How to create the perfect open plan kitchen
Bring the walls of your home tumbling down for a light, spacious open plan kitchen. Our tips and suggestions are here to help you transform your kitchen into the heart of your home
Having a house with separate cooking, dining and living spaces is fast becoming a thing of the past, as more and more of us opt for the spacious elegance of an open plan kitchen. The ideal open plan kitchen is light and airy, with plenty of surfaces, storage and character. It may sound easy enough (just knock down a few walls!), but you'll need the right layout, fittings and equipment to create an open plan kitchen-living-dining space that's right for your lifestyle and tastes. To make sure you have considered all the details, follow our guide below. We'll help you make the kitchen-diner of your dreams a reality.
What do you want from your kitchen?
The first, and most important, thing to consider before you even begin to plan your open plan kitchen is how you use your existing kitchen. Do you host a lot of dinner parties with your friends, but get tired of spending half the evening alone as you prepare the meal? In which case you should put food preparation at the heart of your design, with plenty of surface space, and a table or island around which your guests can enjoy a drink and a chat while keeping you company.
There are other practical aspects to take into account as well. If you have small children, you may want to have your dining table located closer to the kitchen area, so don't have to carry hot food over a long distance. If your family is large you might want your kitchen to overlook your living area, so you can keep an eye on what your kids are watching and help them with their homework while making the tea.
Every household will require different things from their open plan kitchen, so be sure you know exactly what you want, and how best to achieve it.
Look for more space
Before you can start to have fun with colour schemes and cabinet designs you need to decide what you are going to do with the existing downstairs space. If your kitchen is adjacent to a living or dining room, it is possible that knocking down the wall between them will create a much larger space, giving you much greater freedom when it comes to design and layout, and allowing more people to enjoy the room at once.
However, if knocking down an internal wall isn't possible, you could consider a rear or side extension instead. This is obviously a more costly and time consuming option, but it will provide you with the space you need, while also adding more value to your home. Not all potential buyers will like a fully open plan downstairs, but no one is going to object to a large and adaptable kitchen space.
Consider a bifold door
Bifold doors provide you with light, easy access to outside space, and a greater sense of space overall. Lightweight, strong and attractive doors are available starting from around £1700 and can often be installed in a single day. French doors are a cheaper, but less impactful alternative, while sliding doors tend to be sleeker but much more expensive. To see a range of beautiful bifold doors that can add drama and buckets of light to any open plan kitchen.
Think about the layout of your downstairs
The most common (and most designers say, best) layout for an open plan kitchen diner, is to have the kitchen area at the back of the house, overlooking the garden, with bifold doors to maximise natural light while creating the illusion of greater space. However, this is by no means the only option available to you, as having your living space at the back could create a greater sense of interior space, especially in the summer with the doors open, while having the dining space nearest the back could appeal to those who enjoy a bit of alfresco dining.
Play around with the layout, considering how you'll move about the space. One golden rule is to have the dining and kitchen areas next to each other, so you don't have to cross the living space every meal time with hot food or dirty crockery.
Call a professional
If your open plan kitchen requires any kind of structural work, you will have to call a professional architect and builder. An architect will draw up some plans based on your desires and requirements. These plans may need to be submitted to your local authority's planning department if your project is dramatic enough to require approval. The builder will then use these plans to create your dream kitchen.
Ask friends and family for recommendations when it comes to architects and builders, so you know you're hiring someone you can trust. Ask to see previous plans and projects before you commit to anyone. There are also companies out there who can handle the whole project from design to furnishings, if that sounds easier for you.
Create separate areas
Even if your entire downstairs is going to be completely open plan, some definition between different areas will be needed to prevent the space from becoming muddled or unfocused. The best way to create definition is through flooring. You could have hardwearing, easy to clean tiles in the kitchen area where spills will occur, and then wood or carpet in the living area to create warm and inviting atmosphere. If you want to use the same flooring material for the whole space, break it up with rugs, building up the separate spaces around them so that they don't blend into each other.
Add an island
Kitchen islands serve many purposes. Firstly, they add more surface space and more storage; never a bad thing. Secondly, they help to separate the kitchen and dining/living areas, giving them definition without cutting them off completely. There are hundreds of different island designs out there, with many different features, like a seating area for guests; a drop down area to use as a desk; a sink; a hob; a dishwasher; a wine rack. Once again, it's important to consider how you will use it, and build accordingly.
Incorporate plenty of storage
Every well-designed kitchen has plenty of storage space. Look at your current storage and decide what you'd like to keep, then look to the future. How will you use this kitchen, and what kind of storage will this require? A tall pull out unit is a good option for every kitchen, making the most of horizontal space and being easily accessible. You could also have a larder; perfect for dried goods and crockery, or drawers, which are always handy and can be made to look sleeker by hiding them behind a single cupboard door.
Get a good extractor fan
A good extractor fan will remove all unwanted grease and moisture from your kitchen, while also preventing food smells from drifting towards the living room. Needless to say it's a must for any open plan kitchen space.