What will kitchens of the future look like?
Our lifestyles are changing at a rapid pace. With the advent of the internet and handheld devices, our homes are becoming smarter with all sorts of innovations that help us save both time and money.
Think back 30 or 40 years, and there are many things that you’ll find in the kitchen of today, that didn’t even exist back then. Things which we take for granted these days, like recycling bins or microwaves.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the evolution of the kitchen through history, make some bold predictions about the kitchens of the future, and examine how Hollywood got it (mostly) wrong.
The early days of the kitchen
If we look back through history, the kitchen has always been an important part of the home. Indeed, Georgian and Victorian kitchens in grand houses provided a separate area where cooking took place. All the other activities we associate with kitchens these days, such as scrubbing, peeling and washing, were confined to a separate room called the scullery.
Before the likes of acrylic or laminate, wooden kitchen worktops would have been commonplace, thanks to the abundance of wood as a material and the ease with which it can be cleaned.
The modern day kitchen
In the brave post-war era, the world started looking towards new materials and technologies. With the Cold War in full swing, and with both the USA and the USSR sending men into space, anything seemed possible. Interior design, and specifically kitchen design, benefited from this bold experimentation with shapes and materials, resulting in some of the worktop surfaces we use today, including vinyl and laminate.
Since that period of austerity, kitchen styles have come and gone, with chunky, traditional units in neutral colour schemes, being replaced by cleaner, more contemporary styles, resulting in monochrome kitchens. Modern homes are returning to the idea of the separate kitchen and scullery, with the inclusion of utility rooms, where washing can be carried out separately.
The boundaries between rooms are now becoming more blurred. With flip down TVs and tablets, you are now just as likely to watch a film or your favourite soap opera in the kitchen, as you are in the living room. This has led to the rise in multi-functional kitchens, where space can be used for anything, including working and even sleeping!
Back to the future kitchen
When imagining the kitchen of the future, even Hollywood can get things wrong sometimes. In the ever-popular movie “Back to the Future”, the main character Marty McFly time travels ahead from 1985 to 2015. He visits his future family home, which contains a futuristic kitchen, giving us an intriguing insight into what people in the 1980s thought a kitchen would look like now.
In the imagined 2015 kitchen, pizzas are cooked instantly in a Black & Decker “Hydrator”, retractable fruit bowls drop out of the ceiling and windows come with a choice of view. Whilst none of these things have ever come to fruition, at least the film directors got a couple of things right. The McFly kids being lost watching screens, instead of engaging with their family, and the electronic cook book (many people now follow recipes on tablets or mobile devices), are just two of the things we can relate to. Voice-activated controls are also catching on in the modern home. With Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa leading the way, we are certainly not far off voice activated cookers, washing machines and even toasters. Indeed, a hands-free environment is an especially good idea for the kitchen, as we don’t always have clean hands!
Real kitchens of the future
Whilst the basic layout of your kitchen probably won’t differ too much, in say, 40 or 50 years time, the style will most certainly change. If we think our kitchen is minimalist now, we predict that they will become even more minimalist in the future, with clean colour schemes and a lack of clutter, thanks to smart storage. Of course, there will still be a place for more traditional elements, like solid wood worktops, as they will add a human touch to what could easily become a very sterile environment.
Look out for the following elements coming to a kitchen near you in the near future:
One of the biggest innovations of the last century was the invention of the fridge. Despite compression systems being invented in the early 19th century, it was until the early years of the 20th century that refrigerators started appearing in domestic kitchens. An automated version was devised in 1922, and was soon commercialised by Electrolux, becoming a global success.
In the future, the emphasis will be on energy saving and reducing food waste. One issue with modern fridges is that, our food is shut away, and more often than not, we end up forgetting about that bit of chicken hidden behind the yoghurts, until it is unusable.
A group from IDEO London, a leading global design firm, created a concept doorless refrigerator. With all food visible in clear containers, it is immediately obvious what is available to use. Each container is kept at its own temperature thanks to a cooling system built into the wall, so you can be assured of fresh food for longer.
Smart, energy-saving appliances
One of the major considerations for any home, and life in general it would seem, is saving energy. With the recent announcement that only new electric cars will go on sale by 2040, appliances need to be smarter. Gone are the days when the fridge freezer hummed away in the corner. Nowadays, appliances have to meet a certain rating, and in the future, appliances will be designed to take as little juice out of the grid as possible.
Clever rubbish collection
Recycling and waste management is something we are light years behind on here in the UK. Despite the fact that waste amenities are becoming smarter, we’re still not really in tune with it in our kitchens, where most of the waste begins. We’ll no doubt see more clever recycling units, with all organic waste being easily transferred to compost, and glass, plastic, paper, card and just about any material you can imagine, having its own bin. The issue of odour will also be dealt with.
There is already a whole range of taps which only require a touch with a forearm or elbow to turn them on and off. Spray functions also improve use when blasting crockery. Expect to see more digital taps in the future.
Not all water that goes down the plughole necessarily has to go straight into the drain. By providing two kitchen sinks, you can split your waste water between that which is “black” and potentially harmful (e.g. used for washing contaminated dishes) and that which is “grey” (e.g. water used to wash your hands), which can be recycled back into your system for use in your dishwasher or for watering plants.
Place an item of food going out of date on your smart worktop, and it will instantly provide details about that item, including a recipe, so you can make use of it. The aim is to reduce food wastage. The worktops of the future may still be made primarily from all the same materials, including laminate, acrylic and solid wood worktops, however a thin, smart screen may be applied to the surface, which can display all manner of information, without the need of a handheld device.