How Demographics Can Play Out in Fridge Design

A striking refrigerator concept actually tells a story about changes in the way we live.

GRO Design fridge

Small city apartments force you into weird gyrations, for the sake of saving space. For example, my refrigerator happens to be in my living room, because my kitchen is too small. So my interest was piqued when Core 77 brought news of a refrigerator concept designed by GRO Design, based in the Netherlands, for Samsung. The most striking thing about the design is that it looks less like an appliance, and more like a piece of furniture. But the clever part is that it can be used both vertically and horizontally—and in the later case, the unit looks like a sideboard (and an iMac, come to think of it). GRO pulled that off by designing an interior surface inside which the shelves can be reconfigured either vertically or horizontally:

GRO Design fridge

Sounds like a gimmick, but maybe not. There's a pretty strong business case for inventions like this, which aim to make us more at home with appliances that are usually relegated to kitchens.

First off, as the modernist tenet of wide-open living spaces has become mainstream, galley kitchens that open onto living spaces have been ubiquitous in contemporary housing layouts—a point proven by the multitude of refurbished "loft" developments springing up across the country. That, in turn, places higher design demands on something like a fridge, which you now have to look at while sitting on your couch.

Second, and more wide reaching, is the fact that the suburbs are in decline. Studies have shown that younger homebuyers are increasingly favoring smaller spaces within the confines of a city. And that probably means that space savings of the sort represented by my own weird-fridge-placement problem are becoming more commonplace.

Given those two trends of taste and demographics, its no wonder then that Viking appliances are so popular even though their owners barely use them, or that Smeg has brought its retro-chic fridges stateside.

Rarely does a study of urban population growth end up pointing to another story about changing attitudes toward design. But fridges might be exactly that sort of case. I wouldn't be surprised if in ten years time, the console table behind your neighbor's couch turns out to be a freezer storing frosty beers and big thick steaks.

[Via Core 77]

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  • Josh Jeffryes

    Very smart. I have a mini-fridge (in addition to my regular refridgerator) and it's very much used as a piece of furniture.