Modular Kitchen

Text: Ar Apurva Bose Dutta
Changing lifestyles, incessant travelling, global design invasions have set the pace for a new modern standard of living where the client is most willing to dream big, chic and stylish and his designer is willing to go to the utmost extent to transform his wishful thinking to reality, rather achieve to create beyond the client's imagination too.

Enter the changing face of design in residences and the two spaces here that have got the biggest makeover in the recent times are the kitchens and bathrooms. While bathrooms are the spaces to cleanse and connect to oneself, kitchens are the spaces where the ladies of the house (and incase some men too) spend a considerable amount of time whipping out the best of the meals for their family members. Kitchens today are not synonymous with cooking alone, they have evolved into spaces which foster interaction between the family or between the family and their guests. In large spaced residences today one finds the kitchen divided into two sections - one for the cooking, and the other section for people to hang about.

Ravi-Karumbiah
An outcome of the proliferation of the nuclear family, this transformation that kitchens are noticing today are enabling them to become a multipurpose space that needs to be integrated into the entire house. Time savings, convenience, and energy efficiency have become the main protagonists in the new evolution of kitchens. However this may not be true for the larger number of people residing in India. CC India, a company that pioneered the concept of branded modularity from Italy in India started with modular kitchens almost two decades ago with brand Veneta Cucine. Managing Director - CC India, Mr Ravi Karumbiah is of the opinion, "The current lifestyle of the Indian consumer (upper-middle and upper societal strata) is such that most Indian people are still highly dependent on the house help, and their own involvement in the kitchens is less as compared to westerner's. Due to this, most customers still prefer closed kitchens as practicality is more important than aesthetics, thus leading to a kitchen that is less appealing, and not as trend focussed. This mindset is something that we at CC INDIA and Veneta Cucine constantly focus on in our designs, by advising our customer to create a family space in the kitchens, thereby increasing quality family time in the kitchen."

Modular Kitchens

Oyster-Decorative

More open, more free and more aligned to the innate activities of the house - that are today's kitchens besides becoming a place for culinary explorations! To ease this entire process, Modular kitchens have stepped in - A modular kitchen gets its name from the module - the small sections which are assembled together to form the kitchen.

Besides having the latest gadgets - accessories and appliances (which have become quieter themselves) Modular kitchens are about varied textures and finishes, smoothness, freedom of space - aesthetic as well as of functional vitality; newer materials like stone, glass or aluminum; more emphasis on the work triangle (the easy movement between the sink, refrigerator and hob) and intelligent use of light (artificial/natural).

Besides their aesthetic and functional capabilities and their customization, Modular kitchens are easy to repair and can be shifted easily as they are made up of modules. Installation also becomes convenient because of the pre-fabrication. Diverse colour schemes, well defined areas, a decluttered space are the other advantages.

Pawan-Malhotra
Though the advent of Modular kitchens was noticed in the mid 1990s, however, it was only with time that it started getting popular. Renowned Kitchen Solutions Provider, Italy headquartered Cucine Lube offers a comprehensive choice of materials, styles, designs, accessories, and combinations, which help in making every kitchen unique, customized and one-of-its-kinds. Cucine Lube India, the 10 year old Indian division, is headed by Mr Pawan Malhotra, Managing Director of the firm. On this popularity of Modular kitchens he elucidates, "Earlier the Modular kitchen industry was in its inceptive stage. The acceptance level of potential customers was very low with various myths surrounding the concept of modular kitchen regarding cost and accommodation. But now, kitchen is an integral and most focussed area of one's home in every sense. It is the heart of home, and with the changing trend, designs transform from classic to contemporary to modern kitchen designs. Although modular kitchen industry is amongst the most challenging industry with a growth rate of 30-40%, yet it is a virgin market as more than 80% of the market is still in the hands of unorganized players."

The Current Trends

Oyster

With the demand of the clients, Modular kitchens have become a must in many houses where the homeowners can plan every fitting, every material and every layout. More sophisticated, streamlined, sleek, - modular kitchens are aesthetically very pleasing. A variety of Modular kitchens are available in the market today and the variety extends to all their features too. They come in various shapes - U-shaped (very efficient and great space saving), L-shaped (good for small kitchens), straight (the basic form), island kitchens (for bigger sized kitchens) and parallel kitchens (eliminating the need to walk between two work areas). Circular work islands and central islands customized into many layers are gaining tremendous popularity. Options like freestanding island kitchens also integrate extra storage space.

The trend of open plan kitchens without any demarcation between the living and kitchen areas also exists. Keeping in mind the current trends, CC India and Veneta Cucine have focussed on developing the kitchen as a living space, and not just a place to cook. Adds Mr Karumbiah, "We have made the kitchen a place to spend quality time with one's family by including the living room, party area, library and TV area. Most of the kitchens are loaded with all appliances and accessories (coffee machine, ice maker), to reduce the actual cooking time and to make it less tedious. Due to the surge in the number of people purchasing Modular Kitchens in India and China over the last few years, the needs of India and China are a focus of CC INDIA and Veneta Cucine - we focus on local cooking needs." The other concepts that are being incorporated here include the juxtaposition of extremely minimalistic furniture pieces with very classic pieces; the introduction of technology and automation for the worktop, chimney, and other such key areas; Eco friendliness (anti-bacterial kitchens) as a key focus area of the Modular Kitchen.

Modular kitchens come with specific accessories - chimneys, dishwashers, ovens, pull out drawers, trolleys, wine cutleries, cooking range, adjustable shelves and its surprising to find the diversity in these accessories themselves.

In an age of socialization, kitchens are also seen as places of interaction where the hosts and guests can chit chat - a kitchen bar is a space for guests to sit while the hosts complete their chores. In large kitchens, more than one workstations make a lot of sense in saving time. Movable/foldable countertops while providing an extra platform can also be seamlessly melted into the kitchen decor to free up space. Round countertops are also preferred at many places in larger spaces to curb much movement. Materials like wood, granite, quartz emanate a great Modular look.

Designers go to a great deal, trying to get the natural light into the kitchen while for lighting after dusk, task, direct and inset lighting are preferred. With the green movement progressing in all quarters of design, LED lights are also considered a hit. Designers are not shying away today to lend this space a glamour quotient by incorporating an elegant chandelier too.

Adele7_CamA_TavRot_VARIANTE

The sneaky drawers have been replaced by drawers with soft closing technology that can glide in and out with just a small tap. The synchronization of the cabinetry with the entire kitchen has become so important that appliances (like the microwave and the oven) are concealed by making their exteriors match with the cabinetry styling. The cabinetry can be wall mounted, base cabinets, suspended shelving units from the ceiling and furniture styled cabinets; while the storage has increased by manifolds, the way the storage is extracted is much more intelligent than ever before. In the conventional wasted corners of kitchens, spaces are creatively carved out for storing appliances. Compact larder units are a great way of storing dry grocery and fresh drink bottles. One finds cups hanging under the k itchen cabinets on mid way systems. These kind of space use makes the kitchen more efficient and de clutters it, making cooking a more enjoyable task. Wall cabinets and doors don't necessarily need a handle today to be operated. Consider running mirrored plinths along the bottom of the base cabinets - the floor area will visually increase!

Technology has definitely made cooking and its allied activities faster. Refrigerators with televisions integrated into their doors, motorized lids transforming a kitchen into a living space by covering the hob and sink areas, four door wall cabinets converting into a fully functional kitchen with a press of a button, are the many innovations in kitchen equipment and appliances that one finds today. Chimneys with feather touch buttons and built in LED lights, oil filters, luxurious chimneys in crystals with carbon pads (eliminating the need of any ducting area) are also there in the market. There are some chimneys which are noiseless while others can be remote operated, some have the sensor technology and can switch on and off automatically as needed.

Brava
There are pyrolytic ovens which are self-cleansing - one can just increase the oven temperature and the food and grease are mostly burned off. There is also the concept of an integrated fridge which is fitted with a wooden panel over the door that is created to match the cabinetry. They are ventilated from the front (instead of the back as in standard refrigerators) and hence can be placed anywhere without the consideration for air space around them. Available in different sizes, these are energy efficient and have alarms which go on when the refrigerator door is left open.

Sinks today also see a lot of variations - in materials, shapes, and colours.

The availability of a plethora of materials has also stepped in to offer new finishes to the kitchen design - glass, stainless steel, wood, laminates, lacquer, stones like granite, slate and marble, high glass veneers and eco- friendly options. Glass is used a great deal nowadays to make the kitchen look elegant. Frosted or stained glass doors for cabinets help in making the space visually open. Stainless steel appliances are still considered very trendy. Contemporary ideas for decorating kitchen appliances, cabinets and walls have also come in. Vinyl clings are inexpensive, temporary and can be used on stainless steel. Wallpapers (washable!) and patterns are now a regular with kitchen decor. So are backsplashes in glass, stainless steel and even brick. Laminates are also available where one can write and erase and even pin sheets.

The splash of colours has also made its way into the kitchen today. From neutrals, to blur and lighter green shades, to warmer colours to bold colours, all are being implemented. Distressed finishes have been a favourite. Sometimes the monotony of the kitchen is broken by giving a strikingly different colour to the central island. While neutral shades were much in demand earlier, today one finds the presence of bold contrasting colours in most kitchens to make a statement.

Faucets today are high tech and stylish. Pull-out faucets have made life a tad easier. Chrome finished faucets are elegant.

The colour and material trend being followed at CC India and Veneta Cucine is juxtaposition of neutral colours and neons; introduction of pastel colours into the kitchen and the use of BBS Bacteria Block Silver Guard (an anti bacterial material that disinfects all worktops and spaces in the kitchen thereby rendering a safer environment).

Internationally, product designers are definitely coming up with more out-of-box solutions in kitchens. While there has been an innovation of a Modular space saving kitchen cabinet system for a one bedroom apartment, a studio or a loft (which has sliding modules when one is not cooking or working can slide together and create different kind of sideboards), there is also a portable kitchen unit which comes with a cooktop, a sink, garbage disposal system and work space for food preparation, and can be assembled or disassembled in a few minutes. There is also a novel concept of enclosed kitchen sinks with movable cutting boards and retractable faucets when counter space is restricted. Multipurpose kitchenette including a cooking hub, dish washer, sink, fridge and washing machine assimilated in one structure and with a sensor technology is also quite an innovation. There are also internet refrigerators which download recipes on their LCD screens and keep the consumer informed about the expiry of the food inside.

Cucine Lube has various products in Modular kitchens. Maura (available in veneer, lacquered paint, and lacquered glass finishes) contains deep fryer and barbeque options with a quartz worktop. There is also a Le-Mans tray as an option for corner and it houses an island chimney and a built – in oven. Adele revels in the natural beauty of wood and has a wide range of lacquered colours that evoke the feel of a pure material. Lucy (available in versatile layouts) is specifically designed for contemporary environments where space is shared and the kitchen becomes its very own furnishing system. It is proposed with an aluminium frame in a polished champagne finish and a horizontally-grooved glass door in catalogue-featured colours. Glass features in the countertop and sink. Brava is based on a hand-less concept, has a smooth, neat look and is available in various finishes such as veneer, high gloss lacquered, coloured glass, gold and silver foils on acrylic base. Cucine Lube recently launched two of their innovative design collections - Nilde Gres and Creativa. While Nilde Gres uses porcelain and is designed to withstand heat, shock and chemical resistance; Creativa through its geometric feels personalizes your living space exclusively by creating more than eight layouts in a single design.

The Future

Picture-Courtesy-Gilma

KS-Ranganath
Mr.K.S.Ranganath, Vice President - Gilma, a brand that has been hailed for its various kitchen products says, "Modular Kitchen market is big and is picking up in the recent days. Down the line in 4 or 5 years most of the customers would go for the Modular Kitchens. By that time we would also like to make a good base in the modular kitchen industry. Our idea is to give value for money to the customers for Modular Kitchens."

On Cucine Lube's recent opening of the largest Modular kitchen showroom in Asia in Delhi on 30,000 sqft, the platform was also used to make architects, builders and developers understand the need of modular kitchens. On the future concepts that the firm is planning in modular kitchens, Mr Malhotra shares, "We want to make the kitchen a utilitarian space without compromising on the design and aesthetic aspects. Innovation is a continuous process in Cucine Lube. We believe in technology but with respect of environment. In future, we will definitely be looking for more innovation in designs combining with high technology to meet the requirement of those who are technology-driven. We would also like to come up with kitchen concepts for kids."{/akeebasubs}

MGS Architecture May 2013