Open-plan kitchen layouts have become a huge trend over the last decade or more, and they’re now a standard feature in new-build homes. For older homes, taking out the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent room – usually the dining room or living room – is typically one of the first home improvements new owners make. The idea is to create one large functional area that works on every level as the undisputed heart of the home for cooking, dining, socialising and relaxing.
But there’s more to designing a successful open-plan layout than simply knocking down a wall or two. Let’s go through some key considerations and a few tips and tricks to make open-plan living work for you.
Is a combined kitchen/diner the best solution for the way you live?
The first question you should ask yourself is whether open-plan living will actually work for your lifestyle. Just because kitchen/diners are shown in interiors magazines and blogs as the thing to have doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Consider the following benefits and make a decision based on your personal requirements and aspirations. An open-plan kitchen/dining space can
- Open up the home and create a better flow
- Turn a dark kitchen into a bright, light-filled space
- Create a more connected, spacious and efficient layout
- Allow you to cook and socialise at the same time
- Give you a flexible and practical space for modern living
Merging the kitchen and adjacent living space, whether it’s a dining area or living room, gives you the opportunity to create a more social space, enabling you to chat to your family or guests while you’re cooking, or keep an eye on the kids while they’re playing, watching TV or doing their homework.
On the other hand, there may be some disadvantages to living open plan, so make sure you weigh up the pros and cons carefully. An open-plan kitchen diner
- Requires a realistic budget to create. Think of the time, effort, planning and money involved in transforming separate rooms into one connected space. Are you sure you want to go ahead?
- Makes it harder to hide mess and clutter. Can you add enough storage to keep everything looking smart, and will you have the discipline to keep your open plan kitchen tidy?
- May mean unwanted noise or smells can drift through the house and potentially disturb others. How are you proposing to deal with this?
How to plan the right layout
The key to achieving the best open-plan solution in your home lies in thinking about how you would use the space as a family. If you’re tired of being shut away in the kitchen preparing lunch or dinner while the rest of the family is next door, putting food prep at the heart of your new open plan layout, with a combined dining area, makes complete sense. It’s not only more sociable but also more practical. A dining table close to the cooking area means a shorter carrying distance for plates and food, which is especially handy if you have smaller children.
However, don’t forget that the kitchen is still a working zone that should be protected. Make sure that in your drive to integrate cooking and dining functions you don’t lose the integrity of your kitchen space.
Think long and hard about where people should be seated when you’re busy with food prep. Would a breakfast bar be a good solution to keep everyone close by yet not in your way? Is there enough space for a proper dining table? If your open plan layout includes a lounge area, can you move armchairs and sofas to create and easy flow of conversation while you’re busy in the kitchen?
Consider functionality and practicality
Open plan kitchen/living areas can look spectacular – here’s a great selection showing a range of different layouts – but how practical are they in everyday life? The first thing to check is the relationship between the cooker, fridge and sink, also known as the kitchen work triangle. The better these are arranged to minimise the distance between them in the room, the more convenient and practical your kitchen will be.
Storage is another key consideration. One of the potential drawbacks of an open-plan kitchen/diner is that everything is now on show, which makes plenty of concealed storage a must-have. Plenty of cabinets and a kitchen island with extra storage are a great start, but is it enough? Consider adding a pantry or tall larder cupboard that makes the most of horizontal space to hide a wealth of foodstuff or other kitchen paraphernalia while being easily accessible.
As far as kitchen odours are concerned, installing a decent cooker hood is highly recommended to keep smells contained. And don’t be afraid to open up kitchen windows, skylights or patio doors to let some fresh air in.
The importance of good lighting
Windows and doors are also crucial factors to enhance the room’s brightness. Combining different rooms doesn’t automatically lead to light and airy spaces, sometimes the architecture needs a helping hand to create the right ambience. If the open plan layout is too gloomy, add natural daylight by way of additional windows or skylights in strategic places to catch the sun. Large French patio doors or bi-fold doors to the garden can also work wonders to bring the outside in.
To supplement natural light, your interior design should include a layered design for artificial lighting to make the area bright and welcoming at any time of day or night. Be sure to include task lighting such as spotlights and under-cabinet lighting to help with food prep, and perhaps a nice dining room light fixture too. Complement with ambient light on the ceiling, through to wall sconces, table lamps and floor lamps.
How to define different zones
Going from separate rooms to an open-plan layout may feel liberating and provides a great environment for modern living. However, the most successful layouts have clearly defined zones that work in harmony. As there are no walls to separate the kitchen from the adjoining room(s), you need to find other, more subtle ways to zone the area.
Using different colours is one way to achieve this. This can be done by contrasting colours or harmonious colours, as long as there is an overarching room scheme that pulls the whole look together. Bring in accent colours on walls, kitchen units or furniture, for instance by using similar hues on the kitchen island and dining chairs, or shades that complement the splashback and the sofa cushions. An interior designer can help you with the little details that can make all the difference. You can also use furniture placement to help define or divide an area.
Another way to zone your living and kitchen space is by way of floor coverings. Either use the same hard flooring throughout, adding definition with rugs, or choose practical tile flooring for kitchen and utility spaces, with wooden floors in lounge areas.52