What does the kitchen of the future look like? To answer that question, IKEA invited Industrial Design (ID) students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and their fellow students from Lund in Sweden to use all their creative freedom.
Kitchen of the future
Of all the rooms in our homes the kitchen is the center of energy, activity, comfort, and creativity—the beating heart of any dwelling. In the coming decade as our environments and habits change, the kitchen as we know it will evolve drastically. More people will move into cities, and our living spaces will become smaller. Natural resources will become more scarce, food more expensive, and waste an increasingly urgent issue. Near-instant grocery delivery will alter how we shop for and store food, and technology will be embedded in every part of our homes.
What will the kitchen of the future look like, and, more importantly, what will it feel like to cook, eat, and socialize there?
IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organisations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.
For IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture store, the time to start designing the kitchen of 2025 is now. So IKEA asked IDEO London and design students School of Industrial Design at the Ingvar Kamprad Design Centre at Lund University, and the Industrial Design department at Eindhoven University of Technology, to explore the social, technological, and demographic forces that will impact how we behave around food in 2025.
Designers of tomorrow
The Department of Industrial Design at TU/Eindhoven performs research on and provides education in creating intelligent systems, products and related services. In this project students focused on creating opportunities for people to engage in expressive and rich interactions with future kitchen appliances and food.
The vision of the Eindhoven Industrial Design students is a perfect match for IKEA’s own vision, as shown by the presentations of the concepts. “The table incorporates ideas from a number of Industrial Design students”, explains Jelle Stienstra, PhD candidate and supervisor of the students. “Then the concepts were worked out further by IKEA together with the renowned international design bureau IDEO. Two of our Master’s students, Vincent van Rheden and Vleer Doing, were recruited for this project by IDEO.”
The students spent months researching people’s attitudes and ideas about cooking and eating, and IDEO designers guided them as they built concept kitchen products.
Lund University:”In the autumn of 2013, our first semester MA students joined IKEA and IDEO in the ‘Concept Kitchen 2025’ project. The students identified and used changing behaviours around food as a starting point for a design exploration of future kitchens, resulting in 14 concepts and invaluable insight for all”.
To bring these future concepts to the present day, IKEA asked IDEO to design and build a full-size concept kitchen for 250,000 visitors to test out at IKEA Temporary, a pop up running alongside the Salone Del Mobile in Milan and the six-month-long EXPO Milano.
Crucial to the success of the project was preserving the tactile creative pleasure of the kitchen. Technology could easily make the space feel robotic and sterile, but this project was guided by the need to keep tech in the background.
The Concept Kitchen 2025 doesn’t automate away personal choices, but rather facilitates mindfulness with embedded cues throughout the kitchen that subtly guide people toward being conscious of their actions and making informed decisions. In designing the prototypes, the following few concepts emerged.
The Modern Pantry encourages us to have a closer relationship with what we eat by storing food in transparent individual containers on open shelves rather than hiding it at the back of a fridge. The design makes it easy to be inspired by what’s on-hand rather than going out to buy more, and it also saves energy: Induction-cooling technology embedded into the shelves responds to RFID stickers on the food’s packaging in order to keep the containers at just the right temperature.
The Table For Living is designed to inspire people to be more creative with food and throw away less. Wondering what to do with that leftover broccoli? Just place it on the table, and a camera recognizes what it is and projects recipes, cooking instructions, and a timer directly onto the surface. Set the timer for the amount of time you can spend preparing the meal, and the table suggests recipes that can be completed in the window you have available. The table is a nifty solution for a smaller urban dwelling because it’s multimodal: Hidden induction coils only heat the inside of pans, rather than the surface, so it’s adjustable for working, cooking, or eating.
The Mindful Water System pushes us to be more conscious of our water consumption with a basin that pivots left and right. It must be tipped to one side to drain toxic, or “black” water, and the other for safe “grey” water, which can be filtered and used in a dishwasher or as nourishment for the cooking herbs that grow above the sink.
“We also wanted to work on the soul of the house, which very often is lost because of an excess of technology – explains Jelle Stienstra for Wired.it. So, on one hand we wanted to rethink how to involve children in the kitchen, and on the other hand we have decided to focus on a greater correlation between the machine and the personality and mood of the user. For example, we designed a coffee machine that is activated by pressing a lever: depending on how you press it, the strength and flavour of the coffee will be adjusted. In other words, the perfect drink to suit your mood. “
The Thoughtful Disposal system is a response to the overuse of landfills, and reminds us of exactly what we’re throwing away. Users manually sort recycling from rubbish, and recyclables are then crushed, vacuum-packed, and labeled for pick-up, earning credits for the conscientious (and debits for the wasteful).
IKEA’s kitchen and dining range manager Gerry Dufresne explains that the Concept Kitchen 2025 is not really a functional kitchen, but rather “a tangible communication of what the behaviors of the future will be.” It’s just the start of IKEA’s journey toward understanding how those behaviors will shape the company’s future, and Dufresne says the findings will be carried forward into future product development.
Ten years in the future, the world will be a very different place. What does that mean for us, for the design of kitchens, and the people who make them – and how will we be able to live a sustainable life at home?
Exhibition at IKEA temporary, Milan
One outcome of the 18 month long collaboration is the Concept Kitchen 2025 exhibition at IKEA Temporary in Milan, open from April 9 until 31 October. The exhibition is just one part of an ongoing investigation by IKEA into how people’s relationship to food is changing. The World Expo has the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. It serves to tangibly show what we might be doing in 2025: how we’ll be growing our food, storing it; how we’ll be cooking, eating, living and working in the kitchen.
“There was a lot of interest from the Italian media. That’s good, but for me the fact that a company like IKEA has adopted our ideas and responds positively to the vision of Industrial Design is even more important”, says Jelle Stienstra.
Another project presented at the Expo Milano: Jellyfish Barge