When we think of an “open kitchen,” we likely imagine a large kitchen area adjacent to another living space such as a dining room, living room, or a mix of the two. Interior design in the 1990s changed what the average family considers an ideal kitchen. In past decades, the kitchen was relegated to a small space in the back of the house, perhaps where servants could cook for the family. But times have changed, and so have home layouts.
What’s most ideal today is the open layout, which is much more accommodating for cooking, socializing, and entertaining. An open kitchen layout makes the kitchen a part of the living area, and ample space makes cooking for larger families and children a lot easier. This layout also solves the problem of having limited light, as the walls that would be blocking the kitchen are gone, so you are not only relying on windows.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t choose a closed kitchen if you want, or even combine the two to create a sort of hybrid. A closed kitchen is great if you like to cook on your own, prefer for the kitchen to be concealed from the dining, entertaining, and lounging areas, or simply don’t like the look of an open kitchen. A lot of creativity is possible with an open kitchen layout, and we’re going to walk you through it all here.
History Of The Open Kitchen Design
Open kitchen designs are a fairly recent trend. Up until the middle of the last century, most homes were designed in a sort of compact way: each room had a different function with walls to separate them from each other. It’s common to see this in older homes today, where the dining room and living room divided in some way.
This wasn’t just a matter of preference, it was also a matter of function. It was more common for families to eat in a formal dining room as part of their routine without having the kitchen visible to the rest of the house; the same way that you still wouldn’t see the kitchen if you went to a formal event or wedding. Having separate spaces was also a mark of financial success, echoes of which can be heard today when someone says they have a library or home office.
Locating the kitchen in the back of the house and away from primary living areas was also a safety issue. Before modern appliances with secure safety features were available, it was more common for stoves to start on fire, so keeping it separate was imperative to families staying safe.
However, times have changed. Now, new buildings will almost always incorporate an open kitchen if not an open plan for the entire first floor. Everything is more visible, more accessible, brighter, and makes socializing and decorating a lot easier. Today, many people enjoy a more relaxed, social approach to cooking, where family members help out and entertaining involves sharing a bottle of wine while preparing a meal together.
In addition, it seems nicer today to have more space visible as soon as you walk into a home. Large kitchens that have islands, ample preparation space, high ceilings, and extensive cabinetry are the modern mark of "making it." However, that’s not the main point of an open floor plan, especially when it comes to the kitchen. It’s about functionality, accessibility, and appearance.
Possible Floor Plan Configurations
An open-floor kitchen implies that the space will be conjoined with at least one other part of the home. You will need to decide what you want that to be prior to beginning construction. Here are a few different examples from which to choose.
Kitchen & Dining Room
It should be self-evident why this is the most common open-floor plan combination. It simply makes cooking, serving, entertaining, and cleanup a lot easier. This plan is great for larger families, those who socialize often, or those who want a more involved and connected nightly routine. Combining the kitchen and dining room helps if you also want to create more space to eat, such as having a bar where kids can eat breakfast so they aren’t always at the dining room table. This is also ideal if you are a bit short on space: An entire room just to house the dining table might not be realistic, and combining them ensures you’re not wasting space.
Kitchen & Living Room
Often this layout is best configured with a bar or island separating the two spaces as a dividing line. You might not think the kitchen and living room flow easily, but they can. This is especially true if you’d like a separate space reserved specifically for eating but still want that open, social approach to cooking and relaxation. Being able to prepare food while hanging out with friends, family, or guests is always a plus, and at the very least will add a distinct visual component to the space.
Kitchen, Dining & Living Room
The ultimate open kitchen floor plan will involve the kitchen, dining, and living room. Combining all three of these rooms creates the greatest visual outcome and also makes your space primed for entertaining. You will need to be careful about making sure there are enough distinct visual barriers to “separate” each space a bit so as to signal its purpose. However, a great advantage here is that you’ll be able to have one cohesive design approach. It will make your house look instantly coordinated without having to labor over the color and stylization of each room.
How To Build An Open Kitchen
Building your own open kitchen is going to be the same process as building any other kitchen, except in this case, you’ll focus on layout and foundational structure more than any other basic kitchen remodel.
If you are starting with a home that has a closed kitchen, you will need to think through which walls need to come down, and where. This is going to be a very important part of the process, because you need to make sure that you are not demolishing a wall that is essential to your home’s structural integrity. For this, you should consult a professional who can help you determine if that’s the case.
If it isn’t, you’ll have to start the demolition process first. There are a few things to keep in mind when you do so:
- Demolition can be messy. Prepare to seal off any doors you can, and expect the space to be nonfunctional for at least a week, depending on how much you need removed.
- After you take down the wall (which can involve hammering, chiseling, and so on), you will then need to repair the space where it used to stand. This means you will need to replace or repair the floor as well as the ceiling.
- Prepare to need all new drywall, paint, hardwood, or tile.
- If you the demolition will cause you to lose function in your kitchen for a while, preparing for meals — especially if you have a family — will be essential. To avoid eating out every day, get creative with crockpot dishes, cooking outside if it is summer, or putting together meals that require little to no prep (such as PB&J) for lunch.
Afterwards, you’ll follow the protocol of any other kitchen remodel. However, given that it is an open concept, keep a few distinct details in mind.
Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Open Kitchen Design
How much space do you really need?
This will determine a lot of things, particularly what walls need to come down and the size of certain features such as your island.
Do you need to install an island?
Typically, open-floor kitchens have an island at the center. This is because it creates a sort of barrier and makes cooking and entertaining a lot easier. On top of that, it’s more visually appealing, because when there are large gaps between countertops it’s much more difficult to prepare food.
What do I want in and on the island?
Do you need one part of it to be able to fit stools for eating breakfast or small meals? Do you want the sink in the island? Do you want cabinets, a smaller beverage refrigerator, or even a stovetop on there? All of these are possible. It’s a matter of creativity.
Is your design concept cohesive throughout your home?
If you’re going from a closed concept to an open one, you might come up on the issue that your kitchen clashes with your dining room — which was fine when they were separate — but now it looks strange. Creating an open kitchen layout, especially when it involves multiple rooms together, often requires redesigning a lot of the downstairs.
Are you okay with more cleaning or messes potentially being exposed?
People love a closed kitchen because it easily conceals messes from cooking, especially while entertaining. When you have an open concept home, though, your kitchen is almost certainly going to be the center of attention all day, every day. Consider this before deciding what you want for your design.
Are you okay with certain kitchen elements being exposed at all times?
Your countertops are no longer going to just be for slicing tomatoes and holding utensils. They are now an integral part of your home’s interior decoration. Make sure you are okay with your kitchen always needing to look as put-together as your living room. It is often harder to maintain, given that the kitchen is used for so many things, but it can look beautiful when done well.
Pros & Cons To An Open Kitchen Design
Though it is a distinctly modern and trendy layout, that doesn’t mean that the open kitchen layout is right for everyone. In fact, some people prefer not to have the kitchen exposed to the rest of the home, and those pros and cons are issues you should consider before making a decision.
- Better, bigger space for entertaining.
- More countertop room for cooking and preparation.
- Easier to get family involved in meal time.
- Gives home a more open look.
- Interior decoration can be more cohesive.
- More visually appealing.
- Creates more light within the home.
- Kitchen is perpetually exposed, so cleanup is more important.
- Mess might be visible while eating if not picked up between cooking and serving.
- Large spaces might seem too spread-out without an island or large countertops.
- Space gets wasted for the sake of appearance.
- There’s more square footage to keep clean overall.
- Walls that would need to be taken down are part of the home’s foundation, creating a bigger challenge.
- Demolition and changing the floor layout make a kitchen remodel project significantly more expensive.
Planning Your Open Kitchen
If you’ve already gone through the pros, cons, time, and budget required and have decided that you are indeed set on an open kitchen layout, here are some design tips and ideas to get you started.
Start with the layout
First, decide how you want the space to be laid out. A blueprint will come in handy for this, especially if significant renovations need to be made. Figure out what would be the best possible layout for functionality as well as aesthetics. Your kitchen is one of the most utilized spaces in your home, so you want it to work for you.
Consult a professional for demolition
There are a lot of elements of a redesign that you can do on your own. However, major demolition is typically not one of them. Even if you are going to do the work yourself, you should consult a professional to ensure that you are not taking down any walls that are integral to the house’s structure. You might also run into issues with piping, water, and electric and should evaluate whether or not you need assistance on a case-by-case basis.
Determine your “room dividers”
An open-floor layout means that there are no walls separating your different living quarters. However, to designate different areas of the open layout to different activities (dining, cooking, relaxing, etc.), you’ll need to divide the rooms. You can do this with a large kitchen island, an eat-in countertop, the placement of your couch, or other creative design endeavors.
Consider whether or not you need an island installed
Most open-floor kitchens use an island at the center. With no other walls breaking down the space, a lot of square footage can be wasted, and it can also feel clumsy to have to carry ingredients and tools from one side of the room to the next while preparing meals or cooking. This is where the island comes in handy: It’s a large centerpiece in the middle of the kitchen that allows for a centralized prep and gathering space. Some islands come with sinks, refrigerators, and storage, so take your family’s needs into consideration when choosing which you want.
Come up with a cohesive design for the first floor
Do you want a mid-modern kitchen but have a rustic living room? Unfortunately, with an open kitchen layout, most of the first floor is going to be exposed at once. This requires a more unified design plan and can result in more renovations or changes being made. Decide what your style is for the entire first floor and work from there.
The possibility of an open floor plan is even more exciting if you’re ready to show off your brand new backsplash, faucet, or other upgrades. Determine what work you can do on your own and develop a plan of action. Before you know it, you’ll be entertaining in your very own open kitchen space.