Is the ultimate kitchen really called a "kitchen" anymore?
October 25, 2007 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing a research project where I'm trying to envision the 'kitchen of the future' - the way to organise your kitchen/eating/etc area so that in 5, 10, and 20 years that it will work well for a busy family with kids. We do so much in our kitchens! A lot of people already consider it their homes' "command centre", where they spend a lot of their time and where people congregate. Help me out (please!) and let me know: - What do you do in your kitchen/eating area? - What do you wish you could do? Better, more easily, or at all? - What would your ultimate kitchen have - as far as setup and 'stuff' - to make it the ultimate centre of your home?
posted by Kololo to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might think about posting this question on the kitchen forum. The TKO (Truly Kitchen Obsessed) would love to have a go at your question.
posted by pammo at 5:13 PM on October 25, 2007

I do nothing in my kitchen because my roommate is always leaving coffee grounds and dirty dishes and crap out. It doesn't matter what you put in my Ultimate Kitchen of the Future, so long as you never put her in it.

Seriously, though, I don't spend much time in my kitchen and never have. There would have to be some pretty shmancy gadgets in there for me to consider it a "command center" instead of "where I keep the beer."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:14 PM on October 25, 2007

This is the second time in AskMe that I've had the chance to recommend The Bathroom, the Kitchen, and the Aesthetics of Waste by Ellen Lupton. It's an in-depth look at how the kitchen has developed in America.

You'll also want to look into the Rhode Island School of Design's Universal Kitchen project.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:17 PM on October 25, 2007

I don't know how it could be accomplished, but my ideal kitchen would support all cooking activities, plus somehow hide those cooking activities from view when sitting at table, thus obliterating the desire for a separate dining room. It'd also have a command station for bringing up music and podcasts. In addition to being a cooking room, it'd also be a craft room, because lots of projects need water and a big sink.
posted by xo at 5:19 PM on October 25, 2007

I'd like a family room incorporated into the space. Just a bit of space with a sofa and room for the kids to play while I cook or hang out in the kitchen.

I'd like a networked computer that allows me to interact with my home office server without having to drag it out. Ideally, it would be totally kid-proofed.
posted by acoutu at 5:31 PM on October 25, 2007

There's at least a decent argument that people won't cook at all in 20 years, unless it's a hobby or lifestyle choice. Assuming the trend of prepared foods and prepped ingredients continues, why would anyone bother assembling food and heating it to doneness in their own home? Such fuss and bother.

Maybe there'll be some sort of speedy convection heater to reheat the food you have delivered.

Maybe K-cups will have improved to the point where something like that can produce decent hot beverages on demand without brewing, waiting, or tolerating badness. Though cooking declines, snacking will probably remain popular, and getting hot coffee the minute the urge strikes would be a welcome improvement.

Perhaps the kitchen will disappear completely, melding with the home entertainment function now centered in LRs and family rooms. The 'kitchen' will integrate and become embedded with furnishings, in the way giant new sofas already come with the built-in-refrigerator concealed by upholstery. Maybe the kitchen stuff will shrink down into a bar-like wall unit right there in the LR, able to heat, chill, freeze, broil, and store readymade processed food.

Maybe the need for refrigeration will be reduced if we develop more advanced means of freeze-drying and sealing food indefinitely.

I don't really think any of these things are likely to happen. I think we will preserve at least the appearance and ritual of cooking and serving food at home. Changes will echo the pattern set with 20th century advances - when it became possible to create a cake mix to which the cook had to add only water, it wasn't successful. People didn't feel like they were 'cooking' and didn't trust the mix. So the mixes were redesigned to include the cook - the cook now had to add eggs and oil, which had originally been incorporated into the mix batter. Problem solved - now people felt more equity in the cake and their sense of having contributed to the family through creative labor was satisfied. We may not lose that impulse for a very long time.
posted by Miko at 5:32 PM on October 25, 2007

hide those cooking activities from view when sitting at table,

You could do that with a bi-level design and open plan, where the table level is a few feet lower than the food-prep level. The finished food would be carried gracefully downstairs or delivered in a dumbwaiter, but you wouldn't be able to see high enough to catch the mess in the sink. But you'd still be able to talk with the cooks, listen to the same music, smell the cooking, etc.
posted by Miko at 5:34 PM on October 25, 2007

I wouldn't want to hide cooking activities at all. My ideal kitchen would be a huge open room with enough space to have ten friends around all having enough space to prepare something, and a giant table in the middle where we can all sit afterwards.

Oh, and it's outside in Tuscany and there's always perfect weather and the herb garden is designed so that it grows into the kitchen right where you need it.
posted by twirlypen at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2007

I would want a Home Irradiation unit to seal and preserve food for months at a time
posted by Megafly at 5:39 PM on October 25, 2007

I do a lot of cooking + prep from scratch, which involves a lot of rinsing/washing vegetables and fruits. The water going down the sink does not include grease at all. I was planning to work on a device that is attached under the sink, when non-greasy water is anticipated that could conveniently (with a push of a button or pull of a lever) divert the water to a water harvesting tank which in turn could be used for watering the plants or whatever. This is a specific idea, but if you could recycle any substance (water in this case) or resource (perhaps harvesting the energy you are using from the oven) that would be a good design point.
posted by eebs at 5:46 PM on October 25, 2007

Currently my kitchen is very narrow, maybe 8 foot across and 12 foot deep. A line of cabinets along the front and back walls, with a single window on the wall in between. Sink and stove opposite each other.

The trick is to have just what you need and nothing more. Someday I'll figure that out.

I'd like a bigger kitchen with at least cabinets along the east and south walls.

An interesting design tool to try is the Sims - in build mode, you can experiment with different housing and kitchen designs, with the Sim characters acting as testers. You'll need a 3D modeling program to import new and custom designs into the Sims for testing.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2007

Okay, this is what I want:

Bar code reader (I know they've had them for years, but hell, my two dishwashers are biological) so that I can add to my shopping list as I use things.

Computer access: I really want to be able to google recipes as needed and not have to print them. The computer needs a plastic keyboard protector.

Decent recycling/garbage options - ideally three tubes that never require cleaning that transport compost things, recycling things, and can't-do-anything-with-garbage things.

The computer would be good for family calendar scheduling too. (I currently use a huge blackboard for to do's and date reminders and shopping lists.)

I want cupboards I can reach the back of - this silly U-shape kitchen of mine has deep spots where I have to lie on the floor with my head in the cupboard to actually reach right to the back.

I don't want any cupboard below waist height. Okay, maybe some drawers, but I just can't see in there unless I contort.

Give me a benches that are a decent height, not made for the midgets of the 20th century.

I want to be able to access a number of appliances easily (toaster, kettle/jug, blender, sandwich maker, electric frypan, mixmaster, microwave) without having to clutter up my bench tops. In fact, if they were in cupboards at the back of the bench tops and all I had to do was drag them forward, that would make me pretty happy.

A big kitchen table for the little kids to do homework at, so I can peer over their shoulders while I'm peeling veges would be good, and obviously, a kitchen big enough to accomodate that. And a cupboard for stationery type things (that can go near the computer) because for sure, my kids can't find their pencil/ruler/scissors.

sigh. none of this would fit in my teeny kitchen.
posted by b33j at 5:58 PM on October 25, 2007

My kitchen has pretty much the same stuff as a kitchen of 30 years ago, give or take the microwave.
posted by rhizome at 6:04 PM on October 25, 2007

Cooking, bike repair, most power tool use. Hardly ever eating.

Kitchens are shaped at least as much by resale value as by any practical consideration.
posted by Chuckles at 6:11 PM on October 25, 2007

There's at least a decent argument that people won't cook at all in 20 years, unless it's a hobby or lifestyle choice. Assuming the trend of prepared foods and prepped ingredients continues, why would anyone bother assembling food and heating it to doneness in their own home? Such fuss and bother.

Because prepared food tends to be crap and some people still like their food to taste good?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:28 PM on October 25, 2007

I love my great big drawers for plates and pots and pans, and plastics.
posted by maloon at 6:43 PM on October 25, 2007

This kitchen was featured in Better Homes and Gardens (shut up, it's actually not as Grandma as you'd think) a few months ago. The color scheme is not my favorite but I think it's got lots of practical, life-friendly features.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:55 PM on October 25, 2007

slightly off topic but that Better Homes and Gardens kitchen is bad-ass. I thought I had finished a design for my kitchen remodel. Back to the drawing board. That amount of functionality of that design blows my mind.
posted by toomuch at 9:38 PM on October 25, 2007

My kitchen is really just used for cooking, eating and entertaining.

Design Boom had a contest not too long ago about redesigning the kitchen. Might have some inspiration there.
posted by comiddle at 1:10 AM on October 26, 2007

I have always wanted to keep all my pots and crockery on hooks and in big racks above the sink and draining board, so that everything can just get put away wet. Either that, or just have a small fleet of dishwashers, so that you never have to unstack one in order to use it; you'd just put everything dirty into whichever one has the most space in it, hit Wash when it filled up, and then just leave things in there until you needed them again. Probably a couple of benchtop-size ones to hold plates and crockery, and a couple of big ones for pots would do.
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2007

Call me a contrarian, but there are a few things that bug me about this all-in-one family/kitchen room approach. I'm firmly in the "kitchen is for cooking" camp.

Like it or not, I read a nasty sub-text in the BH&G design. It's has the air that it's the "woman's place" with the "mom centre" and the attached children's play area. It feels both exclusionary and paternalistic at the same time. I always get the creeps from designs like this.

Additionally, this design too often implies a separation in the house between the "use" rooms, the kitchen/family area, and "display" rooms, "living room" and a formal dining room at the front of the house. This implies duplication between a fomal "living" and dining areas and everyday living and dining areas. This, in turn, requires much bigger houses (the monster house syndrome) and the attendant problems of people feeling alienated in their own dwellings.

Incidentally, I figure this is why parties end up in the kitchen. If the "living areas", really display areas, are uncomfortable and formal, people tend to naturally migrate into the less formal, more comfortable family settings. In those houses where the living room is really for living and the kitchen is just for cooking, I find that gathering tend to stay in the living areas.

Finally, there are practical issues for wanting the kitchen to be for cooking only. Most of the moms I know (let alone the dads) are quite happy to have a room for the kids to play in by themselves, if only to give themselves a chance to have some downtime. Putting that room in the kitchen seems to defeat that purpose. If you need an additional playroom, well, that's monster-house thinking again.

I understand that these rooms look very attractive and really bump up the perceived value of a new or renovated house, but I think the use-case for them is quite weak. I also find the social message they convey, both the implied paternalism and resource-hungry need for conspicuous consumptive display of public and private spaces rather distasteful.
posted by bonehead at 7:25 AM on October 26, 2007

Because prepared food tends to be crap and some people still like their food to taste good?

Absollutely, I completely agree that processed is crap, and I'm one of those people who likes to cook and likes food to taste good, but I think it has to be admitted that it's an intentional lifestyle choice of a subsector of the population, not the broad cultural pattern

Those of us who still cook with whole foods are in a distinct minority. Think of the changes to the grocery store in the last 20 years. In the 80s, the grocery store had most of what it does today - deli, produce, dry goods, and boxed mixes. But today groceries have reduced the proportions of unprocessed (whole) foods and begun offering far more prepared or semi-prepared foods. Pre-cooked, diced chicken breast. Pre-shredded hash brown potatoes. Cooked rotisserie chickens. Entire meals such as pasta with shrimp and sauce bagged and frozen. Complete skillet entrees. These branded ingredients do not really require anything you could call cooking - they require only heating. Since this trend has grown exponentially despite the minority undercurrent that is interested in cooking from scratch, and since people are finding themselves with less time around the house as well, I see no reason for this trend to reverse -- even though I'm not really part of it.

Let's face it - even if there are people who like real food made from ingredients, most people don't value it all that highly. Spend a few hours at a grocery store on a Saturday and look in the carts. Reflect on the fact that packaged, branded foods are worth more in value-added markup to globalized food corporations than unbranded fresh produce, meats, and dry goods. They will keep pushing more of this stuff, and as it continues to get easier to put hot food on the table with minimal effort, there's no reason to think people are going to do it less, unless cultural trends change drastically in a way I'm not sure we can count on.
posted by Miko at 8:04 AM on October 26, 2007

Response by poster: This is fantastic! I'm going to extend the question, in case anyone is still answering.

What do you think will be the ultimate kitchen for the "aging baby boomer segment" - the huge chunk of our population that will soon be 'seniors' but that will want to continue living in their homes?
posted by Kololo at 1:08 PM on October 26, 2007

To answer your extension, wheelchair access and accessible design would be the obvious features. Some sort of automated device that helps people keep their medications straight would be helpful to a lot of people. Maybe a pill compartment would open up at a certain time with a reminder (auditory or visual, depending on the abilities of the individual) to take with/without food.
posted by yohko at 5:45 PM on October 26, 2007

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