Shrink to fit

Kitchens are disappearing – or so it seems. As pied-à-terre lifestyles – weekdays in the city, weekends in the country – become more common, the idea of a designated area to sequester dirty utensils appears to be giving way to the desire for a compact ensemble disguised as living-room furniture, an office, closet, table, sculpture, or something else all together.

“This trend is continuing to grow,” says Christoph Kirschner of the German kitchenmaker Häcker-Küchen. “We are doing more kitchens that you don’t see: kitchens that look like furniture that could go in the bedroom or in the living room, kitchens that are open to all spaces in the house.” Smaller urban living spaces and the popularity of open layouts are driving demand, he adds.

The roots of the move to minimalism extend to the 1920s and 1930s, according to Juliet Kinchin, curator of the Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (to March 14 2011). “I think you can take it back to the modernist preoccupation with giving the kitchen an ever smaller footprint,” she explains.

The hidden kitchen has recently received a luxury twist, offering premium materials, James Bond-like gadgetry, and designer signatures such as Giorgio Armani (with Dada) and Philippe Starck (for Warendorf).

The concept is perhaps epitomised in Italian kitchenmaker Berloni’s 2006 prototype “Not For Food”. Designed by Enzo Eusebi’s Nothing Studio, it integrated a kitchen, home office and sofa in a single, sleek, semi-circular carbon fibre structure. It has yet to reach production but tours the world in design exhibitions and is currently being shown as an example of Italian design excellence in Shanghai.

The Alessi kitchen

From £25,000 without appliances

Designed by Alessandro Mendini with Gabriele Centazzo, the kitchen incorporates energy-saving and ergonomic features, while creating, in Mendini’s words, an “enveloping, sinuous, curvy and dynamic sensation”.

The Library kitchen

Price varies with each project

One of four kitchens designed by Philippe Starck for Warendorf, this also functions as a dining area, bar and library.

Pipes and power cables are channelled through the fluted pedestals of the table, while appliances are hidden in the wall unit.

The Stealth kitchen

From $10,000, including appliances

US company Yestertec offers a range of mini-kitchens concealed in what appear to be cupboards and armoires, including this one in a Japanese Tansu style.

The Iris kitchen

From €30,000

Mobalpa’s design has bamboo cupboard fronts, a white Corian counter and tabletops that integrate food preparation and dining.

Available in 2011.

The Not For Food kitchen

Not yet commercially available

Berloni’s prototype, designed by Enzo Eusebi and the Nothing Studio, combines kitchen, lounging, a home office and multimedia into a single unit.

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