So, when she got married and moved into the new apartment her husband had purchased in Mumbai’s Lokhandwala area, she felt something was lacking in the otherwise well-decorated place. And that something was a place she was going to spend a lot of her time in. She knew instinctively that the kitchen had to be very special in her house.
That set her on a voyage of discovery. Leafing through a home-decor magazine, she stumbled upon an article on designer kitchens. Sunanda knew what she wanted.
Modern designer kitchens are not just your gas chulha-sink cabinet rooms. For some families, they are as important as a drawing room and could cost as much.
This is a whole new concept, where specialists are called in to design the kitchen, not just to suit the taste of the house owner, but also to provide the best possible value in terms of space and gadgetry. The designers go into minute details like the right type of lighting, storage, ventilation, work surfaces and colours to create your very own dream kitchen.
“It’s that little corner in your kitchen where your hand could never reach, or the extra shelf that made you squat on the floor every time you wanted to take something out. These are the problems that we seek to address,” says kitchen designer Nandita Rao.
There are some designer kitchen providers in India like Veneta Cucine and Kaffe, which give a complete overhaul to the kitchen, including cabinets, cooking grills, mini refrigerators, cutlery, sinks and dining tables.
Says a spokesperson for Veneta Cucine, “Designer kitchens involve understand- ing a client’s requirements, intelligent space planning, attractive designs and perfect installation of gadgetry.”
The concept of designer kitchens is new to India. Before the entry of foreign names, most kitchens were made according to individual whims. After the carpenter finished making the cabinets and drawers, the plumber would fit a sink and the cooking stove was placed on a flat working space or iron table.
Providing a full range of products under one roof started picking up in the mid-1990s when wealthy families felt the need to show off their kitchens as they would their gardens and living rooms. That’s when the foreign companies arrived and started engaging decorators specially trained to design kitchens.
These companies offer to renovate and re-plan old kitchens. For people like Sunanda, who are moving into new apartments, they offer to take up a turnkey job and provide all the gadgetry and modern devices.
The designers carefully study the kitchen area and then sit down with the owners to understand their needs—the number of people who generally eat food at one time, storage space, cabinets, fresh air, chimneys and labour saving devices.
To meet the specific requirements of Indian consumers, these overseas companies have started providing region specific gadgets to their consumers. For example, a north Indian kitchen could have a small Tandoor, a south Indian kitchen could come fitted with a big grinder, and so on.
Says the Veneta Cucine spokesperson, “For us, designing kitchens is not only about selling a product to the consumer, but it is about meeting all the possible needs of a family. We take into consideration the shape of the kitchen and then give a layout plan that incorporates work surfaces, storage spaces, ventilation, electrical fittings, plumbing and gas piping.”
A complete designer kitchen can cost between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, depending upon the area of the kitchen and the number of accessories that the customer wants. For kitchens that have a wooden finish, the price range starts from Rs 2 lakh.
Though high and upper middle class customers mostly go for designer kitchens, there is an increasing demand for these products in small cities as well. For example Kaffe has outlets in Jaipur, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Agra, while Veneta Cucine is setting up bases in Chandigarh, Agra and Kochi. As much as 20-30 per cent of the sales of these companies are in small cities, which is a sign of the changing perception of Indian homemakers.
Some companies are marketing their material separately, others like Veneta Cucine do not sell their products individually, but only take up turnkey jobs. “We believe in the European concept of doing things in totality,” says a Veneta Cucine spokesperson, who reels off a list of his clients that sounds like a virtual who’s who.
Many of these leading companies are already providing a host of high quality products that include cabinets, sinks, ovens and mixies, making life simple for families. It is little wonder that an increasing number of upwardly mobile housewives are fast realising that in the modern world, a fully updated kitchen is light years ahead of its predecessors. It is no secret that a well-planned kitchen makes cooking a far more pleasant activity.
So why sigh and despair, looking at your drab kitchen. If you have a few lakhs of rupees to spare, call up the specialists who will give it a new sparkle.