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?
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 a group of students from Lund and Eindhoven universities to explore the social, technological, and demographic forces that will impact how we behave around food in 2025.
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.
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. At a loss for 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.
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.
To explore Concept Kitchen 2025 in more detail, including interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and a gallery of students’ projects, check out the exhibition’s companion website here: conceptkitchen2025.com
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.www.industrialdesign.lth.se
The Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology 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.w3.id.tue.nl
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. We envision new companies and brands, and we design the products, services, spaces, and interactive experiences that bring them to life. We help organisations build creative culture and the internal systems required to sustain innovation and launch new ventures.ideo.com
IKEA continuously researches new ideas to develop affordable products and solutions that enable the many people around the world to live a better every day and sustainable life a home. We have developed at concept kitchen that represents the future functions and behaviours that may characterise customers’ life in the kitchen beyond 2020, focusing on activities such as growing, storing, preparing, cooking and disposing of food.ikea.com