During a renovation project, my family's flat was essentially split in two halves. On the half we lived in during this time, we had access to a few rooms and the living room. However, one glaring issue came to the surface soon after: we were left without a kitchen.
During the construction, my family did their best to place appliances in different corners of rooms to create a makeshift kitchen, but the experience of cooking became a nightmare.
"The kitchen is the heart of the house," said Md. Asif Rahman, Lead Architect of Ghasforing, and I could not help but agree.
The kitchen is an essential part of your home, even though it receives so little space when planning the layout.
"Not only is it a place where food is prepared, it is a hub of storage and sitting. It is the centre of communication in the house and it gives the household focus and direction," Rahman elaborated.
The kitchen is essentially a functional space that needs to promote efficiency and minimise accidents. It also reflects the beauty of a home. But most people tend not to understand how important it is to not cut corners here.
"Locally, there is a common belief that kitchens should be small spaces located in a house. But it is a space for everyone to cook, eat, and more. My Kitchen is working on spreading awareness about prioritising kitchens during planning, and also creating spacious and welcoming kitchens," said Albart Mandal, Manager and Showroom In-charge at My Kitchen.
A staple part of homes, throughout the ages professionals have perfected how a kitchen should function.
The zones of a kitchen
The kitchen is divided into five zones under two areas. Among the zones, every kitchen should have a pantry, storage, washing and sink, preparation, and cooking zones. These zones fall under two areas, the wet area and the dry area.
When planning the layout of a kitchen, it is essential to have a defined wet and dry area. The wet area consists of spots like the sink and water outlets, while the dry area will consist of spaces such as the preparation or storage area.
The wet and dry areas are separated through brick walls or even cabinets to minimise the risk of accidents in the kitchen.
"If there isn't a division, the risk of accidents increases. One could slip as they're carrying food," said Asif. "It can also get quite unhygienic if water on the floor from the wash area is allowed to spread."
These zones are set up conceptually in a triangle. Being able to connect three points of a kitchen allows a smoother experience for the user.
Aftab mentions, "the dry area is usually put in the front." Albart further elaborates, "Wet kitchen is kept at the back because it will usually have a smell."
"When one is cooking while having access to a refrigerator at their back, they are connected to their cooking area and storage area. There is a flow in the triangle that prevents clashes in movement," added Asif.
Proper lighting will help reflect the true colours of food, which will enable one to determine its quality. On the contrary, warm lights will confuse your perception of colour, and you might end up making a cup of tea that is too weak, or a curry that looks less vibrant on the plate.
"We use ambient lights – which serve as the main lights, accent lights, and under-cabinet lights. The accent lights are installed at points such as around the sink, burner, etc," said Asif.
Albart Mandal also elaborates, "The colour of lights should be warm white. There are some colours that can change how the colour of food appears."
While working, a natural shadow is cast beneath cabinets. To combat that, having under-cabinet lights will help you see the true colours of the ingredients you are working with.
However, the most prominent source of light comes from the windows. The windows are normally designed to be near sinks, and during optimal situations, they should be able to brighten up the whole kitchen.
Additionally, you should avoid adding cabinets alongside windows, they will obstruct daylight from entering.
"If you put a cabinet in front of the source of daylight, it will block around 30-50% of the light from entering," commented Asif.
As previously mentioned, the best spot for a window is near the sink. Not only will it let daylight enter, but it will help with ventilation. Furthermore, it will also help evaporate the moisture from the wet area.
"Alternatively, if the window is placed next to the stove, wind coming through it will interfere with the burner," said Noujash Chowdhury Aftab, Assistant Manager, Brand Development, My Kitchen.
Our food and cooking style produces more smoke, making ventilation and quick flow of air key to a Bangladeshi kitchen.
"If the window fails to properly ventilate the area, we then look to introduce kitchen hoods and exhaust fans," said Asif.
Where function meets beauty
The challenge of decorating a kitchen is that everything has to be functional and beautiful.
The local trends for kitchens are slowly changing. Aftab commented, "Nowadays, after getting access to functional solutions, people have even introduced open kitchens in their homes. Now people are getting the courage, before there were concerns of design, hygiene, and odour."
The best way to do this is to focus on the colours, textures, and materials that go into the space. In fact, all three must work in harmony to create a clean space.
"In the context of Bangladesh, the most readily available materials are tiles. Local people normally prefer it because it is sustainable, long-lasting, easily available, and budget-friendly," said Asif.
Having matte tiles on the floor is advised, as it decreases the chances of people slipping and falling. On the other hand, the architect advises using glossy or mirror-polished tiles on the walls. It is also easier to clean grease spots that could otherwise build up over tiled surfaces.
"The shiny tiles reflect light, this makes the space brighter," he added.
Waterproof materials – such as granite for the counters – are recommended when designing the counter and lower cabinets. For cabinets, Aftab and Mandal recommend using waterproof ply, it is very durable and does not absorb water.
Additionally, sticking to light colours, such as white, cream, etc, will reflect more light. Dark walls make indoor lighting work less efficiently.
When you cannot allocate too much space for your kitchen, you can increase its efficiency through clever layout designs, renovations, or even implementing a few organisation tricks.
You can utilise unused space to increase the storage capacity of your kitchen, such as wall space.
"You can bring the cabinets to ceiling height. The corners of the kitchen can also be utilised through magic corners," explained Asif.
Magic corners are cabinets that open up to reveal two organisation compartments that fold into a corner of the room.
To make the most of a limited kitchen, opt for different types of burners like concealed or standalone burners, with ovens run by gas. You can also use induction and electric hot plates. If you run low on gas, you can get a tabletop cooking burner that uses small gas cans.
With power outages or inadequate gas supply, tabletop cooking burners with small gas cans or portable camping stoves are gaining popularity.
For the wet area, double sinks are quite popular as it lets you defrost frozen food on one side and continue washing dishes on the other. For modern kitchens with adequate space, washing machines have become quite popular.
When renovating your kitchen, you will be able to change pretty much the entire kitchen, except the sink placement.
"What you cannot renovate are the plumbing lines," explained Asif.
Nowadays, most renovations demand cabinets; they can easily be changed to fit modern aesthetics.
"People want cabinet fixtures with new textures, materials, and boards. Ones who do not have cabinets in their kitchen are asking for them to be installed," added Asif.
Even though the kitchen falls at the very bottom of the list of priorities when designing a new home, it has an impact on the overall aesthetics of your house.
"If you prioritise the kitchen, the whole home will look nice. If we can push 70% of the elements of a dining space into the kitchen, the dining area will be clean. It won't be an issue if it's only 10 to 12 ft. If the kitchen is small and 50% of the items move to the dining area, then the house will look chaotic," said Asif.
House No-8, Road No-138, Gulshan-1, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh