Whether it’s shared or personal, for cooking a feast or heating up leftovers, most people find the kitchen essential to their homes – even with limited space. Oskar Ponnert and Andreas Fredriksson at IKEA worked on just that with ÄSPINGE, designing a modern kitchenette with life in a small space home in mind.
Having spent most of his life in Sweden, a sparsely populated country, Oskar Ponnert is initially quick to think he doesn’t have much personal experience with living in a small space. But then, after a moment, his mind wanders back to his student years in the small, Swedish university town of Lund. A smile spreads across his face.
“I was renting part of a big apartment, with a separate entrance. It was just a small hallway and a single room. The closest you could call a kitchen was a portable mini stove, but there was no refrigerator”, he recounts, letting out a slight chuckle as he adds: “I moved there in the middle of winter, so I could have this bag hanging out of the window, and that was my refrigerator.”
Though certainly not ideal, Oskar’s kitchen setup at the time was not subject to much change for several reasons, each strong enough on its own. The space was limited, he was a student on a budget, and it wasn’t his to go through the hassle to change. These are all factors relevant to many living in small spaces, and that made up some of the insights Oskar kept in mind as Product Design Developer for the IKEA ÄSPINGE kitchenette.
“Many people who live in small spaces in big cities aren’t comfortable or even familiar with the idea of planning a kitchen, or with making decisions regarding countertops, fronts, and what tap to get. That was the starting point for ÄSPINGE: to create a ready-made kitchenette that is simple to install, even in a more limited space”, says Oskar.
A ready-made kitchenette that comes in flat-packed parts, of course. ÄSPINGE is designed to be easy to assemble as well as partially disassemble, enabling a smoother move for when and if that day comes. It’s a feature owed in large part to the kitchenette’s simplicity – which doesn’t necessarily come easy by design. There was much pondering on all the potential functions of a kitchen, and some more on what could be cut and what should be spared.
“We wanted to create a structure for anyone to choose the functionality they need and will make use of, to make for a smart solution that can be adjusted and built upon as your living situation changes”, says Oskar.
“A bit like a stage for you to set up your own show.”
A small space kitchen design inspired by familiar vertical structures
When designer Andreas Fredriksson first joined forces with Oskar and the development team to ideate around ÄSPINGE, the sketches depicted something of a Swiss army knife of kitchens, potentially fit for a pocket of a small home.
“Usually, you’d think of a kitchen as something that you build, but here you have a solitaire, a kitchenette that’s really a piece of furniture”, says Andreas. “But it’s furniture that has to allow you to activate and store things in it in different ways, since that’s key in small spaces. That’s why we were initially thinking that it should have elements to pull out and set up when needed.”
“Eventually, we decided not to hide the functionality and instead make it part of a more open design and decoration of the kitchen”, says Andreas.
His biggest takeaway from the project?
“Everything doesn’t have to be stored away just because you live in a small space. Some things, like spices, fruits, and some utensils, can be really nice to have on display as well, as long as you have the right place for it.”
Making the most of the small space in mind for the kitchen without the complexity of hidden functions meant thinking vertically. Much in the spirit of the high-rise buildings on prized land many small space homes can be found in.
“I thought of scaffolding, the kind that sits around houses and buildings, for building the kitchen upwards and hook things onto it. So, you could hang some nice lamp here, a shopping bag you like filled with fruits there, your favourite cookbook here”, Andreas explains, adding: “You can make it come alive in so many different ways.”
It’s a design choice fuelled by insights regarding people’s growing need to personalise their spaces – not least in recent years when the home has become an even bigger part of the everyday.
“It’s a modern kitchenette completely functional in form. We haven’t created a shape to fill any other purpose”, says Andreas, pointing to the straight, simple lines and slim profile of ÄSPINGE.
All to ensure that the kitchenette itself doesn’t steal the spotlight, but rather shines it in the right direction.
The ÄSPINGE kitchenette will be available in IKEA stores starting January 2023.