The Reality of Realty
Kitchens have become an indispensable element when it comes to maximising the value of a residential project
Syed Md Ehteshamul Hasan
During the 90s builders in India were using Italian granite to differentiate their residential developments, while in the first decade of this millennium it was private spas in. The current decade is of the kitchen.
At the ground level, the demand for kitchens can be gauged by the manner in which the market for residential development is shaping up across the country. Data of new launches, collated by real estate consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle, reveals that since the middle of 2009 the price brackets of Rs 10,000-15,000 per sft and >Rs 15,000 per sft have become permanent fixtures, and are fast growing segments of the market. Numbers are increasing in these segments, which remain largely unaffected by any downturn in the economy. Dubbed as premium and super-premium housing, these developments are marked by newest and most exclusive features the well-travelled and well-heeled would like to have.
In that sense kitchens have become the new currency in construction and it is unlikely that housing, particularly in the HNI (high net-worth individuals) bracket, would be devoid of it. Ajay Aggarwal, managing director of Microtek Infrastructure, a leading north-Indian development company with a number of premium projects underway, confirms, “The kitchen is not just a part of the home, it is the whole experience. Given the increasing role of ladies in purchase decisions at home, the kitchen’s design has started getting the much needed attention.”
Aggarwal informs that in its ongoing Greenburg residential project at Gurgaon, Microtek is providing a large airy premium modular kitchen with top-of-the-line cabinets and fittings. “Our aim is to ensure maximum utilisation of space and a clutter-free environment. So the brief to the designer was simple, that we wanted an airy and spacious kitchen with best of the fittings. We wanted to ensure the best experience in that space, and accordingly an attached utility balcony along with breakfast counter with each of the apartments is being provided.”
But why have kitchens suddenly become the most important feature in new homes, and even in renovation? Explains Preenand Premachandran, CEO of Bengaluru-based Hebron Properties, “Builders and developers are taking keen interest in incorporating an attractive and highly functional kitchen space in most of their projects, primarily to appeal to a discerning buyer, in turn leaving an indelible impression of quality and class.” He adds that a well-designed kitchen will give the developer an edge in the highly competitive market.
“An attractive, hygienic kitchen is all that everyone wants including developers and buyers. Good quality worktops along with wide doors, ventilating windows and stylish cabinets are the part that attracts attention.”
Industry observers feel that a modular and functional kitchen is gradually becoming an important part of modern living. The changing tastes and preferences of consumers are nothing but a reflection of their style statement. “Today’s homeowners need kitchens that can depict their style. In fact, they keep aside a certain budget for the kitchen while buying or renovating a house. Apart from that, every woman has a dream to have a kitchen which is safe, comfortable and stylish,” says Vinay Jain, CMD of New Delhi-based AVJ Group of Infrastructures, adding that the buyer wants every corner of the apartment to reflect style and sophistication, and kitchens are no different.
If the kitchen is such a style statement, then it is logical for developers to use it as a marker to differentiate their development. In any case, the showcase apartment of every new project is routinely fully furnished, right down to the linen, and toys in the kids’ room. By executing the interior, particularly of the kitchen, the builder is only simplifying and accelerating the decision of the buyer.
The kitchen’s power to attract the right set of buyers is further highlighted by Dr Ponni M Concessao (firstname.lastname@example.org), architect-interior designer and partner at Chennai-based OCI Architects, “The importance of the kitchen is growing and builders have already started using it as the differentiator. It won’t be wrong if I say that premium well designed kitchens fetch a better profile of customers who have the ability and are willing to pay.”
Concessao suggests that demand for designer kitchens is coming from across the developer community, and that she is busy closing deals with many of them. “We are currently working with builders such as SARE, Suryavardhan and VIP Housing, to name a few.” According to her, inclusion of a modular kitchen in residential projects is the outcome of increasing competition amongst builders. “There are builders who are inclined to give well designed service areas such as kitchens and bathrooms to meet new-age customers’ expectations, who are now asking for products that are in line with international parameters.”
Notably, lifestyles of Indians have undergone change and special features that make cooking easier for the working woman have an impact in kitchen design. “As designers with global exposure, we insist on hi-tech features and compact electro-domestic elements, as well as dedicated service ducts in modern kitchens. A well designed kitchen dovetails into the services aspect of the apartment such as water supply, drainage, electrical and trash chute systems. It is a boon to both the realtors and the end-users, as there is no need to tamper these spaces when moving in.”
Leena Kumar (email@example.com), head of Bengaluru-based architecture firm Kumar Consultants, feels differently. “Nowadays the kitchen is perceived as a utility space, and not as a creative one. Traditionally residential spaces have come with a completed toilet, whereas the kitchen is left to the buyer to get designed. Unlike earlier, when the kitchen was considered a personalised area where the lady of the house used to spend lot of time, for today’s generation mobility is high and less time is being spent in the kitchen. This generation desires speed and easy movement and hence, it has eventually become the developers’ duty to provide readymade kitchens.”
There is but a nuanced difference in these views. But the fact remains that customers are demanding readymade living spaces that match their lifestyles, but do not require them to spend time and energy in creating.
Interestingly, appliance companies too are engaging with builders to influence design, and help build a space that makes cooking a fun activity. Vishal Raman, senior national business development manager at Electrolux, says his company explains to builders how the happiness quotient of homeowners can improve with the use of the right appliance. “We are at an important inflection point in urban development and premium home design. We want to continue working closely with our partners and friends in the fields of design, architecture, modular kitchens and construction to share trends and help customers add real value to their projects with our products, service and international experience and connections.”
Meanwhile, there’s a view that modern kitchens are not an expensive or extravagant investment, and that the cost can be recouped through savings that occur in terms of water and energy consumption. This is besides the greener, safer and more comfortable lifestyle that users can enjoy. “A sustainable kitchen saves on energy and water, uses materials that are eco-friendly, durable, aesthetically sound, timeless and functional and provides a comfortable and healthy space to the homeowners,” opines Clara Puskas (firstname.lastname@example.org), who heads Toronto-based XL Kitchen Studio Inc. Puskas believes that sustainable design cares for the environment, relies on natural energy flows, and uses forms and function that have no expiry date.
Kitchens and bathrooms probably account for the largest per square foot basis investment in the construction and decoration of a residential space. It should, therefore, be no surprise if they become the classical tail that wags the dog.