A modular kitchen sounds delicious, but have you thought it through?

When architect and designer duo Lakshmi and Vikram B decided to move from a semi-modular open kitchen to a completely modular one, the decision brought many challenges. After many of planning and execution, the couple’s kitchen today is a sleek, contemporary space in white, steel and brown. “We extended our kitchen space to include everything inside it, from cutlery to self-lit bar to oil pull-outs to appliances and even an extended table with bar stools that doubles up as dining area,” says Lakshmi. 

If you are thinking of going the modular way, first ask yourself ‘who will use this space?’ Make choices based on this so that you don’t invest in the wrong models. If you have a cook or helper using the kitchen with you, then you might have to re-think what appliances and design features you use. They have to be educated about new-fangled equipment. Or if you share your kitchen with your traditional ma-in-law who insists on washing the counter everyday, a modular unit may not be for you.

“Modular kitchens need people to make lifestyle changes,” says Vikram.

Start from scratch

“Most people say ‘my builder has given me a granite slab. Please work around that,’ says Lakshmi. Ideally, though, get rid of all old slabs and start from the beginning. Second, you can customise your own kitchen with a carpenter and mason; you don’t have to buy the whole set in the market. Depending on your budget and needs, buy the right set of products for a unique modular space.

Put it away, everyday

In order to create more space, Lakshmi decided to keep only her induction stove out on the counter (besides the sunken hob). All other electric appliances were put into a cabinet. “It needs me to take the oven out, use it and put it back each time but it keeps the kitchen clutter-free,” she says. A leading advantage of going modular is that you can tuck everything away behind closed doors. Use this to your advantage to get a cleaner looking kitchen.

Plan ahead

Depending on your appliances, add more or re-position existing the power and light outlet points in the kitchen. A couple of extra 15 amp points can always come in handy. A clogged kitchen sink is the worst nightmare. A good idea would be to install a garbodrain beneath the sink right from the beginning. “It ensures that all vegetable and wet waste goes directly into the drain. It’s a good option for small apartments where garbage segregation is a problem. Now I have only dry waste in my house,” says Lakshmi.

Buy for the long term

Choose material that will last longer, even if it means spending a little extra. Particle board units, for instance, are sold by several brands but they are not great for kitchens because water seeps in over the long term, ruining them. Acrylic might be a better bet. Ply with laminate finish, for cabinet units, is also a wise choice. Plan the material according to your habits. Some work surfaces like granite can be washed; some like acrylic can only be wiped with a wet sponge. Always pick a non-staining and anti-fungal surface for a kitchen. A dado in glass looks classy and is easy to clean.

Chimney choices

“For Indian cooking, I recommend chimneys above 1000 cfm suction power,” says Lakshmi. “Some people keep the chimney on the wall opposite the stove for Vaastu reasons!” says Vikram, “but in these cases you must install a pipe is and the chimney needs to be of a higher power.” A high power exhaust is also very useful in a kitchen where a lot of Indian cooking is done. It removes heavy grime and smoke quickly.

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