Open-plan kitchens – to provide a natural hub for the home and greater sociability

An open kitchen-dining-living space offers great versatility for the way we live today.

The modern kitchen is all about space. Space to cook, space to entertain and space for the whole family to gather, to chat and to just be. In response, the average kitchen project has become so much more than new look cabinetry and appliances. A trusted home insurance survey shows that one in five UK household had removed a downstairs wall in the past ten years while one in three were already enjoying the benefits of open plan kitchen-dining.

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The big appeal is for the kitchen and cook to be part of the action when entertaining and, on a day to day basis, for the whole family to be together – in this time-pressed age, it’s a real boon to be able to offer help with homework while preparing the evening meal; and to be able to keep one eye on children while managing other tasks.

‘People have become generally less formal and so are more willing to share cooking, dining and relaxing areas,’ says Tim Higham of Higham Furniture. ‘When throwing a party or entertaining friends, it is seen as sociable to cook and entertain at the same time. Families also want to share the space so that they can multi-task while preparing food.’ And in summer, an open plan space really comes into its own. The majority of open plan kitchens include large amounts of glass to let in the light and have easy access to garden, which vastly expands living and entertaining space.

See: Kitchen trends 2020 – these latest designs are ahead of the curve

One of the big surprises can be just how little space you need to add to gain enough useable room for a dining area in your existing kitchen – sometimes a mere matter of feet is all you need to fit a compact solution such as banquette or bench-style seating. One of the most popular extensions is the side return which steals little-used alley space from the side of Victorian semis and terraced housing. These are rarely more than a few feet wide but the resulting kitchen will be bright and airy, and it’s a great way to gain space without encroaching on the garden, especially in cities where outdoor space is at a premium.

1. OPEN WIDE

This spacious kitchen is part of a larger living area that was made by extending and combing the ground floor rooms at the back of house. A huge pivot door and windows offer views of the garden, while light streams in through the skylight above. Don’t get too matchy matchy with the furniture in an open-plan kitchen but make sure the overall look is cohesive.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Davide Lovatti

2. PACK A PUNCH

An open-plan kitchen and living space depends on a combination of form and function. Before you plan your layout, think about exactly how you may use the space and how to define specific zones. Clever use of lighting, accent colours, where you position your cooking appliances and introducing a central island are all factors that will help you distinguish cooking and dining zones in a social kitchen. Complete the look with splashes of colour, as they lead the eye around the room and make this space flow, creating a sense of unity.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: David Cleveland

3. SOCIAL KITCHEN

Opt for an island that can function as a showpiece as well as a multi-functional space, with a breakfast bar, high-performance induction hob and integrated appliances. If there isn’t room for an island, a peninsular will often create an area where people can gather round.

‘Noise can also be an issue when family members are cooking and relaxing in the same room, so make sound-dampening choices such as wooden worktops, soft-close drawers, and choose appliances for their quiet operation. Ideally the washing machine should be in a separate utility space – with a door,’ says Nick Clayton, Clayton Cabinets.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Darren Chung

4. SIMPLE SELECTION

Not all open-plan kitchens are huge, but even small spaces can shine. This compact kitchen benefits from a neat layout with all mod cons close to hand. Classic cabinetry painted in a dark shade is a sophisticated choice, especially when teamed with a beautiful wood floor. The parquet running throughout gives this room the air of a Parisian apartment, and shows that small can indeed be beautiful.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Catherine Gratwicke

See: Small kitchen ideas – to turn your compact kitchen into a smart, organised space

5. SPACED OUT

If you love to entertain, a kitchen-dining room is a practical solution, allowing you to be part of the action with your guests, not shut away in a cramped kitchen. Design your space accordingly. Here, super-sleek units conceal most of the working elements of the kitchen, providing a smart and uncluttered backdrop to a modern rustic dining area.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Adrian Briscoe

6. INDUSTRIAL ELEMENT

Modern warehouse spaces and loft apartments are ideal candidates for an open-plan kitchen. Follow the lead of existing finishes such as exposed-brick walls or vast utilitarian windows, choosing an oversized island in proportion to the space. Blocky designs and work-like materials such as stainless steel can be softened with muted colours and touches of wood to create a sensitive design that can hold its own in the space and feel inviting.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Darren Chung

7. CREATE CURVES

An important consideration in open-plan space is flow. Curves are great at subtly directing traffic, keeping children away from danger spots and stopping guests from getting under your feet. The curved end of the Shaker-style unit also ensures there are no sharp corners to knock into. Heating a large space can also be costly. The best solution is to install underfloor heating for all-round ambient warmth.

Open-plan kitchen ideas

Image credit: Darren Chung

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