13 August 2010

The tree of life?

"They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see 'em

Joni Mitchell's 1970 classic Big Yellow Taxi may not have got to the top ten - it reached 67 in the all-important Billboard chart of the day - but it got a lot of airplay.

IKEA's big yellow presence (get the link?) in the home interiors market is too large to be ignored and it is probably in the top ten of retailers in this sector. So it is wholly appropriate (and just a tad ironic) that it sponsored the art installation above and invited the press to discuss a report it has commissioned: "The Future of Kitchens".

Why appropriate and indeed why ironic? The Future Laboratory, who produced the report for IKEA, looked at what life is likely to be like in 2040 when, according to the Untied Nations, it is predicted around 60% of the world's population will live in cities.

The cities themselves will expand considerably and may even cross country boundaries. A little difficult in an island like Britain I grant you (please, no emails from Scotland or Wales), but easier to imagine on a landmass like continental Europe. So s the cities get bigger, trees will get fewer.

If anybody when to IKEA's press conference at the Barbican on 12 August expecting to find out what colour the kitchens of next year were likely to be or what consumers would be cooking their food on, they would probably have been disappointed although I did manage to get a hint or two out of Gerry Dufresne - Kitchen Range Strategist for IKEA.

However if you believe that form follows function, the presentation had much to offer because function is going to change  - big time.

Food prices are going to increase, which means more people are going to grow their own. Energy costs are going to shoot up, so even if Jo Public could not care less about the fate of polar bears, there will be a strong financial incentive to adopt a more energy efficient lifestyle. And we are running out of water.

Where does the kitchen it in? Even if 'Heart of the Home' statements get you pouring yourself a strong coffee, the truth is that the kitchen uses more energy than any other room in the household.

And while water use in a kitchen may not be as obvious as in a bathroom, when you take into account dishwashing and laundry as well as cooking and drinking, it runs it a very close second.

The kitchens of the future really will be the heart of the home, with the energy currently being wasted used to warm other areas, and with changes in storage requirements to cater for more homegrown produce - some of which will be growing in the house itself.

The kitchen will lose its status as a room and become a function within the living space of the home - a process that has already started.

Back to the now and the one finding we should all take from the report and embrace immediately is the need to specify more energy efficient appliances and kitchen furniture with a greater degree of longevity rather than just a short-term fashion statement.

And if we don't embrace the need to change? Take it away Joni baby!
"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got

Till it's gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot"

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