The high-tech kitchen is about as far removed from the cottagey one as can be imagined. Even though the high tech style has been around for several years now, certainly since 1978 when the book High Tech was first published in the USA, it has never become a really important force except amongst a few cognoscente who live mainly in the world’s capitals, and are mostly architects and designers. The high-tech style is based on components that were designed for other, mainly industrial, purposes; for the factory, the warehouse, the hospital, the building site or even the street. Do not assume that this is necessarily an inexpensive way to construct a kitchen. These products, many of them in stainless steel, glass, chromed metal and aluminum, have an austere and functional quality which is often extremely beautiful, but they are manufactured to a high standard of design and finish which tends to be expensive. Against this, they are by their nature hardwearing, easily cleaned, aesthetically pleasing and though some are of old and classic design – look innovative and original.
A high-tech kitchen will have very plain cupboards, painted in a dark colour, and though these may be a system designed and intended for use in a laboratory or storeroom, they could equally well be standard kitchen units of a good, simple design. There will also be a good deal of open shelving. This will either be the chromed wire variety commonly used in industrial kitchens, the slotted angle system (Dexion) that you will see in garages and which also has plastic bins clipped to wall-hung louvered backplates or simple metal library shelves.
Work surfaces may be in a plain laminated plastic – what could be more industrial than that? But more likely, in keeping with the rest of the room, they will be in stainless steel, heavy-duty Iinoleum or somewhat impractically in studded synthetic rubber whose surface is not quite even enough for the purpose. Any of these materials will be used to line walls around the wet areas, and elsewhere the walls will be covered in a beautifully finished surface of high-gloss paint. Studded rubber will most probably be used on the floor, and here it is an excellent, handsome and hardwearing material.
Other possible floor coverings are heavy-duty linoleum or glazed ceramic tiles with a cheap alternative being duckboards on a simple boarded floor. Appliances will be of the most basic, least got-up type, and passionate devotees of the style whose cash is equal to their enthusiasm may go to the lengths of purchasing large-scale catering cookers, dishwashers and refrigerators which, made in stainless steel with heavy glass doors, have a gutsy bravura totally in accord with the style. Windows in kitchens will be clad in plain roller blinds or wooden shutters, and dining tables will, if not made of enameled metal such as were once used in factory canteens, have steel frames inset with tough-wired glass tops. Metal chairs, or stools, of which there are several well-designed modern examples on the market, will be the natural complement to tables of this nature. Industrial lampshades made of steel have long been popular with designers for their direct, unequivocal shapes and they are the obvious choice for the high-tech kitchen. Energy-saving fluorescent tubing frankly displayed and sometimes worked into unexpected shapes, will also have a place, as well massive-looking bulkhead lights such as are used on service stairways and in warehouses.
Equally unconcealed will be many of the service pipes we have been learning to lose’ over the past fifty years. They will not, however, flaunt themselves exactly as the builder’s merchant left them, but electric power cables will be channelled through brightly painted exposed conduits, heating ducts and extractor ducts will form sculptural shapes across the ceiling and radiators and hot-water pipes will contribute their shapes to the general aesthetic in a blatant and even dominant fashion. Colours? On the whole, these tend towards the industrial greys, black and white from which the whole style emanated, but when colour is present it is bold and primary as well as fresh.