From bio-refrigerators that cool food with gel to zero-energy clay alternatives, we see a lot of designs that look to make one of the home’s most energy-hungry appliances more efficient. But in Ikea’s Concept Kitchen 2025 installation at the Milan Design Fair, the Swedish furniture giant goes one step further, and suggests that 10 years from now we might forgo fridges entirely in favor of a “modern pantry” that keeps food cool using a combination of smart technology and traditional methods, with an open display to cut down on waste.
The Concept Kitchen 2025 is the result of a collaboration between Ikea, design firm IDEO, and students from Lund University and Eindhoven University of Technology. The overall project seeks to explore our changing relationship with food; specifically “how we’ll be growing our food, storing it; how we’ll be cooking, eating, living and working in the kitchen.”
The concept doesn’t suggest we do away with cooling entirely—where dairy, meat and fish are concerned, storing food at room temperature isn’t entirely prudent. But they do suggest a few substantial shifts that could make the refrigerator redundant; among them, the possibility that autonomous delivery systems (ie., drones), could mean the end of the weekly shop—meaning we store less and eat more fresh food. It might sound a tiny bit fanciful, but admittedly a highly convenient alternative to trekking to the farmers market every day. They also predict that as water shortages continue, we’ll be eating less meat, reducing the need for energy-hungry refrigeration.
As an alternative to the fridge, Ikea and the students propose a “modern pantry” which features “wooden shelves that contain hidden sensors and smart induction cooling technology.” Double-walled glass containers with a magnetic, stainless steel-gadoliminium alloy base would be wirelessly cooled by the shelves, and could then be used to store more perishable items. This alloy base could then switch to heating when placed on an induction stove, and a porcelain inset (which helps keep the food cool on the shelf) could be detached for use as a plate.
Traditional methods would also be utilized, such as naturally cool terracotta pots to store items such as garlic and potatoes. Eggs, fruit and vegetables meanwhile would stored visibly and at counter level, so as to reduce over-buying and waste.
There’s a lot of other great ideas in the Concept Kitchen 2025, including gray water systems for the kitchen sink and a kitchen table the serves as “preparation surface, hob, dining table, work bench and children’s play area,” with built in sensors to provide guidance in cooking and make us “more confident cooks.” While the Concept Kitchen is very much just that—a concept—it’s understood that Ikea will take inspiration from the designs in future.