Tips and Ideas for an Open-Plan Kitchen

It is no secret that the open plan kitchen has taken over as the most popular layout in homes. There are countless reasons why this versatile layout is so popular, from the way it seamlessly blends living and cooking spaces to its ability to make even the smallest of spaces feel larger. But if you are like most homeowners, you may be wondering how to make the most of an open plan kitchen design. Whether you are just starting to think about remodeling your kitchen or already in the planning stages, here are some tips and ideas to help you create a perfect space.

What exactly is an open-plan kitchen?

Historically, your standard kitchen consisted of a room or separate area of its own for preparing food and sometimes for dining as well. With its growth in popularity, the open-plan kitchen has brought the walls down quite literally and changed that. As the name suggests, an open-plan kitchen is one that is not enclosed by walls. Instead, it flows directly into the living room, dining area, or both. This type of layout provides a number of benefits. It allows the cook to interact with family and guests while preparing food. It makes the kitchen feel more spacious and airy. Finally, an open-plan kitchen helps to create a more unified aesthetic in the home. Sounding like the right plan for you so far? Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering an open-plan kitchen for your home.

Consider the flow of traffic

A very important consideration is the flow of traffic. You want to make sure there is enough space for people to move throughout the space without bumping into each other or feeling cramped. One way to ensure ample space is to ensure walkways both in or around the kitchen are at least 36 inches wide. This is most essential in the major work areas of the kitchen where you find the sink, stove, and fridge. You can also open up traffic flow by positioning furniture and even appliances in a linear fashion.  Using islands and peninsula units can help define the space as well. Furniture that is slim and low profile can also help maximize the flow of traffic through the entire space and keep your kitchen open in the process. 

Maximize natural light

Another thing to think about is the amount of natural light. An open-plan kitchen relies on light to create a bright, airy, and open feel. Consider the layout of your kitchen and surrounding spaces and how you can create a design that makes the most of the light. Positioning the kitchen near windows or glass doors will help brighten up the space, making it feel more welcoming and inviting. If you have a large window, create a breakfast nook to enjoy the morning sun or chat with family as the pancakes cook to perfection. Alternatively, if your kitchen is long and narrow, you may consider a skylight to brighten up the space. You can also maximize the advantage of daylight by using lighter colors for your walls and cabinets.

Be intentional with material selections

Another important tip is to choose versatile and durable products and finishes. With an open-plan layout, your kitchen will be on full display so you will want to make sure it looks the part. That means choosing materials that are both aesthetically pleasing and practical. Stone floors are beautiful but can be cold and hard on the feet. Wood floors are warmer and more comfortable but can be scratched and stained. Take your time to select the materials that will stand up to the wear and tear of everyday life while still giving you the look you want.

Think about what kind of look you are going for - is it modern and sleek? Warm and inviting? Rustic and homey? Once you have settled on a style, choose materials that will complement it. Stainless steel appliances might work well in a contemporary kitchen, whereas exposed beams and reclaimed wood would be ideal in a more rustic space. If you have a light and airy kitchen, you might want to consider using pale colors and natural materials such as stone or wood. Alternatively, if you have a more traditional kitchen, darker colors and rich textures may be more appropriate. Whatever your style, be sure to use finishes that will stand out in your open plan kitchen and stand up to the test of time as well. 

Minimize clutter

Do not forget about storage! An open-plan kitchen can quickly become cluttered if there is nowhere to put things away. Make sure you have plenty of cabinets, shelves, and drawers for all of your pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. And if your space allows, consider installing a kitchen island to increase your built-in storage.

Find your (kitchen) island

One of the best things you can do for your open plan kitchen is to add a kitchen island or improve on the kitchen island you already have.  Not only does this provide extra counter space and storage, but it also creates a natural divide between the cooking area and the rest of the room. If the space allows, try to make the kitchen island at least four feet wide so you can comfortably move around it while cooking. If you are really short on space though, even a more compact kitchen island design can still be a useful addition. You can even get creative and use an existing piece of furniture, like a buffet or dresser, as your island. Just be sure to add butcher block or cutting boards in order to create additional prep space as well. Add some bar stools as well so that your family and friends can enjoy being there in the kitchen with you!

Focus on functionality

One of the most important things to keep in mind when designing an open-plan kitchen is functionality. In any kitchen, the focus should be on creating a work triangle – the area between the stove, sink, and fridge.  Making this as efficient as possible will help to make meal prep and everything easier in the kitchen. You may design your fridge  so that it is within easy reach of the stove and sink. Alternatively, you may place the sink more centrally in your kitchen design to easily access and move around in all three areas.

Storage is another way to make sure your open plan kitchen is functional. In a smaller kitchen, every inch of space counts so it is even more important to make full use of all the available storage. Cabinet accessories are a great way to maximize storage inside of cabinets to keep them out of the way, while adding more drawers to base cabinets will help increase storage and keep things organized. 

Ensure the transition is seamless

Another important aspect of designing an open-plan kitchen is ensuring that the transition from the surrounding spaces to the kitchen is seamless. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as by using similar materials and finishes throughout the space. If your living room flooring transitions into the kitchen, consider using the same tile or wood in both areas. This creates a continuous look and stops the eye from being drawn to the transition line. You can also create a transition by aligning the two spaces visually. This can be done by using similar colors or patterns in both areas. This will again help to create continuity and make the transition less noticeable.

Use furniture to create cohesion

One of the challenges of an open-plan kitchen is creating a sense of cohesion with the rest of the living space. After all, when the kitchen is open to the living room or dining area, you want it to feel like a deliberate choice, not an afterthought. 

Another way to achieve a seamless transition is by using furniture that is similar in style and finish. The key is not to be too much of a match.  When furniture is too matchy it can feel like you are living in a furniture showroom. Too different though and it can become unbalanced and even make your space feel smaller. The key is to strike the right balance. Carefully choosing furniture that compliments your kitchen creates a harmonious space that feels both stylish and welcoming while balancing well with the rest of the space. 

Use color to zone different areas

When it comes to open plan kitchens, many people opt for a neutral color scheme. However, if you want to add a little more interest to your kitchen then consider using color to define different areas. You could use a bright color for your food prep area paired with calming colors for the dining area and a neutral color for the living space. This helps create a sense of separation between different areas and make your open-plan kitchen feel more spacious. Or you could create a bright island as the focal point, with light-colored cabinets on the perimeter to create a sense of space. Another option is to use different shades of one color to create a cohesive look. For instance, you could use pale blue for the walls and island, and then use darker shades of blue for the cabinets and floors or even furniture in adjacent spaces. 

Install multiple lighting sources

Multiple lighting sources can help to highlight different areas of the room, adding layers of lighting to create a more inviting space. Whether it is track lighting to accentuate an area or pendant lights, you can create layers of light for both general purposes and task specific needs.   Pendant lights in particular are a great way to add extra light, be it to an island, breakfast nook or other spaces. In addition, recessed lighting can be used to create a warm and inviting ambiance. Regardless, make sure to install plenty of overhead lighting to evenly illuminate the entire space. 

Consider a minimalistic approach to furnishings

When it comes to your furnishings, keep in mind that less is often more. With an open-plan layout, you do not want your kitchen or any of the space to feel cluttered or cramped.  I mean, there is a reason why we call it an “open” plan, right?  This means choosing minimalistic furniture and avoiding excessive decoration. Focus on creating a few key focal points, such as a beautiful backsplash or a stunning piece of art.

Is an open-plan kitchen a good idea?

To answer this question, you need to think about how you use your kitchen. If you are the type of person who likes to cook in peace and quiet, an open-plan kitchen might not be the best idea. On the other hand, if you love to be with family or entertain guests while you cook, an open-plan layout can be a great way to socialize while you prepare meals. Another thing to keep in mind is that open-plan kitchens can be quite loud. If you live in a small space, the lack of walls can amplify sound and make it difficult to hear or carry on a conversation. This can also be seen as a positive if you enjoy listening to music or podcasts while you cook. Most importantly, with young children you need to be extra careful regardless of your design to childproof the kitchen to keep them safe. 

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to go for an open-plan kitchen is a personal one. Just make sure to weigh all the pros and cons before making any drastic changes to your home.

An open-plan kitchen is the right choice for me

You have decided to take the plunge and open your kitchen up. Whether it’s a full-fledged renovation or just knocking down a wall or two, these tips are some of the things you need to think about before starting. They have been curated by our team of experts, from clever storage solutions to ways to create separate spaces within the one room. And when you need a hand putting these ideas into action, our team is ready to help. We have years of experience creating beautiful and functional kitchens that meet both your needs and your budget. Get in touch with us today for a consultation. 

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