The social kitchen

Mark Elmore, head of design at Fisher & Paykel highlights the need for a social kitchen in the home

As designers of kitchen appliances, we believe that great kitchens are crucial to wellbeing. The kitchen is the heart of the home. It can be both a retreat from a busy chaotic world and a social hub. It is where we nourish, we collaborate, we create and juggle busy lives. Its importance in wellbeing and health cannot be overlooked.

There’s nothing worse than appliances that dominate or fight with the design of the kitchen and so it is crucial that appliances seamlessly integrate into the kitchen. As kitchens evolve to be more like living spaces, technology is becoming more embedded with a focus on simple, discreet interfaces that don’t overwhelm.

The predominance of inner-city and apartment living as populations become more urbanised shapes the choice a consumer can make around home and kitchen design. Any home should be a sanctuary and we see demand for beautiful compact kitchens and appliances that fit seamlessly into the wider living spaces. Respect for our interaction with the environment is causing change as consumers are opting for brands that are serious about sustainability.

Our world is changing at a pace never seen before. The way we live, interact, and what’s important to us as consumers in in constant flux. We call it Design for a Changing World. It is the result of macro changes in the way we live, and these relate directly to our beliefs on health and wellbeing. A generational shift has occurred – Millennials are now the largest consumer group globally and with them comes a different set of values. A willingness to spend disposable income, a deep care for food and its provenance, a love of design and a desire for the finer things. They are looking for something fresh, new and authentic. Global lifestyles, cultures, mobility and urbanisation are distinct but intertwined.

In kitchen design, the ‘work triangle’ was based on moving between the key mechanisms of the hob and oven, the fridge and the sink. This was derived from an efficient time-and-motion study – based on a production-line metaphor. This efficiency makes cooking seem a task: something we had to do alone, as quickly as possible and get out. But now we create and experiment. The kitchen is now our metaphorical ‘shed’ where we tinker, perhaps making it up as we go along, perhaps following a recipe. More people are moving into the kitchen. At parties, rather than just sitting and watching the theatre unfold, the guest is picking up the wooden spoon and giving the pot a stir. It is now a team effort.

Fisher & Paykel calls this “The Social Kitchen” philosophy and it remains at the forefront of the trends influencing modern interior design and construction. As an appliance innovator, it is our role to continue our active collaboration with housebuilders to ensure our products continue to meet their needs as well as those of our customers.

The notion of the Social Kitchen underpins our design philosophy in developing flexible appliances that can be distributed throughout the kitchen and tailored to individual lifestyle needs. The key to the social kitchen is understanding patterns of use – here, we engage and interact with family and friends at parties; we do homework and spend time on our hobbies.

Considered kitchens reflect this in their layout – from the efficient single person space using the work triangle to distributed appliances in work zones that allow family and friends to prepare and share a meal together.

Often the design of modern homes does not allow space for separate hobbies or workshop rooms – we see the kitchen as a place for everyone to experiment, be creative and perhaps go from being a novice to an expert in baking or a new style of cooking. This can create a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction; our role is to work in the background and to provide discrete technologies without technology overload, but also have the sophistication to provide the perfect cooking result for both the novice and the expert.

To successfully create this social hub it’s important to open up the kitchen design and to move the appliances out into places that allow work zones for more than one person. This means that a friend or partner can pick up a knife and chop some vegetables or stir the sauce – creating a shared experience. Today’s kitchen needs to be able to respond to these needs through modular distribution and exceptional functionality.

Curating a collection of kitchen appliances that can adapt to the physical, architectural, sociological and psychological changes that are occurring in today’s and tomorrow’s kitchens can only be done by working closely with specifiers who are responsible for bringing these spaces to life.