One of the delights of internet searches is that they often lead you to things you didn’t even know you cared about. While researching gas ranges the other day I stumbled across this image of a “compact kitchen,” a single, 30″-wide appliance that contains a range, refrigerator and sink. As an architect I pine for everything to be extraordinarily beautiful and elegant, but there’s something about the stubborn practicality of these pieces that’s incredibly appealing. Compact kitchens like this one by Avanti have won me over.
These appliances are commonly installed in offices, RV’s, dorm and hotel rooms, and basements. But they’d work beautifully in New York City apartment too, when there’s not quite enough space for a conventional kitchen. You could just tuck one of these units into the corner of the dining room, at the end of the hall, or in a coat closet.
They’ve been around for quite a while. General Air Conditioning made a compact kitchen in the 1950’s that was featured in Apartment Therapy:
In 1964 Boffi manufactured a “Mini Kitchen” designed by Joe Colombo, and they’ve since developed an updated model. The original model doesn’t look like an appliance at all. Encased in stained wood panels, with concealed burners and secret pull-out drawers, it has the geometric purity of cubist sculpture.
The most basic units are modest in appearance and don’t cost any more than an ordinary gas range would. But there are also larger, more expensive units that are actually quite handsome. Compact Concepts makes a full-height round, rotating unit that comes equipped with a dishwasher and storage cabinets, and that’s available in different high-fashion finishes. It would look lovely in a raw, open, loft-like space.
Dutch designer Sietze Kalwijk had the opposite approach, stripping typical kitchen fixtures and appliances of all their displays, controls, and shells. This compact kitchen provides only the bare essentials: a burner, a sink, a work surface, and hose connections for gas and water.
Maybe one reason these compact kitchens are so appealing is that they make cooking seem simpler and more fun. While a skilled cook could prepare a gorgeous meal with one, for the rest of us they’re just wonderful playthings.