How to make a kitchen

How to make a kitchen

How to make a kitchen

There are several practical factors to be kept in mind before designing the ‘warmest’ part of your home, says Nandita Manwani

It’s that place in your home where you are likely to spend over 10 per cent of your working life and the one that gets the most footfalls. It houses more gadgetry than you have in your car and is one of the most complex spaces to design. The smarter ones amongst you may have guessed it already; and for the laity – I am talking about your kitchen.

A kitchen needs to be ergonomic, utilitarian, spatially well-planned as well as good looking at the same time. The fact that the kitchen has ‘hot spaces’, ‘wet spaces’, ‘work spaces’, ‘wash spaces’ (I guess you get the idea) complicates matters further.

If you are in the process of setting up your new home or remodelling it, considerable attention will be demanded by your kitchen. While kitchen design is too vast a topic to discuss in one go, there are certain things, the knowledge of which can make your kitchen design journey both, enjoyable and easier.

The zones

A kitchen can broadly be broken down into five zones - preparation, cooking, baking, cleaning and storage. The core idea behind kitchen design based on zones is to ensure that each one can be independently operated without having to crisscross through the others. 

For example, the dishwasher should be placed next to the sink and the trash cabinet to form an integrated cleaning zone; the utensils and cooking instruments should be under or next to the cook top (cooking zone).

The preparation zone should be close to both, the cooking and baking zones so that you don’t need to walk to the cooktop after having rolled a chapati or to avoid a common mistake that folks make – the absence of a counter close enough to put down the hot tray fresh out of the oven.

Additionally, the space for long-term storage of grain, pulses, oils, namkeens (storage zone) should be away from the cleaning zone, specifically, the trash bin, to avoid bad odour problems.

Within your reach 

Basic as it may sound, the height of a kitchen counter can range anywhere from 32 to 36 inches. A high counter allows more storage space underneath; it also ensures that an appliance fits well under the counter.

However if you are 5’ 2” or shorter, a high counter will be uncomfortable to work on; so you may be better off with a 32-33 incher. Optimise the counter height based on your own height. Don’t go under 32” and over 36”.

Apt appliances

The exact dimensions of the appliances – those you plan to keep and the ones you will buy, should be factored in during the design phase itself. Fixed appliances like the hob, chimney, dishwasher, microwave and the like need a dedicated electrical connection to be housed in a way that the wires are not visible. 

Modern hobs have an electrically operated ignition system and most people miss out on planning an under-the-counter electrical point for it. 

Also, if you cook non-vegetarian food at home, ensure that the chimney has a suction capacity of 1000 cm3 per hour or higher. For movable appliances like grinder, hand and mixerbeater, you should ideally keep two sockets spaced out above each counter. Also, make sure that you have a socket close to the hob so that the hand blender can be used with dishes “on the flame” as well.

Storage spaces

Whatever be the size of your kitchen, somehow there is never enough space to keep the grill that you take out once in three months or the table mats meant strictly for special occasions and all the things that you will end up accumulating over the years. It is, therefore, prudent to plan bulk storage spaces from the start. 

Tall units and corners are ideal for bulk storage. For accessibility in the corners, solutions such as magic corner units are popular and readily available.
 
However if you do not want to invest in one, then a regular shelf in the corner will do just fine. A tall unit is specially recommended – plan one with regular shelves instead of a pantry unit to maximise storage space  LPG cylinders take up prime space within the kitchen.

While it is easiest to put them under the cooktop, the decision is definitely not the wisest or the safest. If you are blessed with a utility, then house the cylinders in there and connect them to the cooktop with a copper pipe – this will save you space under the cooktop. 

The cylinders now in the open will also ensure that your family is safe in case of a gas leak. However, if you do not have a prized utility, keep the operational cylinder in that corner space that we just talked about and the secondary cylinder somewhere far and away. 

Remember, keeping both the operational and the secondary LPG cylinder together inside the kitchen is a potential recipe for disaster.

Material matters

From Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF)  to waterproof ply to polywood, steel and beyond, there is a wide range of choice available in the market today. This is, perhaps, the most difficult as well as the most important decision you will need to make. 

If you want your kitchen to be long-lasting, then the only real choice for the kitchen cabinet material is between waterproof ply and steel. When choosing between the two, remember that ply cabinets can be modelled at home, while steel cabinets will need to be purchased.

If you plan to use steel cabinets, then ensure that the steel is 304 grade and comes from a known manufacturer. Cabinets in MDF and HDF – widely used in the West - are available in the market today. However, these may not withstand the rigours of Indian cooking – especially if your kitchen is fully or partially managed by your cook. MDF, hardwood, marine ply or polywood work well for the shutters.

However if you have a high-traffic or maid-managed kitchen, then it is wise to go for hardwood or ply. However, shutters in particle board are a definite no-no.

Countertops

The market has moved beyond those days when countertop meant granite. Nowadays, kitchen counters are available both in natural stone (marble, granite) and artificial stone (quartz, acrylic solid surfaces). Granite and quartz fit best against the needs of a  typical Indian kitchen as they are both stain-resistant and hard (but not brittle). 

However, the colour options in granite and quartz are fairly limited. If you are high on the maintenance side of things, then, marble and solid surfaces (sometimes referred to as corian) are great options as they offer exquisite finishes and a splash of colours to choose from.

Colours & lights

There is a method to get that spacious look and feel in the kitchen. Remember, dark colours make spaces look small, while light hues make them look larger, and a single colour may be monotonous, while three or more colours make it displeasing to the eye.

So, if you are planning on dark shutters, then balance them out with a lighter shade of the backsplash and glass shutters in the wall cabinet. On the other hand, if you plan to have your kitchen in shades of white, then you can select a fairly vibrant colour for the background.

Specialty lighting has a huge impact on the overall look and feel of the kitchen. Nowadays, with the advent of reasonably priced LEDs, it is not even a huge burden on the pocket. Plan for an LED strip running along the backsplash and, if you are the “new-age experimental” type, next to the skirting at the bottom. Any wall cabinets with a glass shutter should also have a spotlight. 

The aforementioned hacks should give you quite a headstart in kitchen planning – good enough for you to enjoy both, the journey  and the outcome for a long time in the future.

(The author is designer & founder, The Studio, Bengaluru)

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