LOS ANGELES - GE (NYSE: GE)  debuted a teeny kitchen appliance cabinet at Dwell on Design L.A., this week.

“Over the next 10 years, living spaces will change dramatically," said Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances.

Lenzi says increasing urbanization and population growth are driving the need for smaller living spaces. To convey that living in small spaces doesn’t equate to a reduction in functionality or living standards, GE showed two concepts for a small-space kitchen.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the urban population in the U.S. grew 12 percent from 2000 to 2010, totaling 81 percent of the population.1 As cities grapple with housing shortages, the trend toward smaller living spaces is already a reality. Shrinking living spaces necessitate products and services that simplify, optimize and economize. GE (NYSE:GE) Appliances’ new micro-kitchen concepts keep consumers living large in a drastically smaller footprint.

“As we watch what’s happening in the U.S., there’s a clear trend toward smaller, more efficient living spaces,” said Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances. “There will always be a need for larger appliances for existing homes; however, we can’t ignore the growing need in urban environments. GE Appliances is excited to tackle the design challenge of creating micro-kitchen concepts that help people maintain or enhance their lifestyle in substantially less square footage.”

One of GE’s micro kitchen concepts – dubbed the monoblock – is an integrated unit with cooking, dishwashing and refrigeration in a single standalone enclosure that would become a seamless part of the cabinetry.

Why smaller?

Many factors are playing a role in the trend toward smaller dwellings. As the cost per square foot of real estate in metro markets increases, some people are choosing smaller dwellings out of necessity. In the U.S., there are 32 million one-person households as of 2012 and that number is expected to grow.2 Also contributing are demographic shifts, such as the aging of the U.S. population; downsizing Baby Boomers; the changing employment picture for Gen Y; younger people delaying home purchases preferring to rent; and trends toward simplification and a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

“Boomers will have a huge impact on smaller living and it's GE’s bet that they won’t want to lose any of the luxury or convenience they’ve had in their lives,” said Lenzi. “Whether they need a micro kitchen for their downsized dwelling, vacation home, refurbished man cave or boat . . . Boomers have always wanted the best.”

“Through FirstBuild and its global online community, GE Appliances is able to create, design, build and sell new innovations for your home faster than ever before,” says Venkat Venkatakrishnan, director of R&D for GE Appliances and mentor for FirstBuild. “We launched a micro-kitchen challenge in May, and everyone from enthusiasts to experts can join FirstBuild.com to contribute their ideas to make the concepts a reality.”

While the FirstBuild co-creation community will be collectively creating the first designs, Lenzi’s industrial designers have also been imagining concepts delivering the power of full-sized appliances in a pint-sized package.

One concept, dubbed the monoblock, is an integrated unit with cooking, cleaning and refrigeration in a single standalone enclosure that would become a seamless part of the cabinetry. As designed, the consumer or builder could preconfigure their choices and have the custom-fabricated unit delivered to the home or job site.

The second concept is based on a counter-top-high, 24-inch-wide modular platform. This drawer-based system allows the consumer to choose the modules they want to have in their living space. All traditional kitchen appliances, including a microwave oven, conventional oven, convertible refrigerator and freezer, and dishwasher are drawer-based. An induction or radiant glass cooktop, downdraft ventilation system, and kitchen sink with disposal complete the full kitchen experience. The micro-kitchen drawers feature panelized construction providing a nearly unlimited choice of cabinet materials and finishes, so the décor possibilities are endless.



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