Clever Concept Tackles Movement Toward Smaller Kitchens

By Allie Weiss / Published by Dwell
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A modular culinary concept addresses the mass movement toward small-space living.

Homeowners may fantasize about large and luxurious kitchens replete with expansive ranges and stretches of glimmering countertops. But for many, the scale and price of these concepts are unattainable. When GE Appliances began to analyze census data a few years ago, it discovered that millennials and baby boomers—two of the most influential consumer groups—increasingly were opting to live in compact spaces in dense urban zones.

Dubbed the Monoblock, GE’s forward-thinking micro-kitchen concept boasts cooking, refrigeration, and cleaning modules joined in a compact unit. The project is part of FirstBuild, a joint venture between GE and the crowdsourcing platform Local Motors. The new model for appliance invention seeks to engage engineers, designers, and scientists by developing products and bringing them to market.

"It forced us to rethink what we should be doing in those living areas," says Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances. "A 30-inch freestanding range might be great for a 2,500-square-foot suburban tract home, but that won’t work for these smaller spaces."

Due out in late 2014, the mini-kitchen costs between $7,000 and $15,000, depending on features. Users can swap out standard technologies for pricier ones, such as an induction cooktop and Advantium Speedcook oven.

In response, GE dreamed up a modular micro-kitchen concept. Users can mix and match a series of drawers that contain microwave, oven, refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher units. All pieces hit the standard countertop height of 36 inches and run 24 inches across, narrower than the standard appliance width of 30 inches. The materials and finishes are customizable, and users can swap out standard technologies for pricier ones, such as an induction cooktop and Advantium Speedcook oven. With flat touch-based digital controls, the micro-kitchen is meant to serve as a seamless addition to compact quarters. Insulation technology helps ensure that noise levels are contained. "When you look at these smaller spaces, there is no ‘kitchen,’" Lenzi says. "It’s one open plan, so we really wanted the appliances to blend in."

All pieces hit the standard countertop height of 36 inches and run 24 inches across, narrower than the standard appliance width of 30 inches.

The kitchen features all flat, touch-based digital controls.

Allie Weiss

@allieweiss

Into cities, mornings, and Sriracha.

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