As the desire to live in the urban environment rises, the cost of living increases – making the reality of owning a home beyond reach for most city dwellers. Globally, renting is becoming the most economically viable option in cities like New York where 70% of the population are renters. Comparable numbers of renters in other major cities are: San Francisco 63.6%, London 50.4% and Tokyo 44.3%.

How many times have you viewed apartments in the city and loved everything except the outdated kitchen? Landlords are often apprehensive about renovating kitchens in apartment rentals because of the investment cost, high turnover ratio of tenants and wear.  What if you could invest in a customized ‘kitchen pod’ configured with efficient storage, the appliances you desire and designed to your style that could be transported to any new apartment: a one-time investment in an all-inclusive kitchen furniture piece?


Affordability, Mobility and Personality are elements associated with the Recreational Vehicle (RV). Although the RV has undergone many iterations in the past hundred years, modern-day models (with fully integrated kitchens) first appeared in the 1950s. Since then, manufacturers have continued to improve the efficiency of the interior spaces and refined the design of their kitchens.

Contemporary RV With Pull-Out Kitchen
Contemporary RV With Pull-Out Kitchen
Compact RV Kitchen Space
Compact RV Kitchen Space

In conjunction with the idea of the mobile home, there are the furniture designs by Italian architect, Joe Colombo. Inspired by the social changes of the 1950s, Colombo was a visionary in foreseeing the use of space today. In the 1960s he developed his concept of the ‘total functioning unit’- a pod-like structure that encapsulated daily activities such as cooking and eating in a compact footprint (much like an RV without wheels). Occupying even less space, his ‘Mini-Kitchen’ of 1963 was a trolley containing a mini-refrigerator, compact storage, and sockets for portable electrical appliances that could be taken anywhere. The standardized nature and interlocking system of Colombo’s design are aspects that have influenced the efficiency and look of kitchens today.

Joe Colombo, 'Total Furnishing Unit', 1971/72
Joe Colombo, ‘Total Furnishing Unit’, 1971/72
joe colombo mini kitchen
Joe Colombo, ‘Mini-Kitchen’, 1963



An example of a product currently on the market is The EGGo mini kitchen designed by Zhdanova Irina. This futuristic polished metal capsule includes a sink, water reservation tank and a gas chamber to barbeque food. The compact nature allows the structure to fit on top of a car and is anchored to the ground with a screw.






Another example of the standardized kitchen unit is the ‘Critter’ product, designed by Elia Mangia. Comprised of a sink, two burners and storage space, the unit can be assembled with just eight screws allowing the user to manipulate the configuration to fit their needs.


With all the innovation in technology, we believe that there will be a greater push in the future to create even smaller kitchen appliances. That being said, we have sketched out an idea for what we believe will most closely resemble Joe Colombo’s “mini kitchen ‘yet provide the user with more flexibility to design the actual piece. We wanted to create a ‘kitchen unit’ that incorporated more appliances than just the basics (as is demonstrated in Elia Mangia’s example) and had a more substantial feel. This piece appliance unit will use a compartment system that allows the user to pick and choose what appliances they want based off standardized sizes. For example, the user can decide what configuration they want, where they want their induction cooktop to be: fold over the sink, to the left side of the sink or in a pullout drawer over the refrigerator.



Places such as the sink will serve multiple functions- where a wire rack can be placed halfway down into the sink and the leaves enclose the area creating a steamer option. Storage will replace areas where the user decides they do not want appliances- making the unit flexible to each individual.



The option for ADA users would be longer and have a remote control to automate various functions.


Written by Sarah Elena Cuellar and Gwen Zheng

Sketches by Gwen Zheng