Designers have been fascinated by the challenge of building a compact, modular kitchen for years. Joe Colombo's 1963 Minikitchen, for example, was mobile and could be folded into a box, a purposeful contrast to the typical permanence of domestic spaces. Similarly, Ronan Bouroullec's 1998 kitchen system was all about being adaptable to individual needs.
In recent years, a rise in tiny living spaces has inspired in designers a renewed interest. This year, for example, designer Ana Arana debuted an unolding at New York City Design Week. Ikea recently unveiled its own contribution to the trend. Now, the Toyko kitchen manufacturer Sanwa is bringing the compact kitchen concept to market, as Dezeen points out this week, after introducing four modular designs at Milan design week.
The four units each solve the small space problem in their own way, marrying minimalist Japanese aesthetics with state-of-the-art technology: the Zan, for instance, is a stand-alone kitchen unit with a sink, stovetop, and modular cabinets, its steel and aluminum doors streaked with a finish inspired by Japanese handmade Washi paper. The Kanade is a similar size and design, but made with a Japanese synthetic leather.
The two smaller units—Ceragino and Affilato Hide—are most explicitly for limited spaces, at about four feet wide. The latter can be concealed behind two doors like an armoire, making it particularly suited for a small space where the kitchen is essentially the living room. The company notes that the Ceragino, an even smaller free-standing kitchen, is "perfectly suitable for the Asian market where available residential spaces are getting scarcer."
The kitchens offer a tidy solution to outfitting small spaces—and makeshift ones that may not have kitchens at all, like Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. As Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan wrote for Co.Design, ADUs—like the odd-backyard shed or apartment above a garage—are becoming popular amongst homeowners who want to offer a rental unit, or refurbish it for an older relative to be closer to family. Many of these places weren't necessarily designed to be lived in but, in the cities that allow it, present an interesting opportunity for alternative housing—and compact, fold-away kitchens could be a useful solution to making them more livable.
All of Sanwa's kitchen units can be viewed here.