Major shifts resulting from the pandemic and other local and global events have impacted availability of energy, space, and food. These shifts have very quickly impacted how we need to live in our kitchens and have created new challenges for how we design them.
The duality of the kitchen—efficient workspace and social centre—is changing layouts and overall functionality. We’re looking at an increasingly connected space with a high priority on user experience. And that’s not just from the perspective of the chef or baker. It includes helpers, observers, and guests.
Have you spent time at a makeshift kitchen counter office recently? If yes, you know that you also need to consider how your kitchen can function as a work place.
What about as a dining space? Drop zone? Bar area? Social hub? Your needs dictate what is most important, but it’s easy to see how the demands on space have increased.
This means we need to invest in clever function. Efficient storage, multi-functional appliances, designated work stations, and right-height appliances and counters are some aspects to consider. You also want to be sure the kitchen has a strong internet connection and extra outlets and charging zones.
If you’re designing with the kitchen triangle in mind, know that you may want or need multiple work triangles to make the most of the space.
We’re looking at resources from multiple angles relative to the major challenges of future kitchens. The first is energy and water efficiency. Resources are not infinite, so choose appliances and fixtures that conserve.
Energy conservation extends into the materials we choose for our kitchens. Locally sourced, recycled, and reclaimed materials are preferable. Why? They’re better for the environment and contain less embodied energy in their production.
Overseas imports may be cheaper. However, depending on where items are made, they may include materials or parts that are considered unacceptable in North America. Lead and asbestos are prime examples. Is the savings worth the toxins that may come with them?
Consider, too, the paints and finishes you use. Zero or low-VOC options are available for every single product you may want or need in your kitchen.
Lastly, energy relates to your functional zones. Regardless of the size of your kitchen, why take five steps when something can be done in three? Group things together based on how they’re used. Create a prep station, a cooking station, a cleaning station, etc. for maximum efficiency. This really helps with living in place!
Food availability is factoring into the major challenges of future kitchens. Take a moment to consider how your grocery shopping shifted in the first several months of 2020. Are your habits the same as they were a year ago? Or are you more conscious now about what you buy and when you use it?
North Americans don’t have the best track record in terms of food waste. The amount of food that ends up in landfills is staggering. But we’re hopeful this has begun to change.
Canning and preserving, indoor and outdoor food gardens have seen a huge rise in popularity. On a larger scale, some municipalities are experimenting with composting and the production of biofuel that can be fed to the energy grid.
Technology is also helping with this. There are refrigerators that will identify what needs to be used and what you need to buy. They also suggest recipes based on what’s inside your fridge. Of course, there are also apps that will suggest recipes.
Another aspect of food relates to its storage. if you’re buying less processed food, you may have found that there’s not enough room in your fridge. It may be necessary to rethink your storage to better support your habits.
That may mean adding an undercounter fridge. There are both drawer and door models that are perfect for keeping your food fresh and accessible. You may also be able to alter some of your existing cabinets to accommodate things like onions or potatoes that do best in a cool, dry place.
Naturally, these three challenges – space, energy, and food – overlap and interact, each influencing how the others ultimately perform. While there are challenges in our future kitchens, the good new is that solutions exist and new ways of optimizing space, conserving energy and preserving healthy food are being imagined as we all move forward. If you’re not sure where to start, we’re happy to help!
Adaped from my Toronto-based colleague, Christina Mogk, MECC Interiors INC.