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What will the kitchen of the future look like?

Author: Lulu Grimes, managing editor BBC Good Food

Unique custom designed kitchen island

I asked designer Johnny Grey. Here are his 3 key insights

In food media, we talk about food trends from ingredients to gadgets all the time, but we rarely touch on kitchens or, more specifically, kitchen functionality. These last few months have shown that for many people the kitchen has changed in function - as well as providing many more meals than normal, it may well be used as an office space, classroom and entertainment room. This multifunctional kitchen will have a very different impact on all the parts of the food world that interact with it.

Johnny Grey is a designer, author and educator who specialises in kitchens. He firmly believes that the kitchen is a room you should enjoy living in - that you just so happen to cook in. He also thinks kitchen islands have become bullies, albeit unwittingly. This is a conversation we had about the kitchens of the future.

What 3 things do you think will have the most impact on kitchens in the next 10 years?

In short, tables, tech and sunlight.

Tables represent a desire for more sociability in a kitchen. I think in general we are going to need bigger kitchens - so many don’t have room for a table, it’s a crime. We need to make sure that kitchens are not a grinding place to make food alone but a pleasurable space to cook in while life happens around you. Tables are so important. If you want to read up on the vital role of social eating look up Marsha Smith.

No one is demanding tech at the moment, but it’s clear that the role it could have is starting to emerge. Tech allows for sustainability, safety and precision-cooking, it also provides safety for older people - and with an ageing population the kitchen needs to become a much more accessible space in the future. The tech spotlight has been on fridges and big items, but look to smaller appliances, why should any food ever burn again? It’s easy enough to make products that can stop that ever happening. Look at companies like Hestancue with their smart cooking system, and the work Rasmus Rasmusson is doing at Varm. These won’t take away the magic of cooking, they will just give you choice: tech for a busy weekday, old-school slow cooking at the weekend.

As for sunlight, if we are going to be more incarcerated in our houses in the future (and even if we’re not), we are all going to want a room with a view. Why wouldn’t you? Windows and sunlight make all the difference if you can’t go out - we have all learned what this is like recently. When I design a kitchen, I always look at what we can do about the natural light.

Are there any pieces of tech that you think are going to be game changers?

Wireless work surfaces. Magnetic conduction electricity means you can have a kitchen full of multipurpose surfaces that spring into action when you need them to, turning into induction hobs, being able to charge kettles, toasters and radios and power your computer. No more wires.

I also think the future of microwaves is unclear. Even now people are scared of them and don’t trust them. Controlled steam could take over from microwaves -it cooks fast, is versatile and it appears more natural.

Are there any myths about the ‘perfect kitchen’ that you would like to see debunked?

I can’t bear huge central islands, they take up space and bully people into dancing around the room to avoid them, but they do perform an essential function in providing eye contact (necessary for sociability), because you face out into the room. There’s a complete myth about the depth of workspace anyone needs. An island can be made useful if you change the shape; longer and thinner gives far more opportunity for a sociable space. You cook on a fatter piece, put laptops or whatever on the thinner piece, and sit around an end that can be flipped up when needed. The whole workflow of a kitchen can be given a subliminal order through dedicated work surfaces, which is partly why tables are so crucial, beyond one for eating. Insert an end grain chopping block to make a delineated prep space and it frees up what’s around it, the way you build a kitchen can squeeze people’s behaviour into different, more efficient working patterns. You can also vary the height of the surface, rise and fall worksurfaces help all sorts of people cook, these aren’t expensive anymore and they can be used by a wheelchair user, or a child. 

And then there’s kitchen cabinets, people are obsessed with them and you just don’t need many, particularly above a wall-based counter. People always want to put things behind solid doors, a clutter-free environment isn’t the right thing to apply to kitchen design. Fruit and veg are beautiful to look at, so are glasses, cups and saucers, use shelves, or, what’s wrong with glass doors if you have to have them? All you need is a decent sized built in pantry that makes all your food easily accessible. Fewer cabinets allow more space for flexible behaviour.

With fewer kitchen surfaces and cupboards where will we keep all of our kit?

The Americans have what’s called an appliance garage, a cupboard with roller shutter front, with a working surface and sockets inside. Some even have air extraction and a hob inside – a kitchen in a cupboard. These works well in small spaces - I’ve even built one into a hallway.

My kitchen - the future kitchen - doesn’t look anything like the cabinet lined boxes that are so often built now. 


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