Nov 29, 2016

Appliances for the Modular Kitchen

Microwave on countertop; Courtesy: Houzz
Courtesy: Houzz
Very typical to my blog, I had reached out to people on Houzz 2 years back for info on kitchen appliances when we were finalizing the purchase of the kitchen. Instead of getting input from users of the brand that I was asking about (Hafele Nagold), I got a whole lot of unwanted advice on other brands.So no actual help. And of late, I get asked on how my purchase turned out! Clearly there is no sign of karma.

Anyways,  purchasing appliances is a personal thing and a function of need, want and affordability; choices become easier if some ground work is done earlier. This would lessen the number of options available and thus help in choosing easily  (divergence convergence theory of Design Thinking if you are interested).

The basic set of kitchen appliances that everybody has and installs in their modular kitchen are namely gas/electric hob, chimney hood, microwave and oven. The microwave is an appliance that has gained usage in the last 10 years and hence may or may not be a top choice for some. However, the oven is not really widely used in India as it is in many countries unless you bake a LOT or are interested in using it. Hence I consider this also to be an unnecessary expense. Of course that didn't stop me from getting one. In case you are interested in these appliances, then getting inbuilt versions of these are very helpful as they help in saving precious countertop space that would otherwise be utilized by a stand-alone microwave or an oven toaster grill (OTG)  or equivalent. Of course they come at a considerable price increase compared to the standalone products.

What you should know about your appliances before you  start off designing the kitchen:

Siemens Domino Hob ; Courtesy: Siemens
Courtesy: Siemens
Hob: Do you need/want a gas hob or an electric one? You could even have an induction hob or a combination of these options. Siemens has a nice domino option of mixture of hobs, as does Bertazzoni ( at even higher prices:) ).Knowing the number of burners you might need will help in determining the size of the hob cabinet. Knowing where the hob might be positioned ( kitchen or island or peninsula) would help in planning the gas or electrical pipelines.The exact model can be chosen much later in the design phase.
Falmec downdraft ; Courtesy: Falmec
Courtesy: Falmec

Chimney Hood: It is is important to know couple of things about the hood in advance so that the planning for the chimney duct can be done well ahead. It's difficult to do these later and you might have an unsightly chimney duct running across your beautiful kitchen.
Kitchen with appliances ;Image copyright: Koel Das
Image copyright: Koel Das
Choosing a hood with a charcoal filter would help to do away with the need of the chimney duct. Of course you would end up changing the filter every few months. If the island contains the hob for cooking then the chimney and duct needs to be planned accordingly. If you wish to conceal the duct then you could pass the duct through some unused cabinets. We created a beam like structure out of gypsum to conceal the duct. An alternate option is to have an under-cabinet hood. I've even come across under-microwave hoods which I am not sure I am comfortable with. I loved the downdraft model but it took up a lot of cabinet space underneath and I did not want to lose most of my island space where I have an additional hob, so I had to give up on that beautiful idea. Once these decisions are out of your way, the number of options that you can choose from will reduce drastically. Filter the remaining options based on power, sound level, design , color and of course pricing and choosing becomes easy.

I never thought earlier that color is that important when it comes to kitchen appliances
Orange range cooker; Courtesy: Houzz
Courtesy: Houzz
but it could help make your kitchen look nicer. Usually the preference is to have appliances in the same color or have one color that pops like a bright yellow Smeg fridge or a bright orange range cooker. Since my hob and oven were in black primarily with chrome controls, it became easier to choose a black hood from the few options. Of course I did go back and forth among models and brands for the sound level but the slight difference isn't exactly a benefit for my ears.

The appliances above are the basic ones that you will need. If you are keen or use some of the other appliances, then there are plenty that you could add to your kitchen. In-built versions of dishwashers, refrigerators to give the seamless look, wine cooler, coffee machine, warming drawers, barbecue grill, deep-fryers and perhaps more ( that I am not currently aware of ) are available to enhance your kitchen as well as your experience in it. 

Courtesy: Houzz
As far as brands are concerned there are a huge number of them in the market and I am not recommending any one . I took a risk with choosing Hafele Nagold for the kitchen but so far I've had no complaints. Some of the names are highly recommended in the industry, like Siemens, Bosch, Faber, Kaff. I have heard few complaints about Kaff and more on Elica. Elica's sales stores were a disappointment to be honest and I remember one of the sales guys being creepy with no sense of personal space. I liked the Whirlpool website because it showed me the pricing unlike any of these other brands that are surviving in an ecommerce crazy world. However it doesn't have the detailed info, diagrams that you can expect on a Siemens, Faber or Elica website. Hafele Nagold website has very good photographs but isn't very detailed at least not to my liking. If you have big bucks and are interested, then you could try Gorenje, Miele , Falmec and Bertazzoni ( the last 2 being carried by Hafele India dealers). 

Happy shopping!

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Apr 10, 2016

Kitchen sink - plan early

There is this short poem that goes like 

" For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
  For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
  For want of a horse the rider was lost.
  For want of a rider the battle was lost.
  For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
  And all for the want of a horseshoe nail." 

Image copyright: Koel Das
Image copyright: Koel Das
While you don't have to be poetically inclined to understand this, it actually contains an important learning. Right now it reminds me of the kitchen sink that I could not buy. And the actual reason is due to a lack of 50 mm of space. Something that the architect or whoever designed that particular space thought didn't matter. Also our kitchen designer never bothered to point out that I was ending up with a 500 mm sink cabinet than a typical 600 mm sink cabinet. If she did, I might have had the kitchen designed a bit differently.  

Unfortunately, I discovered it much  later when I set my eyes on a kitchen sink that wouldn't fit into the designated space due to a size constraint. That's when we discovered the small details. Since we did not want a sink with a drainboard, that gives us lesser options to choose from and the final reduced list contains sinks that are best used as a bar sink. The only saving grace is that we have an additional bigger sink which will take the load of all heavy duty activity and the kitchen sink will be primarily used for prep work.

Courtesy: Hafele (from iSpace)
The other takeaway from this fiasco was that even though it seems like you can think about where to place the  kitchen sink and the chimney hob a bit later in the design process, it is actually a better idea to be aware of what you need (and perhaps want) quite in the early process. That way you would be aware of the constraints of your physical space ( small corner, gas pipe can't be extended in a direction, difficulty to pass the chimney duct, etc) and try to figure out solutions to them if possible. In my case, I actually thought that choosing the kitchen sink and hob was the easiest and I could spend the least amount of time and cognitive effort on that activity. And that is very rarely true.

Also the kitchen triangle doesn't always work best when it is in the shape of a triangle. What you need to figure out is how you work in the kitchen ( or your cook does ) and then make sure the 3 elements of the triangle are suitably located. One of my neighbours discovered very early on that the location of the kitchen sink wasn't suitable and requested the builders for slight changes. As a result the kitchen sink is in a location where it would actually help. Good design and prior planning are very obviously helpful.
Courtesy : Blanco

Courtesy : Carysil
The sink that I really liked was a Blanco sink sold by Hafele in India. It has this beautiful stone like surface that is wonderful to touch. A bit of research told me that it is equally tough as well and a great material for kitchen sinks. Since the sinks available would not fit my kitchen sink cabinet, I looked at other similar alternatives and came across Tectonite from Franke , quartz sinks from Nirali, granite sinks from Carysil, quartz sinks from Futura. We were quite sold on Carysil but I don't remember exactly why we didn't finalize it for our sink. Finally we decided to go with the stainless steel options from Franke even though granite or quartz would have been a wonderful change. Also it would be good to know that interior designer Nandita Manwani mentions it is best to buy the ones with good quality which unfortunately come at a higher price.

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