The kitchen may forever be the heart of the home, but a newly released study reveals that the space is evolving rapidly as an impactful, multi-functional hub, with advancements in technology, design and materials helping to foster wellness and sustainability.
All of this is underscored by the 2019 Global Kitchen Study, a major research initiative conducted by the Silestone Institute, the research arm of Cosentino Group. The study, whose results were released at a New York press event this fall, was based on findings derived from an international survey of kitchen design firms, as well as through insights from experts in the design, culinary, domestic technology, sociology, nutrition and sustainability fields. This year’s study – entitled Global Kitchen: The Kitchen, The Heart of the Home – is the second report of its kind issued by Cosentino, the Almeria, Spain-based supplier of architectural surfacing solutions, including Silestone, Dekton and Sensa by Cosentino.
According to the study’s findings, kitchens “act like a microcosm of the culture and social structure” of the societies that use them, evolving as a reflection of social, cultural and technological advances.
“Kitchens are a meeting point for families during meals, a space for monitoring our nutrition and health, a platform for actions that protect the environment, an area of gratification and personal learning when cooking [and] a space to work or play,” Cosentino said. “All of these uses, and many more, are what mark the evolution of the domestic kitchen.”
Key trends identified in the 2019 Global Kitchen Study include the evolution of the kitchen as a multi-functional and social space; the growing use of technology in the kitchen; an emphasis on healthier lifestyles and environment awareness, and kitchens evolving as a reflection of social changes, including gender equality and the expanding role of women in the workplace.
Among the study’s key conclusions were the following:
- The kitchen is maintaining its central role in the home, a trend that has significant implications for the function and design of all other rooms in the home. “For example, the kitchen has become the space that people choose to have practically every meal during the day, while at the same time it’s a space for activities that used to take place in other rooms – a work space, playroom or, especially, as a space for getting together with guests,” Cosentino observed. “Practicality and versatility have become the kitchen’s two main assets. Expanding its capabilities [improves] the functionality and design of all its elements.” The Cosentino study concludes, for example, that 43% of survey respondents eat their main meals in the kitchen, while 29% use the kitchen as a hosting space for guests, 11% report using the kitchen as a workspace and 17% do other tasks in their kitchen.
- The kitchen is slowly moving away from being a female-only space, and increasingly becoming gender-neutral – a trend due largely to advances in gender equality in the workplace, as well as the sharing of household tasks. According to the survey’s results, women continue to be the main figure when it comes to preparing and organizing family meals, “but a gradual change” is underway. “Men have taken responsibility for many of the tasks traditionally carried out by women, although part of this change in habits also falls on other family members or household employees,” Cosentino said. “Leading chefs are playing a decisive role in this change, adopting the role of opinion-leaders by sharing their culinary wisdom on TV programs, in books, on blogs and on social media,” the company added.
- Kitchens are increasingly becoming a place to address issues tied to health and wellbeing. “The kitchen is the space that best reflects the growing interest in a healthier lifestyle, both physically and mentally,” Cosentino noted, pointing out that 9% of survey participants reported they’ve changed their eating habits in the last few years, while 62% take more care of their diet since they use social media to check information and 1% use less processed food. “Many consumers admit to having recently made changes to their diets and now tend to consume fewer processed and precooked foods while their interest grows in the quality and origins of the ingredients they use,” Cosentino said. “This has a positive effect on a more satisfying and enjoyable use of the kitchen.”
- Kitchens that don’t “look like kitchens” represent an increasingly popular trend. “New uses have a direct impact on the kitchen’s design, which is open to new materials and colors in order to achieve an increasingly comfortable space, making it possible to safely combine cooking with other activities in a practical way,” Cosentino said.
- Technology – in particular the impact of social media and smart-home devices – is reflected by the following: 54% of survey respondents use social media as inspiration to renovate or redecorate their kitchen; 8% use the devices for information on recipes, new diets, food and restaurants; 8% resort to them for information on how to recycle, reuse or reduce waste; 62% take better care of their diet since they have social media as a source of information, and 7% use their mobile phone to interact with devices (domestic appliances, lights, TV, etc.). “There is a new chain [in place] for passing on culinary knowledge: from oral to digital,” Cosentino commented. “Mothers, daughters and grandmothers are leaving the task of passing on culinary traditions “up to the information that’s taken from the internet and social networks, which have practically become the main sources of information on new recipes and ways of cooking, dietary changes, new restaurants or culinary trends.”
- Another fundamental link in this new chain of knowledge transfer is the role of leading chefs and their growing presence in the media and, mainly, on TV programs, the company added.
- Increased emphasis is being placed on issues tied to sustainability and reduced energy consumption, with products and systems that facilitate an increasingly efficient use of gas, water and electricity.
- The study found, for instance, that when it comes to environmental awareness, 35% of those surveyed correctly separate the waste they generate; 6% use less plastic; 16% reuse more than a few years ago; 9% reduce the use of water and energy; 2% use their own bags and try to buy products with no packaging; 3% diversify the place of purchase to ensure origin and quality; 5% attach more importance to bulk purchases, and 13% generally buy on the Internet. “Consumers’ responsibility in reducing environmental pollution is becoming further embedded in people’s minds and is resulting in a gradual change in people’s food-buying habits and other everyday behaviors, as well as in the selection of household appliances and utensils,” Cosentino said. “Plastic bags and food containers will steadily disappear from the kitchen, replaced by items bought in bulk and food storage in glass [receptacles]. In general, plastic will progressively become a material of the past, due to its eventual short-lived use in bottles, cutlery, plates and other utensils. The kitchen will also be a space in which the conservation and reuse of food will be strengthened in order to minimize waste,” the company concluded. ▪