Does appliance size matter?

Swift Electrical’s commercial director Malcolm Scott considers how modern-day kitchen design is driven by the size of appliances

In an issue with a special feature dedicated to the age-old question of whether size matters in kitchen design, I decided to stop and consider just how much appliance technology has driven design over the past five to 10 years.

My first thought was that, 10 years ago, Swift was regularly buying Whirlpool American-style, top-loading washing machines by the container load, to satisfy consumer demand for more laundry capacity.

In larger family homes, kitchen specialists regularly designed utility rooms to accommodate the much larger US-style washing machines as they were able to process 8kg washing loads.

It’s easy to forget that just 10 years ago, a 5kg washing load was standard with a 6kg wash load being sold as a large capacity. The market for physically larger washing machines has now almost disappeared, as the standard integrated washing machine now washes 7kg of laundry, with the latest built-in options from Hoover handling 9kg wash loads.

During the same period, the market for larger, 800mm built-under, single-door ovens disappeared, as improved oven wall insulation technology pushed the usable capacity of a standard 600mm single oven from an average of 50 litres to a standard of 66 litres – and now often as much as 78 litres.

On refrigeration, the change in the relationship between size and capacity has been just as noticeable – the days of 100mm thick walls on a 600mm integrated freezer leaving just 400mm of usable space are gone. On a standard built-in fridge-freezer, better insulation has resulted in at least 20% more usable refrigeration space, which has reduced the tendency for bigger families to opt for a physically larger, freestanding fridge-freezer.

Big improvements in the reliability of washer-dryers and in their load capacity has squeezed out the separate dryer from many smaller kitchens, often making room for a dishwasher or extra cupboard space.

Improved technology has also driven the development of combination cooking units – the introduction of more compact combination ovens with grills and built-in microwaves has enabled designers to offer more ‘all-in-one’ options and in turn remove the freestanding microwave from most modern kitchen worktops.

GDHA now has a four-in-one New World Design Suites fan oven, microwave, full grill and full steam cooker, which further enhances the ability of the designer to provide more usable storage space.

So, while consumer demand has certainly been towards having more appliances in the kitchen over the past 10 years, over the same period improved technology has allowed designers to give the consumer the extra appliance capacity that they seek, and at the same time meet the conflicting consumer demand for more storage space in the kitchen.

New technology in domestic appliances certainly has empowered designers to better meet consumer wants and needs.

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