The latest design concepts that could help make the kitchen the most important room in your world. Think you could do better? Are the designers missing a trick? Make your suggestions for the future kitchen...
These days, although 'future kitchen' predictions are still with us, they are less about a convenient future, and more about an inconvenient present. A present, let us not forget, that seems constructed on the trashed future kitchens of the past - the hulks of CFC-emitting refrigerators, rusting and leaking away in long-forgotten landfill.
No one wants to be a consumer anymore; we all want to be reducers. The global population will hit nine billion in our lifetimes, and the UN forecasts that over 70 per cent of us will be urban-dwelling. The kitchen of the future, then, is going to have to carry the can for recycling our waste in a carbon efficient way.
At Grand Designs Live 2010, the House of the Future is entirely open-plan and clinically white. Round the corner is a rather different example of a space-saving kitchen. The Anima concept kitchen employs one space to make two rooms. An oblong unit serves as preparing/dining surface, until a storage unit slides up from the middle at the touch of a button. On one side it has kitchen shelves with utensils and glasses; on the other - a living space is created with a built-in TV. Just add chairs.
Also designed to combat space constraints, Electrolux's future concept - 'Heart of the Home' - has an amorphous surface, so that it can be bar/cooker at the touch of your hand. Press the surface and its malleable material will achieve the depth of a saucepan. Temperature controls will materialise to be touched.
So that's space efficiency, but what about energy efficiency? After all, any new house currently being built is obliged to achieve European targets and adhere to the Code for Sustainable Homes. By 2013, carbon emissions will need to be 44 per cent less than now; by 2016 the target is zero carbon emissions for all new homes.
Well, the 'Cub' house, designed by former fashion entrepreneur Charlie Greig, has air source hot water, solar panels, rainwater-harvesting and low-energy lighting. Sinks also have flow restrictors in their taps - aeration meaning no low flow. If you leave a standard tap running for a minute, you use ten litres of water, whereas the flow-restricted taps in the Cub house use seven.
Then there's waste. In the US around 80 per cent of kitchen waste is disposed of via a sink grinder. In the UK, grinder use is minimal, yet households throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food a year. There is a landfill directive to cut food waste 20 per cent by 2013, 50 per cent by 2018. The InSinkErator waste disposal system pulps waste into tiny pieces, before it joins the sewage via the plughole and is transported to treatment plants, which process it into compost or biofuel.
Water scarcity is also clearly on the minds of kitchen designers. Naturewash has been designed by Zhenpeng Li, a student of Zhejiang University in China. It looks like a sunlounger with grass upholstery, but is in fact a new concept washing machine. Lay your clothes on the sunlounger - whether you're still wearing them or not - and negative ions and air will refresh your nano-technology-coated fabrics by moving through the grass. Li's inspiration comes from the 'sweet smell of grass' and the desire to remain close to nature.
The invention reached the shortlist of Electrolux's Design Lab 2009 competition, where undergraduate and graduate industrial design students put forward innovative ideas for household appliances of the future - within the next 90 years.
Designed to be available roughly 80 years sooner is The Aion. This free-standing plant feature by Antoine Lebrun for FagorBrandt uses vegetable and electro-mechanical technology. But these are no ordinary plants, they have cleaning properties developed by the aerospace industry, according to future gadgets site Tuvie.com. When you open up the planter it becomes a hood, revealing a workspace and sink. Close it again with your dirty dishes and a cleaning cycle begins using plant soap and renewable water.
Another innovative approach to water shortage is the Water Catcher. Penghao Shan, of Zhejiang Sci-tech University in China, was also a Design Lab finalist. His effort was described by Electrolux's senior vice president of global design, Henrik Otto, as a cross between 'a beach ball and a humming bird'. This white 'tennis ball' uses little flapping wings to fly out of the window, collect rainwater in its top and return to a magnetic homing tray which purifies the water. Once purified, the ball flies the drinking water to the user's glass, where it dispenses it. Shan also found his inspiration in nature - watching how insects collect and store water.
The winner of Design Lab was Rickard Hederstierna (Lund University, Sweden) with his Cocoon. He was inspired by the desire for sustainable living - inventing a device which could rule out intensive meat farming. Or meat altogether. Cocoon is spherical, blue, and prepares pre-packaged meat and fish dishes. This, however, hasn't come from any animal, it is genetically modified. A sealed packet is heated in Cocoon's bowl - muscle cells are identified by radio frequency identification (RFID) signals, to determine fish or fowl and the required cooking time.
Other Design Lab ideas included the Moleculaire, a funnel-tower which also has an RFID scanner. Nico Klaber's idea was to bring molecular cooking to a wider audience using a 3D printer. Blister packs containing various ingredients and Algin gel are printed by a computer numerical control (CNC) food printer, layer by layer. Also, Dulyawat Wongnawa's Teleportation fridge, which teleports photons in 'quantum entanglement', might just slot into that space left by the discarded dishwasher.W ell, no one said sustainability had to be boring, so let's see what lasts until next year.