Friday, January 30, 2015

Kitchen Design - Best Practices Consolidated in One Single Article

The article on the left was published in today's Deccan Herald. It encapsulates and consolidates all the Kitchen Design Best practices mentioned across different posts on this blog. Reproducing it below for my readers ... here goes...
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It’s that place in your home where you are likely to spend over 10 percent of your working life and the one that gets the most footfalls. It houses more gadgetry than you have in your car and is one of the most complex spaces to design. The smart among you may have guessed it already, for the laity - I am talking about your Kitchen.

A Kitchen needs to be ergonomic, utilitarian, maximizing storage space as well as good looking all at the same time. The fact that the kitchen has "hot spaces", "wet spaces", "work spaces", "wash spaces" …  (I guess you get the idea) complicates matters further.

If you are in the process of setting up your new home or just remodeling it, considerable attention will be demanded by your Kitchen. While Kitchen Design is too vast a topic to cover in a single article, the simple design tips below are meant to make your Kitchen design journey both enjoyable & easier.

Basics of Kitchen Design - The Zones


A Kitchen can broadly be broken down into 5 zones - Preparation, Cooking, Baking, Cleaning & Storage. The core idea behind Kitchen design based on zones is to ensure that each zone can be
independently operated without one having to criss-cross through other zones thereby optimizing efficiency. For example – the Dishwasher should be placed next to the sink and the trash cabinet to form an integrated Cleaning Zone, Utensils and Cooking instruments should be under or next to the cook top (Cooking Zone), The Preparation zone should be close to both the Cooking and Baking zone so that you don’t need to walk to the cooktop after having rolled the chapatti or - a very common mistake that folks make – that there is no counter close enough to put down the hot tray fresh out of the Oven. Additionally the space for long term storage of grain, pulses, oils, namkeens etc. (Storage zone) should be away from the Cleaning Zone, specifically the trash bin, to avoid any chance of odor contamination


What is the height of a Kitchen counter?


A number of deemed architects have missed admission to top architecture schools just due to a “wrong answer” to that question. Basic as it may sound, the height of the Kitchen counter can range anywhere from 32 to 36 inches. A high counter allows more storage space underneath; it also ensures that any appliance such as a dishwasher fits properly under the counter. However if you are 5’2’ or shorter a high counter will get uncomfortable to work on and you may be better off with a 32 – 33 incher. In summary (1) Optimize the counter height based on your own height (2) If you are planning any under - counter appliances then read the appliance manual and keep the counter height accordingly and (3) Don’t go under 32” and over 36”.


Planning for the Appliances


The exact dimensions of the appliances – those you plan to keep and the ones you will buy, should be factored in during the Design phase itself lest you end up stuck with an appliance AND an un-matching hollow
The fixed appliances like the Hob, Chimney, Dishwasher, Microwave etc. need a dedicated electrical connection to be housed in a way that the wires are not visible. Modern Hobs have an electrically operated ignition system and most folks miss out on planning an under the counter electrical point for the same. Also, if you cook Non Vegetarian at home then ensure that the Chimney has a suction capacity of 1000 Cum/ Hr or higher
For the movable appliances like the Grinder, Hand mixer, beater etc. you should ideally keep 2 sockets spaced out above each counter. Ensure also that you have a socket close to the hob so that the hand blender can be used with dishes “on the flame” as well.


Long term storage and that Clumsy Cylinder


Whatever be the size of your Kitchen, somehow there is never enough space to keep the grill that you take out once in 3 months or the table mats meant strictly for special occasions and all the things that
you will end up accumulating over the years. It is therefore prudent to plan bulk storage spaces from
the start. Tall units and corners are ideal for bulk storage. For accessibility in the corners, solutions such as magic corner units are popular and readily available however if you do not want to invest in one then just a regular shelf in the corner will do. A Tall unit is specially recommended - plan one with regular shelves instead of a pantry unit to maximize storage space 
LPG Cylinders take up primary real estate within the Kitchen and while it is the easiest to put them under the cooktop, the decision is definitely not the wisest or the safest. If you are blessed with a utility then house the cylinders in there and connect them to the cooktop with a copper pipe – this will save you prime space under the cooktop. The cylinders now in the open will also ensure that your family is safe in case of that rare gas leak. However if you do not have a prized utility, keep the operational cylinder in that corner space that we just talked about and the secondary cylinder somewhere far & away. Remember - keeping both the operational and the secondary LPG cylinder together inside the Kitchen is a potential recipe for disaster.

Material to use for the cabinets and shutters?


From MDF to Water proof ply to Polywood, Steel & beyond. With the huge material choice available in the market today this is perhaps the most difficult as well as the most important decisions you will need to make.

Cabinets:
If you want your Kitchen to last beyond its 3rd birthday then the only real choice for the Kitchen cabinet material is between Water Proof Ply (Technically called BWR 303 Grade Ply....ISI Marked preferred) and Steel.
When choosing between the two remember that while Ply cabinets can be modeled at home Steel cabinets will need to be procured ready-made. If you plan to use steel cabinets then ensure that the steel is 304 grade and comes from a known manufacturer.
Cabinets in MDF & HDF – widely used in the west, are available in the market today, however these do not measure up to the rigors of Indian cooking and use – especially if your kitchen is fully or partially maid managed.

Shutters:
Any of MDF, Hardwood, Marine Ply or Polywood work well for the shutters. However if you have a high traffic or maid managed kitchen then it is wise to go for Hardwood or Ply. However shutters in Particle board are a definite no-no.


Countertop – Beyond just Granite


The market has moved far beyond a time when the countertop meant Granite. Nowadays Kitchen counters are available both in Natural Stone (Marble & Granite) & Artificial Stone (Quartz & Acrylic Solid Surfaces). Granite & Quartz fit best against the needs of a typical Indian Kitchen as they are both stain resistant & hard (but not brittle) however the colour options in Granite & Quartz are fairly limited. If you are high on the maintenance side of things then Marble & Solid Surfaces (sometimes referred to as Corian) are great options as they offer exquisite finishes and a splash of colours to choose from.

That dovetails well into the last, but not the least important subject – that of colours & lighting. It is said “to each his own” but in the department of colours there is still some method to get that look and a spacious feel to the Kitchen. Follow the two simple rules below when choosing colours for your kitchen (1) darks make spaces look small while lights make them look larger and (2) A single colour may be monotonous and more than three too colourful to the eye.
Therefore if you are planning dark shutters then balance them out with a lighter shade of the backsplash and glass shutters in the wall cabinet. On the other hand if you plan to have your Kitchen in shades of white then you can select a fairly vibrant colour for the backsplash


Lighting 


Specialty lighting has a huge impact on the overall look and feel of the Kitchen. Nowadays with the advent of reasonably priced LED’s it is not even a huge burden on the pocket. Plan for an LED strip
running along the backsplash and, if you are the “new age experimental” type, next to the skirting at the bottom. Any wall cabinets with a glass shutter should also have a spotlight.

The above should give you quite a headstart in kitchen planning - good enough for you to enjoy both the journey now and the outcome for a long time to come – here’s wishing you happy homemaking.

Other posts on Kitchen design that you may also want to go through are linked below


Signing off

NM

PS: If you have a question to ask then please note: On Nov 15th we have launched the Q&A module on The Studio website. The Q&A interface on this blog was unable to scale to the number of questions that we have been getting - you would have noticed being unable to  scroll down to a question once the number of questions below a certain post increases beyond a certain limit. 
Hence if you have a question then please post it at  https://thestudiobangalore.com/questions-and-answers/ 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Home Interiors Maintenance Tips - The "Anti Wrinkle Cream" for your home

After spending a bomb on interiors in terms of resources, time and love -  it’s painful to see things slowly (sometimes not so slowly) coming apart as the home ages and matures. As a home making professional even I have felt this anguish seeing my creations going down especially when just basic maintenance could have ensured longevity.

Below are simple maintenance tips that I have learned over the years that should help you keep your interiors in top shape and you (...and me...for the homes I have done) feeling great about your now "not so new" but "matured” home.

1. The essential “Yearly” carpenter visit: 

Like how we need an annual health check up, your woodwork needs one too. The hardware that’s used nowadays (zero crank hinges, hydraulic lift ups, sliding systems etc) tends to gather play with regular use. You would have noticed the space between the shutters either becoming bigger or smaller with use – sometimes the shutters may clash, rub against the adjoining panel, wall or slab or bend/ get damaged if the issue is not arrested in time. The carpenter will tighten things back & it will take him no longer than a few of hours to do it – “quality” time well spent with your home I am sure.

2. The over enthusiastic scrubber: 

The maid under guidance from the super clean ma'am sometimes, in her enthusiasm, scrubs away the grouting along with the dirt. Grouting (for those not so enlightened) is the filler that’s put in between tiles/ granite slab or between the slab & the sink to fill the gap. The purpose is to (1) fill the gap aesthetically and (2) to prevent water leakage in wet places. A scrubbed off grouting is the single biggest kitchen killer known to man woman & child – it leads to water seepage from the sink, into the woodwork underneath leading to sure death. Also – the “artificial rain” in your bathroom due to the seeping ceiling is probably because of the over enthusiastic scrubber upstairs.
As you may have guessed already a scrubbed grouting has a simple solution – (1) Check for its absence on the floors (especially bathroom floors), between the kitchen slab & sink and where the slab meets the walls and (2) put the grouting back.

You can in fact do it on your own using white cement for the floor and silicone gel for the Kitchen

3. The “stuffed” drain pipe: 

Imagine yourself in the Kitchen drain pipe’s shoes….no, throat, and you will feel its bane. The spillage resulting from the choke also affects and spoils the woodwork around the drain. A monthly “drainex” down the drain (literally) will help avoid the quarterly choke providing respite to the woodwork around it.

4. Formal, Formal, Formal pest control: 

So many of us come under the spell of the humane (to the cockroaches) "herbal" pest control guy or are busy lining our homes with numerous “lakshman rekhas”. Trust me, nothing (with an underline) works better than a formal pest control treatment. Depending on the size of your place it costs between Rs. 3000 – 10000 annually and is worth every Rupee. 

The black “sand” that the cockroaches leave behind in your cabinets and drawers is their droppings – not only does it look messy, it also find its way into your utensils, cooking etc. etc.……you know where I am leading with this.  So fix it before it fixes you.

5. Lemonade & fizz for your bathroom fixtures: 

With use, you will find a frosty white film settling on your bathroom fittings. It’s a pretty stubborn piece of flab which, when attacked with regular cleaners, leads to the chrome itself getting damaged. The solution – a tiny yellow lemon. A scrub with lemon juice will melt away the film and bring the shine & smile back. If you are out of lemon then (this one is awesome…) use Coke…yes “Cocoa Cola” – in fact Coke works better than Pepsi for this one. A sure Thumbs up to Coke for winning "this" Cola war.

6. Corian Top - The 2 year itch:

If you have a Kitchen/ Breakfast Counter made with an Acrylic Solid Surface (called Corian in layman's terms) you may notice mild scratches on it within 2-3 of years of use. What a lot of folks do not know is that you can get the surface re-buffed (the guy who installed it will be able to it) this will make it looking as good as new.

That’s it from me for now but if YOU know any maintenance tips then please send them in a comment below and I will publish. Wish you all happy up-keeping.

Cheers

Nandita


PS: A large part of this article was written by me for the Elita Community magazine, Some of you may therefore have read it there already & sorry for the repeat.