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Ode to the urban chef

Several companies are making their appliances smaller for use in urban spaces.

The Briva In-Sink dishwasher lies flat when closed and can be used as a countertop dishwasher. Photo courtesy

Is it just me, or is the world getting smaller? In a matter of a few short decades, cellular phones have shrunk down from that ridiculous clunker that Zack Morris made famous to an earpiece so small that it's impossible to tell whether a person is talking to you or to someone else. And what about portable music devices? The bulky Discman has given way to MP3 players with mini- and nano- prefixes that say it all. Am I the only one crossing her fingers for the Picopod? With any luck, it'll be the size of a stamp, and when you lick it and stick it to your forehead it will simply transmit the music straight into your brain.

The trend toward the tiny isn't just limited to the world of handheld electronics. Anyone who has ever lived in Manhattan knows that humans have the ability to live in some small apartments. I live in Brooklyn, which is (in terms of apartment size) considerably larger than its swank borough neighbor, but the philosophy is similar: pack 'em in, stack 'em high.

This sardine-tin mentality leads to a number of phenomena, including (but most definitely not limited to) the kitchen space. New tenants sometimes have to find out the hard way that packing their entire dish set in the move from the old place was a bad idea, since many kitchens are equipped with half of the cabinet space (and don't even get me started on the counter space).

The solution? Get rid of some of those space-hogging large appliances! Well, maybe not get rid of them, but perhaps finding a way to make them smaller could cure some of your wee kitchen woes. Companies have discovered ways to do just that. Take KitchenAid, which, along with Whirlpool, won the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's National Design Award for Corporate Achievement with designs like the Briva In-Sink Dishwasher. One side of the unit is a fully functional stainless steel sink, and the other is a top-loading dishwashing unit. When the dishwasher is closed, the flat surface gives you an extra space to store your cutting board or mixing bowls while you cook. And since you no longer need one of the standard front-loading dishwashers, your floor cabinets would be freed up for your countertop grill, mini food processor, stick blender, and every other small kitchen must-have.

The downside? After a limited release, KitchenAid stopped offering the sleek in-sink model. That hasn't stopped other companies from jumping on the compact culinary bandwagon. Some of them offer entire lines of diminutive devices for the urban-dweller, including countertop dishwashers, icemakers, smaller ranges, and minifridges, as shown here.