Current kitchen trend: Open Plan Kitchen Designs
A popular kitchen trend is the increased desire for open plan kitchen and living arrangements in place of separate kitchen and dining rooms. Open plan kitchen and living areas easily form the hub of the home as they allow different household members to cook, eat, socialise or relax within the same space at the same time. This suits busy modern lifestyles where efficiency and multi-tasking is key. Whilst doing this, it brings people together so whether for spending time with family, or cooking and entertaining with friends, open plan kitchens are an ideal and practical social space:-
1) Define open plan kitchen zones and layout
The shape and size of an existing room space predetermines the layout of many kitchens. For example, a small kitchen’s form may dictate that only a galley or L-shaped kitchen will work.
But an open plan setting provides increased design possibilities and layout options, and even within a small open plan kitchen space, a kitchen island may still work. But alongside the kitchen size or shape, defining separate zones is important to ensure a practical and functional kitchen to suit lifestyle.
Zones refer to areas of the kitchen where different activities take place such as the prep area, (70% of kitchen time is spent here) cooking area (10% of kitchen time is spent here) and clean up area (20% of kitchen time is spent here). But kitchens are not limited to cooking activity so if not intending a separate dining area within your open plan space then you should define a seating area for socialising at, studying at, or eating at within the kitchen. Typically, this might be a breakfast bar, common within kitchen island designs but always separate to the prep and cooking zone. This is not only safer but is preferable to whoever is cooking at the time if they can maintain a clear working zone.
For a brighter and more comfortable atmosphere, it is also advisable to locate the eating area as close as possible to a room’s natural light source.
In conjunction with zoning, the working kitchen triangle contributes to the layout for most kitchens. This determines that an imaginary line is possible between the 3 most used elements of a kitchen, the refrigerator, oven and sink, forming a triangle. This line ensures these elements are located in close enough proximity to one another for efficient and best possible use of the kitchen. Within any kitchen it is important not to obstruct access to the kitchen triangle and if you have an open plan arrangement inclusive of an island you must also ensure enough room at all sides to comfortably manoeuvre around it.
2) Open plan kitchen appliances to reduce noise and cooking smells
Kitchens can be noisy and odorous places. This can quickly become a nuisance for other family members who are working, studying, relaxing or watching TV within an adjoining living area whilst activity is taking place in the kitchen. If your kitchen is open plan then it is worth exploring options for appliances that will minimise noise and smells such as the Siemens or Gutmann extractors. These use magnets rather than screws to reduce vibration and consequently make minimal noise whilst recirculating smells. Similarly, the Insinkerator boiling water tap is a good alternative to a kettle, as the boiler sits beneath the worktop so boils without noise. The same can apply for washing machines and dishwashers too, as well as integrated models with door covers to further help reduce the sound as well as enhance appearance.
Open plan Kitchen Extraction
Extraction is key within an open plan kitchen and particularly for kitchen islands with extractors, as they need to extract directly through an outside wall or else a downdraft extractor through the floor. Ceiling extractors offer an effective solution for this and are unobtrusive in appearance as well as saving on space within the kitchen.
3) Is there enough space for your intended open plan kitchen?
If planning an open plan kitchen it is essential to ensure sufficient space for comfortable living at the same time as a fully usable kitchen. If including an island, is there enough room to move around it but also without encroaching too much on your living space? Or again, will the noise from the kitchen impact too heavily? (which is more of a problem within smaller spaces). How many people currently live in your home and will there still be enough space should you plan to grow your family in the future? It is also important to think about if you might rent or sell your home at some stage in the future, as a poorly designed space will appear small and put off potential tenants/buyers.
4) Consider marking a distinction between kitchen and living room?
Within an open plan kitchen and living room arrangement, many people want to continue zoning and mark a physical separation of the space between the kitchen and separate living area.
In terms of lifestyle and activity, this separation defines different areas for working (as cooking was traditionally considered to be) and relaxing. Should you wish to incorporate a distinction then you need to consider how you will do it?
It might be through a change of flooring between kitchen and living area, (though carpets aren’t advisable within kitchen areas) a change of décor such as wall colour, glass partition, or a separate style of lighting too. Task lighting is useful in the kitchen but within your relaxation space, decorative or low lighting can create an entirely different effect. Where space permits, an island is the most popular inclusion for an open plan kitchen, grounding the space and marking a very definite change between kitchen and living room. If intending your open plan space as the heart of your home kitchen islands offer a compromised balance of space for cooking and socialising at within the kitchen area.
5) Open plan kitchen furniture and complimentary living room furniture
A current kitchen design trend is for the style of kitchen furniture to flow and continue throughout other rooms of the house including, utility room, bedrooms, studies, and especially the living room.
This is easily achievable through living room furniture designed for this very purpose and made by the same kitchen manufacturers. It allows a seamless flow from kitchen to living room for comfortable and easy living. Alternatively, and as previously mentioned, you might want to mark a distinction between kitchen and living room and the use of contrasting colours or textures is an easy but effective means for achieving this. You might even select the same range and style of kitchen furniture but simply opt for different colour tones within your living room.
6) How will an open plan kitchen arrangement suit your children?
Open plan arrangements can be very advantageous for parents as they enable you to set up your children for play in the living area, keeping them in clear sight but safely away from common hazards of the kitchen.
However, this falls to individual choice as many parents also find a separate living area can provide privacy or a relief for the times when someone else is on hand to offer a much deserved break. It is a very personal choice, but one definitely worth careful consideration. Similarly, pet owners often want to keep their pets clear of the kitchen when cooking or else allocate a specific area for housing their pets and this needs needs to be included within the design as well.
7) Will an open plan kitchen create enough light and warmth?
With ever-increasing heating costs, an advantage of an open plan kitchen and living room arrangement is that the living rooms absorb the heat generated from the kitchen. This is great for keeping warm in winter (although bear in mind that extractors extract heat as well as smell) but is your open plan arrangement also well-ventilated for summer, and bright enough too?
Open plan arrangements tend to allow more natural lighting due to an increased number of windows within the space rather than those confined to the kitchen.
Sky light openings, a glazed roof or bi-fold doors are all effective in ensuring adequate light and ventilation. Choice of cabinet colour can also make a difference and if needs be choose warm hues such as white or cream rather than those from the cold side of the colour spectrum. Lighter colours will also make the room feel larger, so are ideal for small open plan kitchens. However, if you are decided on a cooler colour tone then introduce a two tone arrangement in combination with warm floor tones to ensure it works and that your kitchen will still be light and bright.
8) Open plan kitchen planning permission and building regulations
If your intended open plan kitchen arrangement requires any structural changes to your home then ensure you seek planning advice in advance of carrying out any works. It may be that you are planning an extension onto your home, in which case you need permission, as well as an architect and builder. But even if all changes are internal, such as knocking down a non-load bearing wall to open up a space there may still be building regulations to adhere to. For example if your kitchen is at the top of a staircase then a set of internal doors may be required between staircase and kitchen as a fire safety precaution. Should you wish to sell your kitchen in the future it is important to adhere to these stipulations or risk failing a building inspection report.
9) Incorporate open plan ‘wow factor’ kitchen design features
Any kitchen design has to be practical and meet the homeowner and family’s needs but it also has to look good!
This is especially significant within an open plan arrangement as this is where your family will spend the majority of their time, as well as where you will welcome any visitors into! One way to ensure this is to include a wow factor feature, within your kitchen, such as an eyecatching island or kitchen island with breakfast bar. Whether modern or traditional this can draw the eye, and lighting effects or use of different colour tones can enhance the look you are wishing to create. The end-result is an open plan kitchen that is stunning in design but practical in functionality.
10) Open plan kitchen storage
Within an open plan arrangement it is essential to ensure plenty of storage options within your kitchen and living room to ensure you can maintain a tidy and clutter-free appearance, particularly as everything is in plain sight.
Structural amendments such as removing an internal wall often means losing space that would have accommodated wall cabinets, making it even more important to include storage space elsewhere, and particularly within small kitchen spaces.
Carousel units, le mans corner units, tambour units, internal bins all offer storage options whilst maximising on space. Integrated or compact appliances can also effect this. Similarly if you opt for a kitchen island these can include options for cooking such as a built in hob or sink, but also storage including pan drawers, cupboards, or open shelving.
Further posts you might find helpful:
- Kitchen Island Design for Families
- How much space is needed for a kitchen island?
- Kitchen Design: How to plan an efficient kitchen layout (Part 1)
- House Extensions: The perfect space for a kitchen remodel!
- Expert kitchen advice: Making the right kitchen choice for you