David Yearsley, the chief executive of in-worktop drinks chiller manufacturer Kaelo reflects on how the pandemic has changed what people are looking for in their kitchens and how designers need to embrace that change.
The pandemic has had a lasting effect on all of us and on everything. How we live in our homes and the amount we invest in them has altered, perhaps forever. After all, our homes are the one place we’ve been spending lots of time over the past couple of years.
Pre-2020, kitchen design was already shifting to be more about creating a lifestyle and now that our lifestyles themselves have changed quite dramatically, so kitchen design itself is evolving once again.
This was always quite a demanding space, particularly in modern times, as consumers get used to their kitchens being multifunctional and, quite often, open-plan. But when you add in home working, home schooling and home entertaining, things get very busy, very quickly.
Working from home doesn’t just mean that consumers need to carve out a space in which to work. For designers, it means creating an environment that doesn’t feel like being at work once that part of the day is done.
Ultimately, designers need to think of ways to shift work to a space that’s not where families eat and gather. Will this eventually lead to a return to the kitchen being a separate room? Time will tell and the UK’s love affair with open-plan is still going strong for now. What that means in 2022 at least is for designers to make use of ideas like clever storage, where laptops and books can be hidden away, or a large island that can be used for work, eating, relaxing and socialising. The devil is in the detail, but the outcome needs to be a calm space where work and home can live in harmony.
The kitchen is still a practical space, used for food preparation. This has led to a noticeable change in appliance choice. Consumers want to be able to cook like a pro, smart tech included. Storage too, is changing. From large fridge-freezers to accommodate big food shops to pantry systems that keep ingredients organised, there’s a huge amount for kitchen designers to be aware of.
The pandemic has also meant a desire to avoid more clinical looks in the kitchen and bring in interest and different layers of texture. There’s a shift towards mixing materials, styles and colours, while classic touches are marrying up with more contemporary looks for an eclectic vibe that’s welcome and, above all, home.
What does all this mean for kitchen retailers? It means that the initial planning meeting with your clients, where you sit down and get to know them and what they want from their new kitchen, has never been more important. Consumers are likely to come to you with a long list of desires and ideas for how they intend to use the finished space, but still in need of a huge steer in the right direction to achieve their dreams.
Perhaps retailers could focus on the fun aspects of a kitchen’s design first and foremost. Yes, it should be practical too, but what if that’s a given? To stand out from the crowd, kitchen designers need to be thinking about the experience that the finished space, and the products included in it, allows users to have.
This change in focus could spell good news for the showroom experience too, with displays that are not only eye-catching but that encourage customers to linger, to remember what they saw and to want those features in their own kitchen. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about adding value with something completely different, but something that consumers want and will make great use of – they just don’t know it yet.
Our homes are our emotional spaces, kitchen design therefore needs to play on these emotions, to feed on them and react to them. The design of the kitchen, how we use it and the products within it, don’t just need to look good, they need to make us feel good, now more than ever before. This also means lots of new opportunities too – to add real value to your sales with products that add value to your customers’ lifestyles.
As Kevin Jabou, founder and inventor of Kaelo, said: “Change is so often viewed with caution and hesitancy, but the changes currently taking place within kitchen design should be treated with excitement and anticipation.”