November 28, 2019
The number of food-related shows on TV and other platforms nowadays reflects the increasing importance that food and cooking have in our culture. The popularity of these shows leads to more investment in the kitchen both in terms of the building or decorating budget and actual time spent there.
Nowadays, it is fair to say that the kitchen is no longer just a functional room, but the centre of the home. In new builds, renovations and extensions, the kitchen is often the focal point of the new interior. Regardless of individual circumstances, an open-plan kitchen can help small homes feel more spacious and larger homes feel more connected. Below, we take a look at the pros and cons of planning an open plan kitchen.
The open plan kitchen describes a scenario in which the traditional functional kitchen is combined with other traditionally separate rooms in the house. Possibly the dining room, the living room, or all three combined into a single shared space. The shared areas of the home are no longer divided into separate rooms but fully integrated into a single space. The open plan kitchen concept has been popularised by interior design magazines and TV shows. Undoubtedly, it reflects a society where the changing work environment and increased leisure time have impacted our domestic sphere.
Whether it be dealing with the clutter of preparing food, dealing with lingering kitchen smells or lack of space, the decision to join the kitchen and the living space in the home should be considered carefully.
Here are some of the pros and cons of this kitchen layout:
|☑ Open concept kitchen pros||☒ Open kitchen cons|
|#1 More space for living and entertaining||#1 Odours and kitchen smells|
|#2 Showing off your kitchen||#2 Everything is on display|
|#3 Greater supervision||#3 It can require building works|
The great advantage of the open concept kitchen is having more space to live and entertain. By combing two or three separate rooms into one a more generous layout can be achieved.
The modern open plan kitchen can be a designer statement, with the kitchen treated like a crafted piece of joinery. Like a piece of furniture that also performs like a high-tech machine for cooking and preparing food.
Avoiding the isolation of having a separate room for the kitchen is especially important for younger families. With an open layout, it is easier to keep an eye on the children while cooking. In addition, the kitchen becomes a more social space and meal preparation becomes a shared activity that the whole family can do together.
Lingering smells from last night’s dinner are not pleasant. Open plan kitchen designs must include planning for ventilation. Even if the kitchen is a separate room this is an important consideration. This is usually done by an extractor that is placed above or near the kitchen hob, where most odours are generated. The range of appliances on the market is wide and varied, from background to industrial strength. If the hob is integrated within an island the correct conduit must be built-in from the design stage. Having an external wall is an important consideration.
For open plan kitchen designs, not everybody is comfortable with putting the messiness of the kitchen on display in the main living area of the home. Cooking and preparing food are by nature messy activities involving clutter. However, by choosing either a fitted or a modular kitchen these concerns can be addressed with the design of the kitchen itself.
Depending on the nature of the property the structural works required to open the kitchen into the other rooms of the house can be expensive and complicated to undertake. Some older properties are simply not suitable. And much depends on the actual layout of the building. However, there are simpler alternatives that are explored in the next section.
There are many considerations to take into account when thinking about how the open kitchen should function in each scenario. Renovation projects that include an extension may require significant structural work, and the cost can be substantial. It is therefore advisable to consult an architect, not only to achieve the best layout but also to ensure that all relevant building regulations are adhered to. For example, in a two-storey house where the only escape route is through the kitchen extension, fire doors and other fire safety measures will be required.
And then there’s the question of whether open plan living adds value? Or is the open concept actually going out of fashion? Context is key here. An open plan kitchen with a dining area and a view of the garden will never go out of fashion or diminish the value of a home. Similarly, a large, light-filled space is generally preferable to smaller, subdivided spaces.
Firstly let’s consider the combination of different rooms that would normally be separated in a more traditional home layout into an open plan. Kitchen and dining, kitchen and living room as well as kitchen and garden.
Perhaps the most practical combination of rooms to achieve the open-plan layout is the integration of the dining room with the kitchen. Here the flow of movement between preparing and serving food is perfectly matched. In order to lend additional interest the dining table should be placed near a window or in an area with a different ceiling height, either lower or higher. Materials and finishes can also help to define a separate dining area within the overall space.
Where possible the entire ground floor of a house or in other words the more public areas of the home can be combined into a single open-plan space. The integration of the kitchen and living room has practical advantages, especially for young families. And for smaller houses, it is a simple way to magnify the sensation of space. Defining separate zones within the open-plan concept is a great way to help differentiate the space and allow different uses to happen simultaneously. As well as providing a solution to the question of how do you decorate a large open floor plan? Thus the kitchen per se might be defined by hard surfaces and a breakfast bar or low partition. While the living area should have warmer more cosy finishes which in turn help with sound absorption. For young families ensuring sightlines between kitchen and play areas is an important consideration. Adolescents on the other hand may require an element of privacy for a study/homework area within the open plan family room.
Connecting with the outdoors through large windows also presents a way of achieving the open kitchen concept. Especially if there are patio doors with an outdoor dining terrace or garden made directly accessible. Bi-folding glass doors or sliding doors can create the inside/outside feel which can bring the garden inside when weather permitting. The kitchen benefits from additional natural daylight as well as the feeling of extra space. And the smells of a freshly cut lawn or blooming flowers are the ideal aperitif.
If you want to hedge your bets and keep the kitchen a separate room but still achieve the effect of an open kitchen, using glass doors or sliding doors is a smart move. These are ideal for creating a link to a dining room or living room. Bi-fold doors or sliding doors with glass panels can be opened or closed while maintaining a constant line of sight between the living and kitchen areas. This solves the problems of steam, condensation and kitchen odours, as the different areas can be separated when the actual cooking is taking place.
Another option when considering an open plan or separate kitchen is the modular or hidden kitchen. A modular kitchen treats the elements as separate pieces, some of which can be moved around. Unlike a fitted kitchen, the elements can be free from the walls and are considered elements of furniture. While a hidden kitchen can be a fully functional kitchen that is closed off when not in use by folding or sliding panels. A kitchen island is often an integral part of the modular or hidden kitchen. An important consideration is drainage if a sink or dishwasher is included within the island.