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When kitchens become status symbol |

When kitchens become status symbol

Kitchens are increasingly becoming status symbols for some families, who are willing to break a wallet to secure one

Ruth Butaumocho
For a long time the location of one’s house, cars, clothes and even jewelry were often considered as determinants to measure one’s pocket and standard of living.


Nouveau rich of any class have been known to spend lavishly on gaudy trappings, buying original art to match the living room décor, accessorising the luxurious vehicle with gold trims or building outsized mansions for a small family.

With each class of nouveau rich or good earners comes a new way of spending the Benjamins just to show the difference in lifestyles and tastes.

Ultra luxury fully fitted kitchens have also joined the lists of high visibility commodities, where individuals and families are breaking their wallets to furnish their kitchens with high end accessories.

The fitted kitchens, which come in various shapes and sizes depending on the type of material, cost anything from $3 500 to as much as $40 000 a unit.

Far from just being a place where one’s culinary skills are put to test, a kitchen fully loaded with the latest fitted kitchen units that boast state of the art appliances and gadgets has become a strong selling point. Even for big spenders – who rarely cook or utilise the space – the kitchen has suddenly become an area of importance.

“My husband and I rarely cook food at home, since my kids are away in boarding school.

“We, however, have a fitted kitchen which we installed for $28 000, excluding the appliances and other gadgets that we added to create a unique ambiance,” revealed Mrs Tracy Mbirigu of Borrowdale West.

She added that it has been a worthy investment, because her folkstone grey fitted kitchen boasts extras such as white-panelled cabinets with nickel hardware and crown moulding rises, creating a higher ceiling effect.

“It has become a convenient place just to sit with friends and have a glass of wine. We do not necessarily use it to prepare meals,” she said.

Mr Tonderai Jadagu recently refurbished his house along Enterprise Road, equipping it with a fitted kitchen that boasts an exotic-looking stone top matched with Carrera marble flooring.

Although he was evasive about the price, Mr Jadagu conceded that it did not come cheap.

“When most people see a kitchen that has expensive products and they recognise the rest of the house is done well too. There is no mismatch,” he said.

To some, doling out a couple of thousands of dollars on such an item is a workable business strategy to ensure that you attract the right clientele and move in appropriate social circles.

Jane Barnedt does not regard her fitted kitchen as a mere fitting, but it defines her personality and social status. Her decision to splash $9 000 of her hard-earned savings from her job as property consultant, is both a business strategy and self-actualisation.

“I love fine things and my fitted kitchen is one of them,” she pouted.

Fitted in her three-bedroomed Mount Pleasant house, the kitchen has a distinct traditional theme honouring the style of the home, but with the latest luxuries that include a cappuccino maker.

Jane said she chose lilac and silver, colours which she says depict her feelings and emotions. Several upmarket companies that specialise in designer kitchens said fitted kitchens have become status symbols in some circles.

“We have had instances where some clients come in and insist that they want a custom-made fitted kitchen which no one else has. They are even willing to pay extra to ensure that remains an exclusive piece and we usually comply,” said a sales representative from Kitchen Link, who refused to be named.

Lillian Choruwa-Chambuka said she had to import hers from South Africa for a leg and a limb.

“Every house owner dreams of a nice kitchen, which serves its purpose and very discerning,” she said

Fitted kitchen brokers say that the most important features buyers want in a kitchen are an open layout, quality appliances, and smart home technology that allows owners to control their homes via an iPad in the kitchen.

Also popular are multiple dishwashers and refrigerator drawers that look like normal cabinets but pull out to reveal cold lettuce. Spice racks, warming drawers that keep food hot, and gadgets like in-wall cappuccino-makers and wine-pouring devices are increasingly becoming preferred extras. Companies that are engaged in transforming the kitchen from ordinary cooking rooms into quaint, classy and comforting atmospheres say there has been growing demand for their products in the last few years.

Owner and managing director of Tusilago Kitchens and Crown Cabinets, Mrs Tabitha Machaka-Fredriksson says there has been an increase in high-end spenders who are willing to pay a substantial of money for a good fitted kitchen.

“People are beginning to appreciate a good fitted kitchen and are willing to pay for that extra touch to ensure that they have a discerning room that appeals both to their taste and expectations,” she said.

Mrs Fredriksson who established the company in 1996 after returning from Sweden where she had been domiciled said while some people come to view what is in stock, most customers often bring their own designs for customisation.

“Functionality is unique to every individual, so we try to cater for the needs of our discerning clientele that cuts across classes,” she revealed.

Contrary to assertions that fitted kitchens are luxurious items for the nouveau rich, Mrs Fredriksson said their products have found takers in different communities across.

“Our clientele is very diverse. We have an array of products to suit each market, various tastes and pockets.

“Because of modernisation and the advent of new media models, customers are increasingly updating their environment, products and taste.

“People now want attractive and functional kitchens that offer more than just a basic place for preparing meals,” she said adding that international trends have also influenced the phenomena.

Like any other business, the trade has not been without its own headaches, with fly-by-night fitters and designers producing counterfeit and sub-standard products.

Mrs Fredriksson said while competition was good, the entrance of fake dealers, selling sub-standard fittings was compromising quality of the products on the market.

“We are often called to redo the work or replace fittings on shoddy work by some bogus designers and suppliers who are short-changing clients,” she lamented.

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