Modern kitchens are accommodating complex requirements that are specific to the country

By Carol Ferrao

Kitchens are becoming extremely precise and high-tech, a trend evident at the Salone Del Mobile Eurocucina 2018, held in April. The sense of order and organisation in modern kitchens is impressive and, finally, ergonomics is the defining characteristic of a good kitchen. Modular kitchens are now the default solutions, but brands have developed customisable options within formulaic design. Even though European designs continue to transform the Indian kitchen, local sensibilities have urged manufacturers to tweak these designs for a more contextual solution – ensuring a wonderful blend of cultural influences.
As consumers become more receptive and drawn to such finesse in design, the growth in this sector (both in terms of design and market value) is imperative. “Indian consumers are open to accepting (new designs) and, probably, that is the reason they are one of the major purchasers in the world. The consumer power in India is actually exploding,” highlights Sapna Aggarwal, creative director, Ansa Interiors. European retailers and solution providers have, thus, saturated the market with their technologically-advanced solutions, changing our relationship with food and manner of cooking effectively.
Technology has entered the kitchen in full force in the form of smart kitchen solutions and appliances, says Pralhad Bhutada, CEO, Elica PB India. “Today, you can have a kitchen with technology integrated into every appliance – such as the chimneys, hoods, dishwasher, barbeque, etc. This is what we call a smart kitchen. With modular and smart kitchen concept, chimneys and hoods have especially taken a front seat. There is a remarkable evolution in the shape, design, control features, lighting and overall aesthetics for smart kitchen solutions such as chimneys.” With the increase in purchasing power and advancements in technology resulting in smart solutions, kitchens have been transformed into a versatile, central space in modern homes.

DESIGN AND MATERIAL TRENDS
As the market evolves, so does the appearance and functional nature of kitchens. Some of the key trends, according to Amitha Madan, partner at House of Magari, and principal architect at Treelight Design, include compact, space-saving cabinetry that integrates all equipment and storage to create a small yet functional kitchen; cabinet shutters finished in stone to make the entire central counter look like a homogeneous mass of stone; and sliding motorised partition and shutters that hide an open kitchen when desired. “This is very helpful, especially for Indian kitchens where you have very strong cooking smells and it provides privacy when househelp is working in the kitchen,” points out Madan. Flexibility in design is appreciated the most and, hence, shelf tracking system routed to the carcass makes it possible to adjust the placement of shelves, allowing optimum use of storage space. “Another very useful element can be movable counter tops over the hob to conceal it, transforming into prep counter or a dining table,” she Madan.
As product manager – Kitchens, Häfele India, Harshal Munde has noticed that the most experimented area is kitchen cabinet fronts, the prevailing materials being stone, porcelain, and quartz. “Be it a natural stone surface, super matt surface or even textured, these new materials are gaining popularity. However acrylic doors remain the favourite and have extended the range from high gloss to super matt finish.” There is also a swap of materials and surfaces taking place – stones being used in doors, wood as a countertop and a backsplash; similarly, glass and steel are popular backsplashes amongst designers. “The most experimented with material in the kitchen is aluminium, due to its flexibility and aesthetic appeal. So, innovative aluminium profile door solutions, shelving systems, plinth and handles available in different colours are extremely popular. Minimalistic design, open shelving, thinner cabinet and door materials are also widely favoured,” adds Munde.
There is a level of diversity in the trends too. Some consumers want a more nostalgic vibe, while others want a bold, futuristic design. Nikesh Modon, national head – Products, Nolte India, explains, “Increasingly people are going back to their roots, the deep attachment to the earth giving rise to ethnic and near-natural finishes – for example, metal and stone, which are currently trending and appealing. Millennials are more open to experimenting, hence black has become the new white and is being incorporated quite generously.” Customers are also more drawn to materials that offer an almost glass-like finish.
Inspired by their Pinterest feed, home owners are introducing open shelves in their kitchen. Ashok Basoya, founder, Ottimo, informs, “Apart from storing utilities, the open spaces are used to embellish the kitchen and reflect the owner’s personality with accessories like herb plants, vases, decorative kettles, plates, candles and little knick-knacks collected while travelling.” With the addition of glass shutters and internal lighting, the kitchen ambience has an almost living-room feel, says Basoya. “Brass, steel, copper are all making a comeback in one form or other – be it as handles, design elements, utensils or even semi-worktops. Treated wood and metal to achieve interesting patinas is a hot current trend,” he further adds.
From a materials perspective, Vaishali Lahoti Shah, assistant general manager, Godrej Interio, points out that there is an increase in demand in glass, wood, wood substitutes, artificial stones and metal. In backsplashes, kitchens are gravitating towards back-painted toughened glass for a neat and high-end finish. A single slab of stone, instead of tiles, also provides a similar uniform feel for kitchen walls. Shah also reminds us that kitchens, today, need to seamlessly integrate smartphones, induction chargers, tablet holders and brackets for laptops, improving the level of convenience and connectivity in the space.
An alternative to glass finish, VetroTec acrylic panels is one of the newest materials introduced in the market recently. “VetroTec from Otto-Vertrieb, Germany, is a range of high-quality acrylic glass panels for kitchen shutter fronts and backsplashes, high-end furniture, wall panelling, etc,” explains Manish Maheshwari, managing director, Ventura. “(It is available) in a wide range of colours like Luxe Black, Arctic White, Gold, Copper and Exotic Snakeskin finishes… The 2mm thick superior acrylic fronts imitate a glass panel 100%, and the smooth/non-stick surfaces are easily cleaned with water and a soft cloth.” This transparent material boasts a high mechanical durability, as well as has an outstanding resistance to weathering. The panels are extremely brilliant due to the abrasion-resistant UV varnish layer applied to the surface and are covered with a protective foil.
Another material that is taking over the market right now is Fenix Nano-tech Matt Material, says Ashita Parmar, COO, EIPL Group (Contorno). “The nanotechnological material from Arpa Industriale has revolutionised the world of interior design,” she says. Fenix is composed of next-generation nanoparticles and acrylic resins, which are hardened and cured through an innovative Electron Beam Curing process, which makes the material anti-fingerprint, soft to the touch, opaque and extremely durable, so much so that it can withstand serious knocks and scratches. It is also highly resistant to the aggressive action of solvents and reagents typically used for household cleaning. If the surface has superficial microscratches, heat actually helps to repair them. The surface of the material is scattered with a dense grid of crosspolymers with their own memory, which can be reactivated by the application of heat. Fenix is also water-repellent, hygienic, thanks to its effective bacteria-killing action, and is resistant to mould. All of these make it a perfect surface for contact with food. Contorno offers Fenix for its Doimo Cucine kitchen collection.

CUSTOMISING MODULAR DESIGNS
Unlike the rest of the world, modular systems had to adapt to Indian specifications and preferences. Customisation, within the modular framework, has enabled consumers to enjoy the sophistication of European design along with the sturdiness in build they are more familiar with. Most architects are still wary of using MDF, the default material for modular designs. Kitchen experts have become more sensitive to this market need. “Indian clients prefer ply carcass to high-grade MDF,” shares Madan, who has seen clients prefer solid wood shutters with or without ornate Indian carving shutters, and plywood base with veneers as well. “We provide for these requirements, whereas most European designs do not offer them.”
Modular designs are often perceived as rigid – but with years of experience, manufacturers like Nolte have developed an exhaustive catalogue of modules that can be used to build a variety of kitchens. Take, for instance, when they had to design keeping in mind the significant height difference between a client and the housemaid. Both having a stake in the space, the in-house designers could easily accommodate this requirement . “We have an array of 150+ colours, 3,060 storage options and 4,643 ways to design the kitchen, personalising kitchens in a way unique to individual users,” asserts Modon.
Häfele’s Munde admits that lifestyle changes are largely influenced by the Western world and, thus, ready-to-use solutions are implemented as is. While most solutions have been quite successful in the Indian market, some, however, needed tweaking. “Stellar Wireware range of pull-outs is made in compliance with the European functionality of runners, but it hosts a lot of features that are only relevant to India (like, the material is made up of Stainless Steel Grade 304). All the kitchen accessories across the globe are made with steel and not stainless steel; the consumers, here, focus on the material.”
Even appliances had to adapt to the local needs. Elica, by tailoring its international design for Indian needs, has earned the goodwill of many customers. “Hobs is a budding product category, especially with urban households. But most brands are offering high-end hobs, imported from Europe and China. On the other hand, Elica PB, which has been in the Hob category since its inception, has, over a period of time, made consistent efforts to understand consumer insights and requirements. Hence, Elica PB India strives to provide product solutions to Indian consumers with products made in India for India and the export markets,” shares Bhutada.

INNOVATIVE KITCHEN
Digitalisation is slowly making its way into the kitchen, and will impact the way kitchens function in the future. The innovations we will see in the coming years will integrate these advancements more prominently. “The most innovative features I have seen lately in many trade shows are the appliances becoming smart and lights being controlled with a simple app on your phone. Also, hardware is taking minimal space and, thus, compact solutions are preferred. Therefore, the lift and hinge systems are being concealed in cabinets and drawers,” informs Munde.
Expect designs to get sleeker and multi-functional, says Madan. “Invisible appliances are placed below the kitchen counter, rendering the surface flat and safe. The induction only comes on when there is a vessel placed on it.” It will be an interesting technological development where electric-operated elements – hobs, power switches, weighing scale and phone chargers – will be seamlessly hidden, so that they are 100% invisible when not in use. Sensor-based smart trash cans that work on voice command will be helpful in the kitchen while hands are busy. Concealed motorised chimneys are a great solution for a clean look. “I think the Indian consumer is already well versed with automated gadgets in their everyday lives, so these solutions will appeal to them.”
A lot has already begun to change in the small appliances domain. “Additions like voice-activated faucets, IoT microwaves and tech-infused range hood are slowly changing the face of Indian kitchens. Hence, technology is prompting a change in kitchen storage designs, as usage of appliances is on the rise. Therefore, it is extremely important for us to ensure adaptability in our product range. Due to the mobile way of living, the world has switched to free-standing kitchen units which can be installed in any space as they are gaining popularity. One needs to watch out for this trend, as it is set to make waves in the future. Godrej Interio intends to tap this user requirement in the near future,” states Shah.
Chimneys are expected to go beyond their basic utility as well. “The push control has been replaced by touch control; lights have changed to LEDs and strip lights. With strip lights, you get to change the colour of the light depending on the ambience. Silence technology, Calvin control, high efficiency and more power are the latest trend and market demand. It is a complete package that is designed to boost the level of comfort for its users. Even when you are not cooking, there are chimneys with almost no noise which are at work purifying your kitchen air. They are armed with special sensors. So, this is how far expectation and technology has shot up today,” explains Bhutada.
Maheshwari believes that the Button Fix, an innovative new solution from UK that enables secret, secure and configurable panel fixings, is a solution to watch out for. It is a system that’smade up of durable nylon buttons which are clicked to fit into a mating fix attached to the back of the panel. “Button Fix is the ideal option for panel fitting. Ergonomic and easy to install, it is especially configurable to a wide range of panel fittings across different environments and circumstances,” he explains.
No matter how innovative a solution is, the real question remains how adaptable it is to our lifestyle and environment. And that’s the determining factor to watch out for.
As Bhutada rightly states, “In India, the market is progressing, but there is a long way to go, hence at present for any product we need to tailor the international design to boost functionality. In the current scenario, it is about realistic products and promises.”

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