Once a person starts looking at a modular kitchen as a ‘system’, things start falling in place for a solution that not only looks good but works and lasts a lifetime. A detailed list of things to avoid:
1. Not Planning around workflow in modular kitchen
Laying out the key areas is vital in keeping with its storage and space required. Three functional areas are Fridge, Cooking, Sink and the counter space it requires alongside. Counter space needs to be closer to the fridge so that loading and unloading from the fridge are easy.
Similarly, we need space on either side of the Hob. When you do the dishes you need space to place soiled utensils. And then, post-cleaning to dry them up. Added to this is the space for movement.
Lastly, the storage for each function, so you access it with minimum effort and ergonomics must be employed.
One must select the fridge keeping in mind their storage volume and its physical size. It is going to take floor space and many times protrude out beyond counter line. It kills the looks and balance of design in consonance with the cabinetry.
In my experience, the current day’s choice is 600ltrs plus, side by side or top-bottom doors. They all come with thick doors and their opening requires free space on both sides when drawers have to be drawn out. So, you cannot place it next to the wall.
Be mindful of its opening, left or right hinged, keeping in mind where the nearest countertop surface is. Assessing the volume of storage should be carefully done as it will have long term implications.
It remains one serious appliance which besides placement also needs perfect design. Here I am referring to Indian pots and utensils, they are all curved out and hence require the proper cut grill to seat.
Counter space on either side is a must. The same to be supported with easy accessibility to, cutlery, spice, utensil drawers and a high powered hood on top to evacuate, odour, oil and heat. Look for child safety knobs and gas cutoff safety features.
Another very personal feature, every lady decides to come from her habit and ease. Give adequate space on either side, deep enough sink bowls, number of bowls and drainboard.
The faucet which is a high quality, performance and having requisite water pressure. The sink faucet is used many times and by the entire family including the domestic helps. It is prone to rough usage. You don’t want dripping to take place, buy quality brands. You have enough choice of material too, SS, fragranite and a few more.
Go study the same, understand and make your selection. Remember, once the sink is installed it will only be discarded when you go for a new kitchen. Yes, the only option is to take a top-mounted model which can be replaced without the countertop having to be removed. You’ll get Red Dot award-winning sinks for your kitchens.
Waste disposal crusher is a growing need and reduces your organic waste handling, select a one with an air switch, it is installed on the countertop close to the sink. Dishwasher goes next to the sink unit as the plumbing is within the sink unit or else the machine sticks out, which is not a good idea. Easy to load the machine after one quick rinse with jet. The crusher takes care of the solid food, bones after a meal.
The sink unit also houses the waste bins with segregation, as required by civic authorities too. If poorly designed and managed the stinking point, cockroaches love it. Remember, this zone in the kitchen is the most vulnerable and can be painful if not handled at design and execution stage.
It is surely a plumbers job. Sounds simple! But not where you’ve untrained hands and minds working to make the client crib times to come. Plotting the layout of plumbing, after having understood the complete requirement of items as explained above, is happening within the sink unit, it is a skilled job.
The quality /type of pipe, its fittings, and workmanship calls for the best, never ever compromise. Besides supply line adequacy, the disposal line size matters a lot. You need to be mindful of clogging, right gradient to push out the waste. Ensure once the lines are laid that hydrostatic pressure test is conducted and a keen eye inspects and confirms of zero leakage. This work is expensive going forward, so get the right guy to install it.
It requires the utmost care and skill. Depending on what kind of sink is chosen, be it inset, under-mounted (sandwiched) or sit-on. Follow the company manual, have a supervisor standing to verify the steps and material being used. The sandwiched one requires seating on the two surfaces enough to hold the collar of the sink. Any oversight here will destroy the sink unit and adjoining units in no time. This ‘one issue’ has given a bad name to modular kitchens in India.
Its type, capacity and its location need planning from day one, don’t leave it for a last-minute purchase. We in India don’t get consistent quality potable water. Civic bodies will supply, buildings or housing society will buy tankers and sometimes have borewell water coming through your taps. So, select a UV, RO and alkaline water purifiers as per the quality of water to be treated. Added to this is online supply to your fridge for ice and drinking water. The pipe has to be laid while civil work is progressing.
2. Electrical Wiring and its earthing makes the modular kitchen safe
It’s a trend now in India to have a fully loaded modular kitchen. There is a demand for multiple built-in appliances and also many counter-top floating and handheld ones. Built-in ones require power sockets rightly fixed as per the manual and company directions, while its control switches come on the dado or nearby wall.
Similarly, all movable appliances require supply sockets in the area of its use. Having established the load required, break it up with separate MCBs, never save on the length of wire and a slot in the distribution box. This will ensure there is never a complete shut down due to one appliance faulting and also due to its earthing.
Please note: the dishwasher is a very sensitive appliance and should be fed with quality electricity and perfect earth. The damage is always the control or operating module (PCB) and it will cost you nothing less than a replacement, it is expensive.
3. Venting the built-in appliances and ducting for hoods
Built-in appliances have prescribed ventilation needs to be followed to the T. So, the inflow of ambient air point, its clear path to the appliance and further route to carry the heat out through a vent exit. Which means that you must incorporate its unrestricted flow in the design.
In countries like India, we require to even follow the same for all induction cooking hobs. Never install a fridge and ovens side by side without the insulation shield sandwiched. You get heat shields which deflect 90% heat between the two, cooling and oven units.
Fridge dissipates heat all day long and needs evacuation and if the oven is adding to it then it will affect the cooling inside and the longevity of the appliance.
The hob too requires the extraction of heat, vapours, odour out of the kitchen from above the hob and a clear path is required through a pipe. Normally its either a 4” or 6 “ pipe, never make it telescopic or reduced from the motor. Backpressure, load on the motor and sound within the kitchen will be annoying. Hood/Chimney should always be ducted and not recyclable unless the architecture doesn’t permit it and you live the handicap.
These days companies are suggesting down-draft hoods and integrated extractors. The motor pulls and pushes the heat, vapour and odour through a pipe buried under the floor or even out if the same is against a wall, provided the wall isn’t exterior and spoiling the façade. This kind of extractor isn’t for oriental cooking. Yes, maybe be for an island show kitchen to just warm/simmer your food. Don’t get misled!
4. Gas pipeline
The gas pipeline should be accessible to check for any leakage and change while no electric point should be touching it or the hot water line. In India, the meter for the gas supply is to be installed within the modular kitchen and it should be ventilated and easy to take the reading. Plan this at the design stage itself and assign the location and the path for its supply to your cooking hob. This should be as per the norms and rule by the gas supplying agency. Safety is paramount!
5. Countertop design is practical value addition in modular kitchen
This is adding to the overall aesthetics of the modular kitchen and its feel, while the resilience of the surface cant is ignored. Here, the interior designer/architect has to be fully involved since the entire scheme and control is their domain. You can also mix two materials in two different zones, dry counter, breakfast counter.
Choose an impervious material so nothing gets absorbed over a period of time and stain it. The workmanship of the same will affect the looks and longevity. Keep in mind the kind of handles chosen for base units. You need a drip groove under it. You can’t extend the counter beyond a point making it difficult for your fingertips to open the doors and drawers.
6. Ergonomics in modular kitchen design
The dictionary definition of ergonomics says ‘the study of man in relation to the environment and the adaptation, general conditions to fit an individual to maximize efficiency’. Nowhere is this more applicable than the kitchen.
The first aspect is on the floor plan as mentioned above in my first point. Ease of walking around is critical, keep a minimum of 3 ft going to 4 ft.
Simple check: The doorway with a tray in hand is 3 ft.
Choose more of drawers in the base units. Besides the comfort, it helps to keep a track of the stored items and makes their retrieval easy.
Countertop heights as per the user’s ease, folding at elbow level. Wall units for regular access from eye level shouldn’t go beyond 7 ft. While the built-in appliances should start at waist high and not much above eye level. Keep a stepper for reaching the units on a higher level when space constraint is there.
Introduce tall units with internal drawers, 5 maximum, this is a great help to store your food in different form and packs.
6. Lights and its controls
You need to address these three aspects with clarity- Lights within cabinets, countertop illumination and ambient. The kitchen should remain well lit and choose the lux-levels as per your taste, warm white or white. Food preparation advocates good lighting, examining uncooked to cooking and then serving.
At the same time, you can’t have heat bothering you, so LED is a great innovation. Think through the operational points for lights and other useful floating appliances, keep extra.
7. Flooring selection in modular kitchen
Ensure the flooring material is impervious, non-slippery, with oil, water and any food spillage. The surface should be easily cleanable and fixed at zero levels with no gradients. We don’t want liquids to flow beneath the skirting on a sloping floor. You don’t need to wash floors with a hosepipe, swab it, vacuum it and be happy.
The material shouldn’t stain with any substance dripping over it accidentally. I am adding the wall surface material here too, get ones which can be cleaned using appropriate agents, they do get smeared.
8. Storage planning
Storage of food, crockery, cutlery and utensils is at a premium in the kitchen. Planning this with the kitchen user is important if required visit their current home for tea and understand it.
Kitchen aides such as knives, chopping board, trays, foil and shrink wrap roles all require a designated place. These should be within an easy reach.
Don’t forget you have to house all sorts of cleaning agents and aides, buckets, steppers, mops, brushes, sponge. You have to think and provide space to place napkins to dry and reach while working, paper towels alone cannot suffice.
9. You need TV and Audio too
Plan this as you need wall space, in the direction you would like to watch it while working, audio systems can be housed pretty easily. You need to bring in wires to connect, set-top box and brackets to hold audiovisual systems.
10. The tenth point is to tell you to go back to the first and read it till 9th once again and let me know if I have missed anything … enjoy a good well-planned kitchen
The author – Mr Balbir Singh (www.balbirsingh.in) has over 20 years of experience in designing for multiple international brands in India. He is based out of Mumbai and can be reached on email@example.com
The Background This is a revolutionary time in our country where the demand for factory-built…