of the kitchen is extremely modular, with things like robotically controlled cabinets and pantry storage that can automatically reveal or hide itself based on whether you need it.
How soon will this vision for the kitchen become a reality, not just for early adopters and those with disposable income, but any homeowner? When, for example, will a person be able to stroll into an IKEA and find an option to build an affordable hydroponic system into their cabinets? When does climate-controlled storage become built-in feature of rental apartments?
Not right away, as affordability remains an issue. That said, Smith suggested we’re moving closer to being able to incorporate some of the elements she and Alhadidi discussed this week. Most likely, modularity will rule, with users being able to pick, choose, and customize based on how much they’re willing to spend to reinvent their kitchens.