Contemporary kitchens are a bespoke response to peculiar market needs and demands
By Carol Ferrao
Whether it’s the concept of ‘social’ kitchens or the increasing popularity of German and Italian engineered kitchens, homes today are equipped with avant-garde kitchens. Contemporary kitchen design is all about addressing new customer aspirations, their fondness for global cuisine along with regional-style cooking, need for smart appliances, and demand for multi-functional spaces with efficient storage solutions, among a host of other new requirements. It’s the perfect blend of local and global aspirations – a challenge the modular kitchen industry is addressing with new solutions.
“Consumers today want a kitchen that does not look like an ordinary kitchen, but one that is equipped with modern functions, ease of use and is low maintenance,” points out Dinesh Aggarwal, joint managing director, Panasonic Life Solutions. In response, Panasonic has been offering specific solutions like noiseless doors, drawers and accessories, along with slim counters that match the equally sleek kitchen fronts. These individual features play a definitive role in the understanding of contemporary kitchens today. “Contemporary kitchens designed with cutting-technology are clean, uncluttered, effortless and minimalist, whilst remaining livable,” summarises Aggarwal.
Ridhvika Chawla, director - marketing, Hacker Kitchens India, explains that the rising demand for contemporary kitchen is directly linked to the architecture and design that’s in vogue today. The combination of straight line-inspired designs and modern palettes as well as aesthetics, in particular wooden fronts that are warm yet modish, are what define contemporary kitchens today, according to her. Chawla also points out that the real estate trend of offering bare-shell houses has made kitchens bigger, allowing them to be interactive spaces with add-on features such as small sitting nooks and breakfast counters.
In India, a contemporary kitchen is bespoke, says Mandeep Singh, executive director and CEO, JSL Lifestyle. He says it looks at matching the requirements of the patrons, which defines its overall structure and look. “The modern sensibilities aligned in the designs, basis the ever-evolving lifestyle of the current urbane, is what precisely contributes to the contemporary wisdom. The game is how to smartly accommodate these distinct needs of our varied clients in this domestic market, given that every state in India has its own unique requirements,” adds Singh. As an example, he mentions that clients in southern India see batter-maker appliances integral to their kitchen.
“Such customisations make the Indian kitchen industry a challenging terrain with the potential for high-propensity growth year after year. Owing to these critical regional aspects, global players from Germany, Italy, etc., have restrictive growth pattern – and are exceedingly successful, posing a challenge in domestic penetration. While catering to our provincial needs effectively, a striking balance of panache and a chic outlook is a must to cater to the ever-booming contemporary Indian kitchen market,” Singh explains.
Perhaps what makes imported kitchens successful in the market is their ‘immensely practical’ quotient as Ashok Basoya, founder, Ottimo describes. These kitchen boasts of a range of appliances – mostly in-built – that make the cooking process efficient and delightful. “Use of real materials like veneer, wood, metal and glass as accents, further gives substance to today’s kitchen,” he adds. In short, Basoya believes, today’s contemporary kitchens go beyond the definition of being sleek and stylish. They are essentially uncluttered, organised spaces, marked by clean lines, and are fuss-free yet attractive.
The Trend Factor
Bespoke or modular, there is a common thread in new kitchens. According to Vaishali Lahoti Shah, assistant general manager, Godrej Interio Design, white kitchen cabinets and appliances have become a top choice among consumers. “White is the ideal colour for the kitchen with pops of colour derived from the accessories. It makes the kitchen appear clean, uncluttered and un-fussy,” says Shah, adding that it is complemented with warm metal fixtures and accents, mainly in brass, copper or chrome. “From a material’s perspective, we are seeing materials such as glass, wood, wood substitutes, artificial stones and metal; while finishes such as back-painted glass, PU, veneer, polish, etc., are in play,” she further adds.
From themes, materials to fittings, trends in kitchens are fluid as well as distinctive. “Lately, there has been a strong, latent demand for mix and match between two themes, which can result in something contemporary. For example, transitional + bold,” points out Gita Ramanan, CEO and co-founder, Design Café. Based on their experience at the studio, Ramanan highlights that trends such as wood-finish panels; sleek, curved cabinet handles; appliance garage (a comprehensive cabinet used for appliances); bold colours inside the cabinets; roll up shutters; and finally warm, white lights are enhancing the appearance and functionality of modern kitchens.
High-quality materials like veneer and real wood, along with cement-finish surfaces, metal fronts in gun metal and corten steel, are also extremely in vogue, currently, points out Basoya. He also mentions, “Show kitchen is a new trend which is picking up and is used by clients or by chefs for in-house parties, get-togethers, etc.”
When it comes to appliances, many kitchen experts unequivocally pointed out that health-conscious consumers have made steam ovens a default choice in kitchens. Whether it is Nagold J-Series Combi-steam from Hafele or the Miele range of steam ovens, consumers prefer cooking with steam because it helps retain nutrients and improves the flavour of the dish. Often the oven comes with a bake and grill function too, along with the option to defrost, cook multiple foods at one time and safety features like child lock and overheat protection. The in-built solution is often fitted within a tall cabinet for an easy and safe access that is ergonomic-friendly.
“The shift from traditional kitchens to modular has encouraged the quest for better and smarter lifestyle across segments,” discloses Singh, adding that India is now catching up to the international trend of stainless steel kitchens. “With its numerous unbeatable characteristics, like, fire-resistant, zero termites, zero bacteria growth, maintaining hygiene, anti-corrosion, stunning looks, a wide range of finishes and colours, and much more, stainless steel is the next big thing for the Indian kitchen market today.” One of the big plus points in stainless steel kitchens is that it doesn’t depreciate with repeated use in comparison to materials such as wood or mild steel.
The Indian Context
Both imported suppliers and homegrown solution providers share that Indian consumers have specific storage requirements for kitchens. To address these demands, companies like H&R Johnson have unveiled solutions like SpaceFlexx, an exclusive organising system introduced by Nobilia. Rahul Shrivastava, general manager - Kitchens Division, H&R Johnson India, shares, “SpaceFlexx is absolutely ideal for people who love a tidy kitchen, but haven’t been able to find any kind of order inside the cabinet. Virtually every kitchen utensil can be stored in SpaceFlexx as it has a flexible divider Nesttex that adjusts to fit the contours and sizes of the stored goods.” Nobilia’s other innovations such as waterproof work-tops, free-standing washing machine and dishwasher, anti-fingerprint shutters, are some of the other solutions that respond to the pragmatic needs of Indian clients.
As for aesthetics, international brand Poggenpohl Kitchen sees their new gold-plated and shiny silver kitchen fronts particularly relevant to the Asian market. “In India, for example, gold signifies purity, wealth and safety,” mentions the company. Through a special process, slate slabs are metallised with 24-carat gold – or with a pure precious metal – and combined with highly-transparent, hardened glass to create these resplendent kitchen fronts. “The effect is a symbiosis of precious metal, stone and glass, which accentuates the slate’s topography in a unique way. With gold, the composite shines brilliantly, warmly and vividly. With silver, it has a subtle and cool gleam,” the company describes.
Functionality remains a top priority among Indian consumers. Sturdy, durable materials and easy to clean, seamless solutions are what consumers gravitate towards. Panasonic Life Solutions kitchens, therefore, offer oil- and water-repellent counter-tops that are highly heat-resistant. Manufactured in Japan, the counter-tops are designed by compounding organic glass materials with natural mica, exhibiting an intense, vibrant look. “Along with this, the unique sinks designed by Panasonic Life Solutions blend seamlessly into the counter-tops, warranting zero leakage. The state-of-the-art drawer systems provided by Panasonic kitchens come lined with stainless steel, making it more sophisticated and very easy to clean and maintain,” adds Aggarwal.
Considering the fact that high-functioning modular kitchens are a big investment, Indian consumers want a flexible solution that offers more value for money. Chawla tells us a lesser known fact that companies like Hacker provide modular solutions that can be easily dismantled into individual pieces and fitted onto a new site. “At Hacker, we have a 96% automated factory; we are a modular kitchen in the truest sense. If the client is relocating, they can take the kitchen to the new layout,” she explains. It is clearly evident that manufacturers and solution providers are willing to go to great lengths to meet the peculiar demands of the Indian market.
With the beginning of a new decade, there is a lot of transformation we can expect in this segment. In the coming years, Shrivastava says, we can expect more gadgets, automation and open kitchen concepts dominating the market. “Future kitchens will be connected to the living area on one side and to the utility area on the other. Apart from that, the concept of dry and wet kitchens will soon be introduced. Dry kitchens will be used for serving food and wet kitchens for preparing food,” he predicts.
Companies like Panasonic Life Solutions are taking a very hands-on approach to paving the way for next-gen kitchens, specifically innovating for local needs and demands. “We look forward to adding features that will mainly cater to the Indian market at large,” Aggarwal mentions. “One such feature that we are currently developing is the cockroach shocker technology which will soon be integrated with the storage systems of Panasonic Life Solutions kitchens. We are very optimistic about this additional feature.”
From open kitchen spilling into the dining space, we will slowly transition into integrated kitchen and living rooms, believes Chawla. Additionally, with technology becoming an essential element in the space, the Hacker spokesperson mentions that imported kitchens are expected to bring in more value to this space, resulting in contemporary kitchens that will last longer and will require less maintenance. It is a future everyone will appreciate and a quick glance at new solutions and kitchen concepts suggests that the future is possibly already here.