Would you live in a house without a kitchen? You might be, very soon
Report suggests kitchens will defunct by 2030, replaced by online ordering and shared amenities
A new study found that by 2030 we could see a scenario where “most meals currently cooked at home are instead ordered online and delivered from either restaurants or central kitchens”. Photograph: Getty Images
First they came for the walls. Kitchens went from being closed-off rooms of their own to morphing into the living space. Walk into any city apartment built in 2000 to 2010 and you’ll typically find an open-plan kitchen with a food preparation island.
Then they came for the islands. As property prices have grown, house sizes have shrunk, and the kitchen has been one of the first places where space has been sacrificed. CityRealty, a real estate listings and research service, notes that new rental developments in New York marketed to young people rarely even have kitchen islands now, and there’s often minimal counter space.
Shrinking kitchens aren’t just a New York phenomenon; earlier this year, research by British company LABC Warranty, which provides warranties for newly-built homes, found living rooms and kitchens in British homes have shrunk to levels last seen 80 years ago. According to the report, space dedicated to food preparation peaked in the 1960s and is now 13 per cent smaller in new-build homes.
While the kitchen used to be the heart of the home, it’s becoming more like an appendix. And it might not be long until it is disappears completely. A recent UBS research report, titled The End of the Kitchen?, posits that by 2030 we could see a scenario where “most meals currently cooked at home are instead ordered online and delivered from either restaurants or central kitchens”. In-home kitchens will shrink accordingly and we’ll see the rise of shared kitchens.
One factor driving the gradual extinction of the kitchen is the explosion of food delivery apps. According to UBS, food delivery apps are now, on average, in the top 40 most downloaded apps in major markets. They’re particularly beloved by millennials, who are three times more likely to order takeaway than their parents. “As this generation matures, home cooking could fade away,” the report suggests.
Ordering-in is gradually becoming not just more convenient, but more cost-effective than making a meal from scratch. “The total cost of production of a professionally cooked and delivered meal could approach the cost of home-cooked food, or beat it when time is factored in,” notes UBS. This is due to cheap labour courtesy of the gig economy. The rise in “dark kitchens”, prefab kitchens which various takeaway restaurants outsource their meal preparations to, have the potential to further reduce the cost of professionally prepared food.
Another trend threatening the future of the kitchen is the increase in single-person households, which make up more than 25 per cent in countries like the US and UK.
In response to the rise of people living alone, some startups have created “co-living” spaces, hotel-style blocks where people share communal spaces like living room and kitchens. The co-living market seems to be booming: Common, one such start-up, recently raised $40m in funding to expand across America. For $2,050 a month you can get a private room in Common’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn building. Your bedroom is all that is private; you share the kitchen with others in the suite. Single room occupancy housing is obviously not a new concept, however, the genius of late capitalism is that it has made it desirable.
A world where no one cooks at home but, instead, orders food made in dark kitchens delivered to their tiny apartments by low-paid gig-economy workers sounds dystopian.
However, some people think the idea of kitchenless homes is the key to a more collaborative and equitable society. Chief among these is Anna Puigjaner, a Spanish architect who, in 2016, won a prestigious Harvard University Graduate School of Design fellowship for a project called Kitchenless City: Architectural Systems for Social Welfare.
In an interview with ArchDaily, Puigjaner said she realised that “when we talk about housing there was no problem if you eliminated the living room or [a separate] bedroom, but if you touched the kitchen it generated a very curious adverse reaction. Kitchens were instilled with certain ideological values during the 20th century linked to the role of women, politics, and the construct of the ideal family”. Getting rid of a kitchen poses a threat to traditional ideas about family. For Puigjanert that’s a good thing, which pushes us to “[outsource] domestic work, with jobs where people receive compensation”.
They had similar ideas about kitchens in Soviet Russia. Speaking to NPR, Sergei Khrushchev, a retired professor and the son of Nikita Khrushchev, explained: “In Stalin’s time, the theoretical idea of communism declared that all people have to be equal and the women have to be free from the slavery work in the kitchen. There mustn’t be a kitchen in the apartment. You will go and eat in the cafeteria.”
– Guardian 2018