The kitchen will never be obsolete
IF you had to get rid of one room in your home, which would it be?
The laundry - a room that creates more work than it actually does what with the folding, ironing and inexplicable loss of socks.
The man cave - because in what weird world do only men need recliners and oversized televisions?
Or maybe the rumpus room, a ludicrous invention that all but invites children to become entitled delinquents who can't put a toy away.
You'll be glad to know all of the above are staying but there is one room which interior designers claim is on the way out: the kitchen.
Tiffany Buckins, Ikea Australia's Head of Interior Design, says as homes shrink in size we may dispense with our kitchens.
"In the future you may not need a kitchen because you can go to a communal area to cook and prepare your meals, or heat up your ready-made meal," she told Vivid Ideas.
It's alright for Tiffany. The chick clearly has a lifelong supply of pre-made meatballs to keep her going. Or a tidy share portfolio in the homewares giant which allows her to eat out every night.
Yet the rest of us are expected to take turns on the Bunsen burner in some camping-style shared facility or heat up noxious Lean Cuisine in a microwave we presumably house in our bedrooms or hallways?
What nonsense. If I have my way, the kitchen is not going anywhere. Having evolved into the most egalitarian, multifunctional, gadget-savvy and aromatic room in the house the demise of the kitchen is about as likely as Henry VIII saying: "Actually, I'll just have the one wife, thanks."
The kitchen is the engine room of a home. It's the heart and pulse. It's sustenance and comfort and conviviality. It's the only place you can boil an egg and in so doing make everything right with the world.
In just over a century we've morphed the kitchen from some dark, sooty basement hung with pheasants and staffed by a Downton Abbey-style array of servants to sleek, comfortable and efficient hubs where a dozen labour-saving devices free us up to chat with our mates and drink pinot noir as we slow roast a shoulder of lamb. Forget anything produced by Apple, it's the kitchen which has enhanced our lives more than anything.
Indeed, the kitchens of the past were so far from the dining rooms that the food inevitably arrived cold. In his fascinating book At Home, Bill Bryson tells of how in one English manor, the dining room was 200 yards from the kitchen. In another, railway line was laid so trolleys could be rushed from the kitchen to a dumbwaiter then on to dinner guests. With food congealed and tepid, it's no wonder they all slept with or killed each other.
Obviously, refrigeration improved matters - and saved the odd life. But still the kitchen was the woman's domain, tucked away from the lounge lest the generation of Stepfords staged a revolt, refused to take their Valium, tore off their aprons and plonked themselves on the couch. Open plan wasn't devised by architects poncing about trying to improve "flow" but disenfranchised women fed up with churning out meat loaf with only a failed sponge and a sodden tea towel for company. Notice how the food of the '70s was all brown - it reflected the mental state of the average housewife. That all changed when the fondue arrived, an epiphany of a dish which finally introduced a bit of jollity or, at the very least, a long fork with which to prod an ungrateful husband.
Now kitchens are rooms to lust after. I hanker after Nigella Lawson's glorious version furnished with a fireplace and fairy lights. I've already designed my retirement kitchen complete with a huge farmhouse table, two armchairs (slip covers in linen for summer, pink velvet for winter) and a massive glass skylight so I can listen to podcasts, sip wine and gaze at the moon. I'll turn out beef Wellington and fabulous old-school steamed puddings and anyone who mutters about clean eating can pull up a carrot from the garden.
Of course, the tech boffins are trying to sterilise our kitchens. At last year's Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle, artificial intelligence experts were working out how a power blender may track your diet through a wrist device and produce a smoothie according to how much weight you need to lose. A virtual sous chef will remind you not to burn the pine nuts (helpful) and a camera in the fridge will not only tell you what to reorder but who drank the last beer. Ovens will work out when food is cooked, recipes will be standardised and nutritious and no one will need to learn to cook because it'll be cuisine by numbers.
It all sounds grim. Kitchens are havens of happenstance. They're where we turn a failed cake into a butterscotch-doused pudding, where a pomegranate can transform the most utilitarian of grains, where a simple onion can be softened and sweetened so it bears no resemblance to its raw form. Kitchens are where we toil with our hands and serve with our hearts. They are home.