retro kitchen

IKEA’s Kitchen of the Future

Here is another great piece on innovation in one of the most important rooms in the house – the kitchen. And as with many of the other innovations in this area that we have shared here on EID it comes from Northern Europe. In this case from a partnership between IKEA, Lund University, and Eindhoven University – with an assist from that fantastic source of design thinking – IDEO.

The design students spent months researching people’s attitudes about cooking and eating and how the world of food might change over the next decade. After the students came up with more than 20 visions for future kitchens—from a shared community kitchen for city neighborhoods to an interactive chef’s hat that teaches kids to cook through games—Ideo built a working prototype.

No, this is not simply a repetition of the ideas in the previous examples. There is a lot of new food for thought (see what I did there ☺).

My Take

Let’s put together two principles that will be no surprise to anyone. First, we waste a ton of food. I have heard many estimate that about one-third of all the food we produce gets wasted somewhere in the supply chain. Second is a simple human factors design principle – make the information that users need visible. Put these two together and what do you get? Make your food storage transparent. As soon as you look over towards your food storage areas: refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, pantry – not only can you see the boxes and bags of food, you can see the food itself. How much is left? Is it getting close to that sketchy point where you will need to throw it away?


We can also make the structure (e.g. doors), shelving and storage containers transparent. We can see what is hiding in the back of the closet or the fridge. Even better, reconfigure the layout completely so there is no “in the back” and nothing gets hidden by the items in front of it.


The ideas above work as long as you can get by with a smaller fridge, smaller cabinets, and so on. How is this possible? In generations past, that was the norm rather than the exception. People walked down to the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker every two or three days. Now (sooner than you think), we will have instant delivery with drones. Drones are enough of a hot button topic that I will leave it for another time. But put it on the list and get ready to discuss. Even without drones, Google, Amazon, and some local entrepreneurs are rolling out one-hour grocery delivery services.

Another innovative idea I like is the projection system. If you are trying to cut strips of steak against the grain, it can project a red laser along the steak showing you where to cut. It can help you keep your cut straight and the thickness appropriate for the recipe. I don’t see the environmental savings on this one, but it was too interesting to leave out.


There are some interesting innovations for more environmentally responsible disposal of the waste that we can’t get away from. Many innovations we see use cameras and sensors to see what food we have and suggest recipes. What if the disposal system does the same? It sees what we are disposing, filters it into the correct disposal system, and disposes of it using the most environmentally friendly process? Organic waste can be composted. Glass and plastic go to recycling centers. And so on.

They add a nice incentive – the system can keep track and reward the homeowner with energy credits when they dispose efficiently. As we have discussed, extrinsic rewards are not the best, and can be counterproductive in many cases. But if it is framed properly they can help users improve their recycling behavior over time.


They have an interesting sink design that does something similar. A sensor in the basin evaluates the contents of the water and decides where to move it to. Clean water can be circulated back into a primary source like showers. Moderately gray water can be used for toilet flushing. If it is full of food nutrients it could be good for watering the flowers or irrigating the lawn. The nasty stuff goes to the more heavy duty metropolitan waste system.

Your Turn

I am interested to hear your ideas on this one. As a cook or as a designer. Or the behavioral science in the disposal incentives. Lots to comment on here.

Image Credit: Lori L. Stalteri

3 thoughts on “IKEA’s Kitchen of the Future”

  1. Interesting topic! I’d like to see systems that can monitor what is wasted to a)suggest it’s not bought again and/or b)suggest how it could be used.
    Also an IOT for the kitchen that monitors the contents of cupboards and suggests recipes that can be made from ingredients that are in there, or to find ones that could be quickly delivered by drone.

    1. How about if the cupboard monitors specifically suggest recipes for the items that are nearing their expiration dates – helping us use them before they go bad.

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