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History of Modular Kitchens

In 1802, German inventor Frederick Albert Winson was the first person to cook a meal on gas. The experiment was more driven to describe the abilities of gas, and a few decades later when the gas stove was designed to work safely in a household, it brought about a new innovation along- The Kitchen. A kitchen is a measurable unit of a household today, to sum up, its importance apart from being the source of our energy in a literal sense. A kitchen’s basic need has been to be a utilitarian space and provide a cooking space, but with the changing social norms, the kitchen started to come out of the shadows. It started to gain equal aesthetic importance to the rest of the interiors. A modular kitchen is defined as a modern kitchen with furniture that has been constructed in modules or units. It consists of cabinets or storage units of standard sizes customized as per the kitchen sizes and layout. Modular kitchens have now been popular for more than five decades. It is said to have started as an Italian concept.

The modules are a combination of wall & base storage units. Cabinets are designed to maximize utility & organize efficient storage, especially to fit into smaller spaces. Modular kitchen arranges utility reducing hodgepodge. Modular kitchen advances over the traditional kitchen in terms of hygiene, space management, cost-efficiency, and easy and low maintenance.

The fashion of modular kitchens peaked between the 1960s and 80s when the open kitchen concept was introduced. The increased visibility of the kitchen to the common areas generated a need for a more organized and aesthetical kitchen. The innovations in electrical appliances and technological advances in cooking methods became the reason for evolution for the modular kitchens. The types of modular kitchens depend on the layout of the kitchen. Very common types are-

  1. The Straight Layout

  2. The Parallel Layout

  3. Island Layout

  4. ‘L’ Shaped

  5. ‘C’ Shaped

  6. Peninsula Layout

The modular kitchen started from a simple cupboard and a countertop and evolved in design and technology to what we see today. These later turned to a series of cabinets incorporated for the purpose of storage and kitchen appliances. Later, a more unified appearance was attempted to be achieved. This later became the technology of what we call modular kitchens. The modules started with storage shelves depending on the appliances, utensils, jars, etc., standard to every kitchen. The materials were also limited to traditional and easily available at the time, wood. The shelves were mostly above and below the counter. Subsequently, the wall-mounted overhead units came to the limelight. Thereafter, the drawers were introduced in the design. The material exploration brought about the use of trolleys. The squeaky trolleys were later replaced by soft close ones.

The recent inculcations in modular kitchens are built-in refrigerators, convection ovens, microwaves, and ventilators. Materials like glass, stone, PVC, laminates advanced the design and finishes of the modular kitchen. The commonly used materials in the modular kitchen are-

  1. For cabinets- MDF, wood, veneer, ply, laminates, acrylic sheets, etc.

  2. For countertop- Granite, wood, cement, tiles, among which most popularly used is granite.

  3. Modular Storage Units- Stainless steel with and without chrome plating, aluminum, melamine. Handles can be made in wood. Shutters can be made in the glass too.

The design evolution of a modular kitchen will majorly depend on the eating habits, style trend, pieces of equipment used in the kitchen, utensils, etc.

The kitchen triangle rule is a concept to determine the work function in the kitchen layout. The primary tasks in the kitchen require a movement between the refrigerator, the skin, and the stove- the three points of the kitchen triangle. The idea is that when these three things are placed in the triangle rule, the number of steps i.e., efforts of working in the kitchen can be reduced. The modular kitchen also follows the kitchen triangle rule. The platforms are usually planned in an L-shape or a parallel pattern. Island platforms and breakfast counters are new and improvised additions, also creating more countertop space and small meal space right within the kitchen. A modular kitchen allows an efficient workflow even in very compact spaces. They are a cost-effective solution for more storage. It not only leisures the workspace, but also occupies all the kitchen appliances within the design itself.

The modular kitchen also shows an evolution of colors and finishes in the interior varying between glossy to matte and light shades to the bold ones. The evolution, however, seems to be an ally to the technological advancements of kitchen appliances. Having said that, there are a lot more modular kitchens to see in the near future.


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