The Latest Kitchen Upgrade? Technology
71.8% of the homes in the United States have internet access. With the introduction of voice assistants, the dream of a fully automated smart house is ever more accessible to the average homeowner. So – how is this technology making a difference in how we operate in the kitchen? We’ll look at touchless fixtures, intelligent appliances, and motorized shelves, to name a few technology upgrades designed to simplify kitchen work.
Overall kitchen layout
A standard kitchen consists of cabinets, countertops, and appliances arranged to facilitate food storage and meal preparation. The addition of smart technology doesn’t affect the design and structural items – and don’t expect a robot that can dice your onions anytime soon! However, we have been embracing robot-like enhancements in the kitchen ever since the dishwasher became a staple appliance, and more recently, the introduction of programmable refrigerators and stoves.
Even with kitchen improvements available with technology, most homeowners still prioritize open space and a good work triangle to cook and entertain. Technology adds value to enhance their kitchen and dining experience, not to replace spending time together.
Touchless kitchen fixtures
Homeowners can now choose to control more of their home environment on their smartphones or through wireless voice commands. This control technology, incorporated into lighting, electrical switches, coffee pots, and small appliances like slow-cookers, makes it possible to program the desired on/off schedule and run lights and appliances remotely. Kitchen faucets and soap dispensers have become touch-free, allowing homeowners to simply wave their food-covered hands under the soap and faucet to wash up without contaminating the fixtures themselves.
Smart appliances are becoming more intelligent every year. Move over, little workhorse 4-cup coffee maker, and make room for a WIFI-controlled coffee machine. Everything from small appliances – like your coffee maker, slow cooker, toaster, and instant pot – to major fixtures like the stove, refrigerator, microwave, and convection oven now incorporate WIFI connectivity and a smartphone or tablet app. And for those appliances not yet upgraded, a homeowner can buy a WIFI-connected smart plug and control them with their phone or tablet.
You might think all this remote capability might lead to spending less time in the kitchen. It can – if that’s your preference. On the other hand, homeowners with smart appliances often find themselves free to talk and entertain in the kitchen area because there’s less need for dedicated focus on actual cooking.
For the homeowner contemplating a kitchen remodel, it’s worth planning additional countertop and cabinet space to accommodate smart appliances. This will allow you to keep surfaces free of clutter. If you are remodeling with an eye to future resale, millennial and Gen-Z homebuyers prefer flexible layouts that serve enthusiastic cooking families. These families give those smart appliances a regular workout but look for ample and convenient storage when the cooking is done.
Creative cabinetry – motorized shelves, pullouts, and rollouts
Almost every kitchen renovation comes with a desire to both expand and upgrade storage options. Cabinet manufacturers recognize this need and bring a wealth of ideas to the table.
The original pullout has been around since the dawn of cabinets in the form of the drawer. Today’s drawers are deeper and often feature accessories like peg systems to hold dishware or pots and pans in place while the drawer slides nicely back into the cabinet. There is also an array of in-drawer organizers to house multiple smart thermometers. You’ll now see between-the-cabinet pullouts tucked into previously wasted space, creating valuable inches of additional storage. These shelves give homeowners the option of an extra pantry, spice rack, utensil holder, or space to store smaller items they want easily accessible but off the counter.
In-cabinet rollouts have become the perfect home for many of the new smart appliances. For example, the instant pot (a relatively large unit that doesn’t always fit easily in a conventional cupboard) can live on the rollout when not in use. Along with a smart hotplate that fits on the same shelf, the rollout glides smoothly in and out from a deep base cabinet, a big help for a heavier appliance.
Today’s cabinet craftsmen spin that convenience up one more notch with motorized shelves. These units install within a countertop as a section that raises when the appliance stored on the shelf is in use and descends back to a flush countertop when the work is done. Similarly, you can house a flat-screen TV within a motorized cabinet fixture that lifts the TV when it’s time to watch and then stores it out of sight, to restore full use of the countertop surface.
Designing a functional smart kitchen calls for creativity and a good understanding of how the homeowner wants and needs to use their kitchen and new smart appliances. As a kitchen contractor, consultation with an experienced designer about optimizing a layout to make the best use of technology in the kitchen will help you better serve your clients when they ask for smart tech additions.