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Diwali Special: Cook up a good time in the kitchen

For designer Shabnam Gupta, a kitchen should be messy in a good way, a celebration of food and a space where people can come together

Vintage brass fittings channel an Indian aesthetic without being over the top.
Vintage brass fittings channel an Indian aesthetic without being over the top.

Once upon a time, the Indian kitchen was hidden away from the public eye, a nerve centre of domesticity, occupied by the women of the household. It was a space the men were shooed out of and children were warned to stay away from as domestic dangers lurked at every corner. As the traditional joint family broke up into nuclear units and cavernous smoky kitchens translated into modern utilitarian spaces, the kitchen became a reflection of how urban Indians ate, drank and entertained. And this is what designer Shabnam Gupta believes that a kitchen should be. No space is as much of a lived space as the kitchen and for her, the ideal kitchen should draw on this energy of cooking, spending time together as well as the individual personalities of those who make up that home.

For her, kitchens and dining tables are spaces where people come together. “And a kitchen should allow you to do that as well as embrace your natural messy self while having a semblance of sanity within that chaos," she says. There obviously has to be a certain order and a discipline on how things are kept but at the same time it can be aesthetically gratifying as well as fun. For her the kitchen is also a space where people can experiment, indulge and entertain and an area that should be the focal point of the home. “This is where you are cooking, entertaining and it’s part of how you live and not tucked into a corner like a functional space alone," she adds. “My ideal kitchen is clutter. It is one that is maximalist with a lot of colour, art on the walls, a to-do list, recipe books, something that is always smelling delicious on the stove. For me a kitchen can never be clinical or clean and by that I don’t mean filth but this nice kind of mess. Making food is about getting your hands dirty, peeling, chopping and cutting. It is a space for the whole family where there is laughter, wine being poured into glasses. This is what a kitchen must symbolize to me."

Display your crockery

“People tend to hoard crockery and hide it away in a stodgy crockery cabinet. I think it’s important to showcase this in a quirky or classic glass display and thereby also remind yourself of these pieces you own and therefore use it more often rather than gather dust," says Gupta. She says sometimes the best way to deal with this lovely vintage piece is to repurpose it and give it a new lease of life. “Be creative as it is visually very appealing and you can use it as a prop or as a light installation."

A green corner

It’s important to have greens in the kitchen as it is therapeutic and gives a calm vibe. “A kitchen window sill can be turned into a mini herb garden with just four to five potted plants," she says.

Less is not always more

For Gupta, minimalism is not always the best thing for an Indian kitchen unless it is a way of life in all other spheres as well. “For me kitchens should be practical and not just great-looking spaces. They need to stand the test of time and maybe even look better and more lived in." She believes that even small spaces can hold everything if designed well. “Use pop-coloured chairs that can be stacked against a wall so that a meal for two can be consumed at the counter rather than making a trek to the dining table," she says. Place your gadgets ergonomically and stack them up in single electronic tower unit to save counter space.

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