11 Small Kitchens That Grow, Move, and Change the Way You Think About Kitchens

The Kitchen of the Future Today

Two people standing in a large retro kitchen
credit: RetroRenovation

The dream kitchen used to be big, big enough to swing a water ski in. To have an aquarium in the island. But as we urbanize and move into smaller spaces, the kitchen has to adapt to the time and the space available.

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Joe Colombo's Mini Kitchen

credit: Joe Colombo/ BOFFI

In 1964, Joe Colombo designed the Carrellone mini-kitchen that caused a sensation at the 13th Milan Triennale. It packed everything you need, fridge, and stove, into a tiny box. It didn't have a sink because that needs a permanent plumbing connection.

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Joe Colombo's mini kitchen returns

credit: Boffi

You can get a lot into a tiny kitchen unit; Boffi has reintroduced the Compact Kitchen and I was surprised how much they show here. But do you need so much? Food writer Mark Bittman says that all you need really is "A stove, a sink, a refrigerator, some pots and pans, a knife and some serving spoons, All else is optional." He doesn't think much of people who spend a fortune on fancy kitchens, and writes in the Times:

When it comes to kitchens, size and equipment don't count nearly as much as devotion, passion, common sense and, of course, experience. To pretend otherwise -- to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on a kitchen before learning how to cook, as is sadly common -- is to fall into the same kind of silly consumerism that leads people to believe that an expensive gym membership will get them into shape or the right bed will improve their sex life. As runners run and writers write, cooks cook, under pretty much any circumstance.
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Lessons from Camping: Coleman Kitchen

credit: Coleman

There are a lot of lessons we can learn about moveable feasts from camping equipment. If you don't cook that much, why have a big kitchen? For that matter, why have the kitchen take up space all the time when you don't need it? This folding kitchen from Coleman might be all that you really need.

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Kanz Field Kitchen

credit: Kanz

A hundred years ago, kitchens were pretty much portable, with tables for working in the middle and cabinets against the walls, separate from the stoves and the iceboxes and sinks. There is some logic to it; you can mix and match the pieces easily and you an take it with you when you move. The Kanz companyhas an entire line of cabinets on legs where you can build a field kitchen in your home.

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Snow Peak Comes Inside

credit: Lloyd Alter

Another company that makes outdoor kitchens that might work indoors is the Japanese camping equipment company Snow Peak, which is so confident about the design of their stuff that they brought it to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. They make it well and they make it to last:

We believe that quality is better than quantity. In a time when most things are built as merely "pre-landfill", we are striving to bring you products that will last longer than you.
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Bringing the Field Kitchen Indoors

credit: Joko Domus

You can carry the idea to extremes with the Cun Kitchen from JokoDomus. I wrote:

There is a lot to love about this idea. It frees us from the tyranny of the 36" countertop and can put everything at the appropriate height, covered with an appropriate material. One could say that it is greener because you don't have to buy your whole kitchen at once, but can build it incrementally according to need and budget. You can move things around and even outside in summer.

What's not to love? There are a lot more surfaces to clean, a lot more places to drop gunk. It probably costs a lot more money.

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Michael Jantzen's Convertible Kitchen

credit: Michael Jantzen

Kitchens don't have to be against a wall, either; putting them in the middle, with all sides accessible, creates some interesting opportunities and a lot more frontage. Back in 1976, Michael Jantzen designed this wonderful unit that is in the middle of a cabin; when it is time to eat, you pop up the sides and it becomes a dining room.

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Arthur Bonnet's Island Kitchen

credit: Arthur Bonnet

French kitchen designer Arthur Bonnet does an update of the full island kitchen here. It is hardly a space-saver, and running from the sink to the range is a big circle instead of a short triangle. but I liked the way it floats as a centerpiece in the room. Commenters were dismissive, saying "Conventional bathroom/kitchen designs exist for a reason...wiring and plumbing are easy to run" but that is letting the electricians and plumbers design your house. I disagree.

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RuBIKA slips and slides into different shapes

credit: Lodovico Bernardi

Lodovico Bernardi's RuBIKA is another example of how kitchen components can move and shift according to need. It's a kitchen! It's a dining table!

It's conceived for small spaces to gives wide versatility to the kitchen's room. You can use the kitchen and the table as you want and as you need by moving and rotating it. Rubika's project permits a drastic reduction of material than a normal kitchen's furniture.
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Circle Kitchen/ Orgasmatron

credit: Clever Kitchen

Then there is the famous Circle Kitchen, winner of a Red Dot Design Award. I has the equivalent of 12 cupboards in a rotating kitchen, with doors that close to cover all of your unwashed dishes, at which point it is a dead ringer for Woody Allen's Orgasmatron from Sleeper. Somehow it has flexible plumbing and wiring connections that keep working while it spins.

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Philippe Starck's Tower for Warendorf

credit: Warendorf

Philipe Starck takes an interesting turn on the Rotating kitchen with his twin turning towers for Warendorf, which include ovens, microwave, dishwasher and fridge. The sink and stove are on the separate island, and are beautifully detailed. It is efficient and open, and leaves lots of room for a woman in evening wear to use her jackhammer on big chunks of glass.

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Targa Italia Folds Into Box

credit: Targa Italia

For sheer elegance and simplicity, I don't think anything matches Piero Esposito of Targa Italia's Opening.

A fine piece of furniture and a kitchen at the same time, Opening appears as a block of precious wood, totally smooth, absent and essential: when it is closed it does not reveal its being a kitchen, which however hides astonishing potentialities inside.

I am not certain that this is the thing for someone who cooks a lot; a "block of precious wood" does not make a good work surface. But it would be a killer in a small urban apartment.

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The Kitchen of the Future

Who knows what the kitchen of the Future will really look like; we are having trouble keeping up with the changes in the Kitchen of the Present.