An open kitchen design eliminates traditional barriers, such as walls and doors, to open the space between at least two rooms. Since the early 1990s, this has been popular in new construction as well as remodeling plans.
What are the best open-floor designs, and who can benefit from an open plan?
Open kitchen plans allow people to move throughout a house with an easier flow than when moving through distinct rooms. This is beneficial for social folks who want open vision and communication throughout a house.
More natural light typically fills an open plan house than closed plans, and often the value of a house increases when remodeled to an open concept.
For the practical parent, it can be easier to monitor children, and spaces can be multifunctional. Children can eat breakfast, play board games, and do homework in one space.
What Is an Open Kitchen Design?
To achieve an open feeling in their homes, many people eliminate walls and doors that used to create separate rooms. Isolated areas for cooking, watching television, and eating are united into open living areas.
Often the kitchen is the centerpiece of an open design alongside a dining room and living space. Such floor plans provide a flow between common areas and accomplish a unified living space. They can give smaller homes the appearance of more space and make communication easier among large families.
How Does It Work
Options for open kitchens vary by house. If a new home is being built, an open kitchen design can be planned ahead. If a closed kitchen is being remodeled to an open kitchen, walls will have to be removed.
Some homes may get lucky and find that none of the walls that need to be removed are load-bearing walls. If a load-bearing wall needs to be removed, it must be traded out for a strong beam.
When Did This Happen?
Open kitchen designs are still a newer concept. Previously, every room had a role to fill, and barriers between rooms were expected. Some would argue that kitchens used to be purposely hidden from company.
Additionally, the number of rooms a person could boast of having was a status symbol-the more rooms, the better.
For others, it was practical and cheaper to utilize an open floor design and get the most out of all available square footage. It was hard not to notice that, while fulfilling a practical function, many open floor plans were very beautiful, more affluent homeowners got onboard.
Bang for the Buck
Unintended perks accompanied the open kitchen design movement, including a much easier flow of traffic in previously loud, busy rooms. While some folks were seeking a cheaper option, they actually added value to their homes because the appearance of the kitchen and adjacent rooms had become much more attractive.
Why Choose an Open Kitchen Design?
For every person who prefers an open kitchen design, there is probably another who does not. Why would an open floor plan be the best decision for you?
An open plan will appear more spacious. Older homes often have less square footage and consistently walled rooms. Removing a wall or two can go a long way to opening up the space.
An open kitchen design can simplify your workflow, including:
Kitchen storage deserves extra consideration. By losing walls, you will almost always lose traditional storage space. You need to think outside the box for storage options and be willing to scale down by removing unnecessary items from everyday reach.
Professional or DIY?
When determining if an open kitchen is right for you, consider whether you can tackle the project yourself or if you need to consult a professional. Do you know how to identify a load-bearing wall?
There can be great wisdom in calling a professional. Some can help you ensure the integrity of your home's structure, and others can even discuss storage options with you.
A Little Noise?
Are you a person who needs your peace? Or is social noise something you don't even notice? An open kitchen can lead to more noise than you used to hear in your kitchen.
The same walls that divided each room also served as a noise barrier. Fewer barriers mean more noise wafting through the kitchen. This may be more noticeable in big families.
A Little Mess?
Noise barriers are also vision barriers. If you are accustomed to making a mess in the kitchen and hosting friends in the rest of the house, be mindful that you will lose that kitchen privacy. Only you know how much the sight of dirty dishes to an outsider will affect your comfort level.
A Personal Decision
Some folks want a level of privacy in the kitchen; others want to show it off. Are you an avid cook? Some chefs demand a level of privacy while cooking. Can you cook with distractions?
Renovating a closed kitchen into an open kitchen design also requires an investment decision by the homeowner. Consider plumbing, heating, flooring, and other aspects that will play into the makeover.
Questions to Ask before Taking the Leap
Make open kitchen decisions based on practical questions. Do you like to entertain? Are you content to have your guests gathering in your kitchen? Or do you want to do the grunt work behind closed doors?
The Dining Area
A dining area is very important to some families. You will lose the formality of a dining room if you opt for an open kitchen design. With certain design techniques, you can still designate a less formal dining area. A breakfast nook or counter and stools may also work for your needs.
Have you settled on a final budget for your open kitchen design? And are you comfortable with your investment? If you spend as you go, you will probably spend much more than you expected.
A professional can help you budget or provide a quote.
Breath Deep or Clean More?
You already know the open kitchen design will probably result in a loss of counter space and cabinetry. Regardless of the storage solutions you choose, many of your kitchen supplies will be more visible in an open kitchen design.
Are you comfortable with an exposed pantry or open shelves? Will you drive yourself crazy tidying your supplies? And what about kitchen messes in general?
Every meal and kitchen project comes with a certain mess. Dirty dishes are suddenly visible from the couch.
What Are Some Open Kitchen Design Ideas?
All the questions you've considered to this point will play into the open kitchen design ideas that fit your wants and needs.
Some families spend more time in the kitchen than any other room, so a design that incorporates a productive kitchen with a comfortable family gathering place. A busy parent can keep an eye on the kids from a distance and be within arms reach of the children's play area or homework station.
The Great Room
A great room is an open kitchen concept that combines the kitchen, dining room, and living room into one great room. The Great Room design is especially attractive to those looking for a social center.
Less drastic than the great room design, merely opening the barrier between the kitchen and dining room allows the kitchen to expand directly into the dining room. This is a good design for folks who do not need a formal dining area.
Add an Island
If you remove the wall between your kitchen and dining room, a casual division can be created with a kitchen island. Practically the island can also supplement storage space in your open kitchen design.
More importantly, the area remains open, but the dining space is still somewhat separate from the cooking area. It is important to treat each area like it's own room. To further denote the dining area, you can add one large focal point, such as a large dining table or hutch.
Focal points in each area can pull the open plan together, such as a couch in the TV area or a chandelier in a more formal area.
Image via Pexels
In this design, the kitchen opens directly into the living room. It is easy to serve snacks and drinks directly to casual visitors in the living room during the big game or the movie of the week.
This design is also useful in small apartments by allowing a small kitchen or kitchenette to save space while serving a practical use within the living room.
Open to the Outdoors
Another open kitchen design involves opening your kitchen to the back yard by replacing a large section of the exterior wall with glass doors or oversized windows. The abundant light that brightens your kitchen will be a perk to many homeowners.
This open kitchen design can lead directly to a patio or deck with only glass in between.
Strategies within the Kitchen
Your new kitchen will need a few strategic components. Having given up some counter space, be sure to have a usable prep area. This requires easy access to the refrigerator, an area for chopping food, access to the trash, and of course the sink.
In the nearby storage areas be sure you can easily get to your utensils and tools.
Now You're Cooking
With your food prepared, be sure you have a useful cooking space in your plan. Have your spices, utensils, and cookware in easy reach of your stove.
It's easy to overlook your cleaning design, but homeowners spend a lot of time cleaning dishes and other kitchen messes. Are your sink, dishwasher, and trash within easy reach of each other?
Is your dish cabinet within arm's length of your sink and strainer? And do your cleaning supplies lend themselves to easy access?
Open kitchen designs usually lend themselves to less formal dining areas. Conversely, the breakfast nook has become an important part of many open kitchens.
An ideal spot for breakfast or light meals, a breakfast nook usually has seating built into its surrounding near the kitchen. However, a breakfast nook can be accomplished by adding a small table and chairs near any large window; it would be especially effective with a kitchen that opens to the outdoors.
If a window is not available, you can add a bench with pillows along any corner wall across from a small table.
Middle Ground Designs
Middle ground kitchen designs incorporate open kitchen strategies with sculleries or small rooms closed off from the main kitchen. Small rooms can be used for the dirty work, such as doing dishes or even cleaning fish while a larger open kitchen area exists with a small, practical sink and refrigerator.
Middle ground designs are popular with people who like to use the kitchen as a social hub but still want a bit of privacy for dirty dishes and bloody cutting boards.
Turning a walk-in pantry or closet into a scullery is possible. It requires about 40 square feet.
Homeowners who want to open communication between rooms while not tearing out entire walls sometimes use pass-through windows.
Folding pass-through windows can open your kitchen to the outdoors, such as an outdoor bar. Other pass-through windows open garage-style to your deck or patio.
Rather than using a pass-through window between rooms, some homeowners utilize pocket doors, foldable doors that separate the kitchen from other rooms but can be removed to open the kitchen to other rooms when needed.
These doors often use transparent or translucent glass to allow light and a line of vision throughout rooms.
Peninsulas are also a way to give a level of division between kitchens and other rooms without using a wall. Peninsulas are either lower cabinets only or both lower and upper. Upper peninsula cabinets will sometimes use glass doors to allow a line of sight between rooms.
A bar or counter with stools can also serve a similar purpose. While standard countertops are about 36 inches high, countertops with bar stools need to be at least 40 inches (preferably 46).
Half walls are a final option, similar in height to the raised countertops. This provides a physical barrier but does not block visibility or sound between the kitchen and adjacent rooms.
How Do You Decorate an Open Kitchen?
A true open kitchen design must be decorated as part of a larger space. Your design strategy must be consistent throughout a great room or kitchen-dining area.
It is important that your lighting and accents are planned for a great room and not just an isolated kitchen. Interior decorators can be very helpful in this area, but many homeowners want to choose their own design aesthetic.
Don't be afraid to look for ideas online; Pinterest is often a gold mine.
Updating your kitchen to an open design should encourage you to update your paint choices as well. A good strategy is to choose three colors for your paint design (light, medium, and dark) from the same family.
Anywhere two walls meet is a possible place to change colors. A bold accent color often works well on a far wall or backsplash. It can also be effective to paint a piece of furniture with your accent color.
Determine what color every wall will be painted before you apply the first coat.
A great room or similar design often leads to large areas that need to be decorated, and many homeowners are not used to that demand. Consider doubling up on items such as furniture pieces.
Use two couches in a seating area instead of one; use a larger dining table with bold chairs. Tie in colors between the sofa, the dining chair cushions, and your paint scheme. Keep most of your decor in line with the three-color palette you identified.
A random mismatch, such as a weathered table or antique centerpiece can provide a splash of excitement.
Within a large open floor plan, distinct areas are essential to an overall decorative plan. You can begin by identifying corners as potential areas for specific purposes. Corners with large windows can serve as an area for potted plants and greenery leading to a dining area.
Area rugs are useful for designating specific zones in your great room. Large rugs can tie two rooms together while smaller rugs can identify an area for stools near the counter or a coffee table between two couches.
While delineating specific areas, you can also tie aspects of the zones together by including themed artwork in multiple areas or particular wood grains in each zone. Remember, a truly open kitchen design must be decorated as part of a larger space.
Open Kitchen Pros and Cons
Open kitchen plans can make small spaces feel larger, and great rooms can literally leave huge areas to be decorated and designed. Removing a wall or two opens the space and tells your brain your house is suddenly bigger than it used to be.
How you will furnish and decorate your open areas is an important question. How will you budget your furniture and decor purchases? Some homeowners may be overwhelmed by a great room that turns out to be too big.
It can also be harder to achieve a feeling of quaint, down-home coziness in an open house. While communication can be easier, an echoing acoustic can feel more like a building than a home. The larger space can also affect heating and air conditioning expenses.
It is not uncommon for one member of the family to be slaving away at dinner preparation in total isolation from the rest of the family. Individual miss out on family conversations and stories about the kids' school day or spouses work day.
An open concept can provide better communication at all times of the day. Mom can now carry on a conversation while working in the kitchen, and Dad can talk to his children doing the dishes.
On the other hand, kitchen messes are also readily apparent to everyone in the family as well as guests. Any parent knows the hectic nature of preparing supper for a large family; messes happen. Clutter is unavoidable, and in an open kitchen, it is unmistakable.
When guests come to your home, they always end up in the kitchen, regardless of whether it is opened or closed. You have hosting duties that require you to be in the kitchen, but you also have guests who want to enjoy your company.
These situations can be much easier and relaxed in an open kitchen plan. On the downside, a trip to the kitchen can also be the host's quiet moment to him or herself. No such opportunity exists in an open kitchen design.
A well designed open kitchen will often make a home more beautiful. A sweeping gaze across the home's interior is not blocked by walls and narrow doorways. Natural light fills the rooms, and a well-planned decor tops the effort.
However, that beauty comes with a price. Removing load-bearing walls is expensive and complicated, likely requiring a professional construction service. Alterations to flooring, HVAC components, and water pipes can add on to the bill.
Some houses boast a lot of square footage, but much of it turns out to be unusable. Other times families unnecessarily make it unusable. Some families have a “front room” that is only for display. The kids are not allowed to play in it, and only special guests get to sip a coffee in the room.
Others, for privacy's sake, designate a room that is off limits or even locked to other people. An open kitchen or great room makes much more of the square footage useable, though it lessens the available privacy in the house.
While it can be beneficial to have your children in sight throughout the house, it can also be useful to have a designated, closed area for them to burn off energy. “Go to the playroom!” is a cry that can't be heard in some open designs.
Every homeowner must consider what type of kitchen design is best for their individual needs. Any design has pros and cons, so you have to know yourself and your goals. A great room design may be ideal for family togetherness but not for privacy. Knowing what is important to you will lead you to the best kitchen design.