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Blending modern with traditional

May 21, 2021

Remona Divekar

The dry kitchen, designed by Binesh Balagopalan at an ancestral house in Kerala, strikes a perfect balance between modern and traditional

The exciting thing about kitchen design is that it changes and develops over time to allow for new and innovative features. This particular project Jaleel’s Residence, designed by Cochin-based architectural firm Nvironment Planning, headed by Binesh Balagopalan, is designed on 1.75 acre plot in Kondungallur, Kerala was meant to represent the ancestral home for the family.

According to the architect, the design of this house primarily attempted to address the functional and aesthetic needs of a big and diverse family, which would use their own respective ways and in doing that the project required to be both modern and traditional at the same time.

It all began with the minimal briefing or no briefing from the residents except for the fact that the kitchen had to be a part of the formal living, family dining and the common banqueting only meant for the family hence it was designed considering the client’s perspective in mind; that included kitchen appliances and accessories for example microwave meant only for the owners cooking only, an independent kitchen.

Role of design and functionality in the making

Balagopalan views this kitchen as more of a dry kitchen, budgeted and also placed where the actual cooking is not done. It is more of a family dining, meeting place for sharing and exchanging good moments along with eating food, this core concept acted as the defining statement for the making of this kitchen project.

The actual cooking is done on the other end of the dining area where the food is served via a shutter door that opens up and food is served to dine. “The scheme of things here is the formal dining connected to this kitchen where food is served during dining only and that’s how this kitchen works."

The Layout and material selection

Acknowledging the importance of understanding the client’s lifestyle and culture, Balagopalan says that the familiarity with the traditional Kerala culture has helped him understand the client's requirement and design a kitchen with a touch of modernity. “Generally, the kitchen design of an Indian kitchen is similar. However, there are clients who are influenced by western culture and want the same reflected in their kitchen as well. In such cases, a simple modular kitchen won’t work and had to be played with prominent kitchen materials such as marble slab, quarry stone, granite, glossy tile in finished designs and totally white. This is in contrast to the Indian kitchen.”

In terms of layout, the kitchen is scattered with an induction stove and crockery shelf on one side, microwave oven, refrigerators and countertop on the other side – making it like an extended L-shaped kitchen. “The thought behind definite shape and zoning between the main dining and the family kitchen is a common ground space that was available between them which had to be used constructively,” shares Balagopalan.

A chimney is seen in one of the walls but it is not used where minimum cooking happens, it happens in that part of the kitchen used by the servants, which is connected to the backyard and the service area. The washbasin is centrally placed where the entire circulation of the kitchen happens; where it is served it is positioned that way. Dishwasher sinks and cooktops follow a similar pattern directly facing the kitchen where it dries itself.

On the countertop he shares, “Corian by DuPont, a nonporous acrylic polymer is used here. The colour and pattern are consistent throughout the countertop, so it will not change its appearance with wear and tear that naturally occurs over time. The overall look of a Corian countertop is smooth and similar to that of a stone surface. Damage can be easily repaired with scrubbing or light sanding. Stylish, nonporous and easy to maintain, solid surface countertops are a great choice for busy kitchens. Their resistance to mould and mildew makes solid surface counters popular for food prep spots. Hone it for a subtler look more in keeping with many old-house styles.”

Lighting, colour and ventilation

A general distinction can be made between a food preparation kitchen and an ‘eat-in’ kitchen. Individual lighting is therefore what is needed which can be functional for preparing and cooking the food, and also create a pleasant atmosphere for family mealtimes or chats with friends.

Detailing on the fixtures used, Balagopalan informs, “The natural light inflow is maximum here as we have kept the north-east corner of the house open. Additionally, we have created an illusion of space with under cabinet lighting or under the counter. It makes the kitchen appear larger and more pleasing. Ceiling fixtures in the kitchen are used for illuminating walkways. Different fixture groupings for work surfaces, walls and walkways provide the perfect combination. Wall lights are used to avoid shadows. The family dining has its own independent courtyard for lighting so that’s why we have this one full window opening into this courtyard, separately.”

The colours scheme of the entire house follows a traditional colour pattern dominating most of the space with a modern setting. A predominantly neutral colour scheme is chosen where the other kitchen factors such as the appliances and the accessories don’t clash with the rest of the house and blends perfectly with the surroundings. A very off-white for the trim and a rich cream for the walls.

“It's a dense visual environment that enriches the kitchen and gives it a traditional tone. Although inspired by the elegance of the past, the new traditional design injects rich, saturated colour to create sophistication with tropical colour typically found in most of the Kerala houses that is probably dark brown or white. It follows the pattern where it is easily cleanable glass and lower ones in the cabinet made with dark wood finish, repeated throughout the house. The dark wood frames, dark wood doors, dark wood healings basically follow the same theme throughout the house,” shares Balagopalan.

He further opines that ventilation is the most important part of the kitchen, and orientation is an important factor to achieve this. “Positioning the kitchen is the most particular element in the house. It has to be kept in such a way that throughout the day heat doesn’t come. The kitchen, where the actual cooking happens has windows on all three sides and in the eat-in kitchen the north-east side has been kept open.”