For many, the biggest turn-off of small-space living is the kitchen, or lack thereof. No, it isn’t that you have spend five whole minutes transforming the bed into a couch when company comes over or that you get ready for work every morning in a bathroom that’s just a touch larger than a phone booth. It’s that you’re living with minimal cabinet space, a mini-fridge, and nowhere to display your fancy Italian coffee accoutrement; it's the reality that in most tiny apartments, cooking — and entertaining — can be really hard.
And in many instances, micro-apartment developments, although heavy on communal amenities, don’t exactly encourage en-suite cookery. However sleek and cleverly designed, these are more or less pint-sized crash pads geared for car-less social butterflies and chronic take-outers who don’t require a full range of kitchen appliances; they’re apartments meant for young professionals who work late and don’t mind existing in an extended state of dorm-dom.
GE, on the other hand, has come to the conclusion that some folks who are gravitating toward petite living spaces might want it all: the dramatically downsized footprint and the ability to comfortably cook a decent meal in the evening. And as GE points out, this isn't just the case with Gen Y’ers but also with Baby Boomers who have decided to ditch the super-sized confines of suburbia, shed some square-footage, and head to the city.
GE microkitchen is efficiency defined
Explains Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances:
As we watch what’s happening in the U.S., there’s a clear trend toward smaller, more efficient living spaces. 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.”
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. Whether they need a micro kitchen for their downsized dwelling, vacation home, refurbished man cave or boat . . . Boomers have always wanted the best.
And so, GE, through the company’s Louisville “microfactory production facility” called FirstBuild, is exploring an ingenious, foodie-friendly solution: modular, micro-apartment-ready kitchen concepts designed by GE’s industrial design team in collaboration with FirstBuild’s online co-creation community that manage to “deliver the power of full-sized appliances in a pint-sized package.”
GE microkitchen microwave is in a drawer
GE microkitchen fridge is in a drawer
Thus far, GE has unveiled two micro-kitchen concepts that the company hopes to “make and sell in small batches” by the end of this year:
One of the concepts is the “monoblock,” a fully customizable standalone unit that contains all the good stuff — induction cooktop, sink with retractable faucet, dishwasher, convection oven, microwave, pull-out refrigerator and freezer, etc. — in a compact, six-foot-wide package. Essentially, the unit is a cleverly concealed chest-of-drawers that’s just happens to be packed with high-end appliances. In lieu of individual several panels containing a bunch buttons and knobs, a single digital interface controls the whole sleek, wood-grained shebang.
In addition to the $15,000 monoblock (teased this past weekend at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles, by the way), GE has also developed the unthinkable: a modular washer/dryer combo with touch-screen technology that fits seamlessly into a small living space instead of, gasp, requiring its very own room.
GE microkitchen dishwasher drawer
GE microkitchen dishwasher controls

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.