'Shrinking kitchen' phenomenon leading to fewer stoves in apartments: prof

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Published Aug. 7, 2019 2:47 p.m. ET
Updated Aug. 14, 2019 12:57 p.m. ET
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Have you used your stove recently? In a time when rental spaces are getting smaller, the answer is becoming a resounding “no.”

One researcher argues Canada, Europe and the U.S. are in the midst of the “shrinking kitchen” phenomenon, which is when increasingly smaller rental properties are leading to kitchen spaces not including stoves.

Sylvain Charlebois, a food distribution professor and scientific director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, told CTV News Channel that kitchens have become places where people simply heat up what they want to eat.

“We’re cooking less. We have less time to cook,” he said, adding jokingly that people tended to use their stoves to store pots or clothing. He explained that with the growing popularity of food-delivery apps and prepackaged food, “we’re subcontracting the art of cooking.”

He expanded on this idea in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail entitled “Are kitchen stoves going the way of the sewing machine?” He said mitigating factors include “rock-bottom interest rates,” skyrocketing real estate prices and builders shrinking condos to keep prices at affordable levels.

Charlebois claims younger workers (whom he doesn’t mention are victims of the gig economy, working longer hours and with lower rates of unionization) are spending more time outside of their home.

The idea of the “shrinking kitchens” is nothing new and articles discussing the trend can be found as early as 2014 and 2015 in The Daily Mail and The New York Times, respectively.

At the time, the NYT writer Kim Severson profiled several people choosing to have smaller kitchens, explaining that “cooking is not viewed as a daily chore but as one of several ways to eat on any given day.”

She acknowledged that “New York, Paris and Tokyo have coped for ages with tiny kitchens as a matter of necessity” but that so-called “microkitchens” had become a growing trend.

Since then, average rent for apartments has skyrocketed in Canadian major cities’ increasingly crowded downtown cores, according to a recent national July 2019 report from Rental.ca.


So this is why it would also make sense that designers for kitchens and stoves themselves would adjust to peoples’ smaller spaces.

In Severson’s report she also explained that major appliance makers like General Electric, Miele and Bosch had been reporting a rising demand for smaller stoves, dishwashers and fridges.

For example, Miele’s product manager for cooking appliances Kathrin Pfeifer told her their convection ovens and speed ovens -- which cook food more quickly than standard ovens -- had spiked in terms of demand.

Now in 2019, the food-service and booming multi-billion-dollar delivery industry and the advent of automation also play big roles in shrinking kitchens, in Charlebois' opinion.

“With drones and highly sophisticated delivery options, costs will likely decrease even more, making home cooking the more expensive option, especially for people living alone,” Charlebois writes.

He feels quality will vary depending on the vendor but he told CTV News Channel a time is coming soon when “it might be cheaper to buy something already prepared than to actually cook it at home.”

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