Planning & Designing a Kitchen That Works for You
Open plan kitchens have been all the rage in recent years but for some, they have a number of plusses and minuses. Everyone has differing opinions about the benefits and pitfalls of going to an open plan kitchen layout with some leading designers now claiming the trend may have had its day. Are they right?
If you are about to start on an open-plan renovation, there may be some aspects of living in a space with no walls that may not have crossed your mind. So before jumping in head first, let’s take a look at the pro’s and con’s of open plan kitchen designs so you can make your own mind up.
Pros: Parties & Socialising
For those who love to entertain and be the centre of attention, open plan kitchens always get the vote. They offer the perfect entertaining space as all your guests can congregate and mingle in a single room, where carefully created zones can offer an area for drinks and nibbles, then onto the dining area for the main meal and the lounge area for coffees and good old fashioned gossip - all within the same space.
It means you avoid the usual crowding of groups into small spaces with walls, most notably the kitchen and instead, allow your guests to roam free and still feel like a part of the gathering.
Pros: Watching the Kids
If you have a young family and lead a busy life, it’s never easy trying to manage dinner time whilst making sure your kids are doing their homework or are playing safely. With an open plan space, you can keep an eye on the kids and help with homework whilst preparing dinner without the need to constantly poke your head around doorways and walls to check up on them.
Additionally, open plan spaces instantly encourage greater interaction so if your children are present in the room with you, it’s a great way to have them involved in preparing for dinner time which makes for a stronger bond and involvement in the day-to-day chores around the house.
Pros: Space Saving
With floor space getting smaller and smaller especially in modern builds, removing a wall or two will help to create extra vital space. A simple stud wall may be only a few inches of timber and plasterboard but by taking them down, you remove a number of barriers which will allow for a little extra room for furniture and walkways that fixed walls would otherwise prevent.
If you’re taking down a concrete wall, check that it’s not a load baring wall that may require a steel beam to support the roof and upper floors. Fortunately, the cost of steel has come down significantly in recent years so a supporting joist is not as expensive or as difficult to have installed as you might think and it will make a huge difference to your space.
It’s amazing just how much impact the removal of a wall can have. Not only will the space feel bigger, light will be able to bounce around the room making it feel bigger, brighter and airier. Suddenly a pokey little kitchen will have the feeling of space and freedom to move.
Pros: The Wow Factor
There’s nothing quite as impressive as a large open planned space to make a few jaws drop. Perception is everything and the removal of a wall will make a space feel hugely different. So if you like to show off your fabulous home to friends and family, an open planned kitchen area is a great way to achieve the wow factor.
If noise and disturbances are something that easily bother you, an open plan kitchen might not be ideal. A room that combines an actively used kitchen, dining area and lounge will have a lot of noise pollution to contend with.
The banging and crashing of pots, pans and utensils during cooking will have anyone enjoying the lounge area reaching for the remote to increase the TV volume level to drown out the sound. And as the noise levels increase in the room, those wishing to indulge in conversation will have to speak louder just to be heard. It’s a continual battle that only leads to increased sound levels that many may not be able to tolerate.
It’s not uncommon for people to want to enjoy the kitchen as a space to escape whilst preparing and cooking meals. Not everyone enjoys being the centre of attention so if you’re a cook that lacks confidence or simply wants to be able to prepare food without prying eyes, there’s no place to hide in an open plan space.
Likewise, if you’re hosting some particularly special guests, such as a boss or difficult family member, sometimes cooking in front of them can be an intimidating experience. A walled kitchen will offer a place to take a breath and get things ready without every aspect of your meal preparations being open to scrutiny.
Cooking food produces smells and if your room lacks suitable ventilation, those smells are going to travel. With many modern kitchen designs now favouring islands with cooktops, many suffer from a lack of decent ventilation or extraction. Many downdraft extractors are considered inferior as they lack enough suction power to fully isolate smells and cooking vapours to the kitchen area and overhead extractors are considered to be rather ugly and imposing to a rooms aesthetics.
Just the smallest amount of clutter can make an open plan room look messy and untidy as it’s alway visible no matter where you are in the room. Whether its the dirty dishes, kids toys, a jacket, handbag or today’s mail spread across the dining table, any mess is hard to hide unless the room has suitable storage options. If not, it's always on display!
With walled rooms, the natural separation allows you to keep items hidden away is set spaces whilst open plan means keeping the worktops and exposed surfaces free of clutter to maintain that clean, minimalist look. If you are a clutter bug, open plan may not be for you.
There are some ingenious ideas now being implemented in modern interior designs that means you can still have an open plan feel whilst maintaining separation and privacy, and reduce noise pollution and smells from travelling.
Glass wall partitions create fabulous sectioned off areas that maintain the open feel most of us crave whilst maintaining the transparency created by the open plan concept. By installing glass panels, you create zoning areas for cooking, dining and relaxing and get the best of both worlds.