The number of food related programmes on TV and other platforms nowadays reflects the increasing importance that food and cooking has in our culture. The popularity of these shows translates into greater investment in the kitchen both in terms of the building or decorating budget and actual time spent there. Nowadays it is true to say that the kitchen is no longer merely a functional space but the hub of the home. For new build construction, refurbishments and extensions the kitchen is often the focus of the new layout. No matter what the individual circumstances the open plan kitchen can make small houses feel more spacious and larger homes better connected. Here below we look at the pros and the cons when it comes to planning the open plan kitchen.
But firstly what is an open plan kitchen?
The open plan kitchen describes a scenario where the traditional functional kitchen is combined with other traditionally separate rooms in the home. Possibly the dining room, the living room or all three combined into a single shared space. No longer a series of compartmentalised rooms the shared areas of the home are fully integrated into a single space. The open plan kitchen concept has been popularised through interior design magazines and TV shows. Undoubtedly it reflects a society where the changing work environment and increased leisure time have impacted on our domestic domain.
Open concept kitchen pros and cons
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.
More space for living and entertaining
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.
Showing off your kitchen
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 a separate room for the kitchen is especially important for younger families. Cooking and preparing food become activities to be shared, the kitchen is a more social space providing greater supervision of children.
Open plan kitchen disadvantages
Odours and kitchen smells
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 form the design stage. Having an external wall is an important consideration.
Disadvantage two: Everything is on display
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.
Disadvantage three: Can require building works
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 which are explored in the next section.
Ideas for the open plan kitchen layout: separate and integrated rooms
There are many considerations to take into account when thinking about how the open plan kitchen will work for individual scenarios. Refurbishment projects involving an extension to accommodate the open plan kitchen may require serious structural works and the costs can be significant. Equally consulting a registered architect is recommended not only to achieve the optimum layout but to ensure that all relevant building regulations are complied with. This is applicable to a two storey house scenario where the only means of escape is through the kitchen extension for example, fire doors and other fire measures will be required. Then there is the question of does open plan living add value? Or indeed is the open concept going out of style? Context here is all important. An open plan kitchen with a dining area looking over a garden will never go out of fashion or detract from a home’s value. Equally a large light filled space is generally preferable to smaller compartmentalised rooms.
Integrating traditionally separate rooms into an open plan concept
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.
Open kitchen and diner
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.
Open kitchen and living room
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 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 hep with sound absorption. For young families ensuring sight lines 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.
Open kitchen and garden
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 day light as well as the feeling of extra space. And the smells of a freshly cut lawn or blooming flowers are the ideal aperitif.
Ways to achieve the open plan concept for separate rooms
Another option for anyone who wants to hedge their bets and keep the kitchen as a separate room but achieve the effect of the open plan kitchen is to use glass doors or sliding doors. These are the ideal way to connect with a dining room or living room. Folding double doors or sliding partitions with glass panels can be opened or closed but maintain a constant visual connection between living and kitchen areas. This addresses the problems of steam, condensation and kitchen odours as the different areas can be separated when the actual cooking is taking place.
Style of kitchens: Modular and hidden kitchens
Another option when considering an open plan or separate kitchen is the modular type 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 as 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 the drainage if a sink or dishwasher is included within the island.