Open plan kitchens are one of the most popular renovations. Removing walls could help flow, improve layout and boost design opportunities. But is an open plan kitchen right for you? Omar Bhatti looks at the pros and cons
THE DESIGN DILEMMA: OPEN PLAN KITCHENS
“We are keen to open up the ground floor in our home to allow for better connection and a more sociable open plan kitchen. Our initial plans to go fully open plan seem too drastic now that the room has to include an office area and there are more of us at home on a regular basis. How do we get the balance right?”
THE EXPERT’S ANSWER: SHOULD YOU CREATE AN OPEN PLAN KITCHEN?
“Open plan kitchens have gained enormous popularity over the last couple of decades, and with good reason. Knocking through can transform the transform the prospects of skinny terraces. It can also elevate everyday living spaces and enhance architectural proportions.
“The most common reason to knock through and create open plan kitchens is to better your living space. That often means creating one large kitchen-diner that connects to the sitting room. Multi-functional spaces like these can work brilliantly as long as they are well-planned. A large zone can be easier to use than multiple, closed-off areas, plus airy rooms tend to bring in lots more natural light and produce easy flow, too.
“But reworking your home in this way also means navigating various challenges, from losing valuable wall space to potentially creating noise and privacy issues. In addition, the pandemic has increased demand for semi-separate pockets of space that can accommodate quiet activity. More of us are working from home, so the decision of whether to go open-plan or broken-plan is huge.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
“Therefore, what’s the best solution? The ideal is to create a balanced living space that can allow for the eye to be effortlessly drawn from one area to another. But this should also facilitate a sense of enclosure where necessary. This means you can have more private zones when you want them. For example, through the use of sliding doors, glazed partitions, half walls or screens. These things need to be planned early, so think about what each area is going to be used for. Draw up a list of everyone’s needs – if you are a keen cook, can you create a good-sized kitchen?
“Will it have space to feature ample preparation room and storage? Will they be sure not to compromise or overwhelm your conjoined living space? Likewise, what are your priorities? Don’t squeeze in an eight-seater dining table if you’re a small family and don’t entertain much. Also, factor in practicalities. Zone appliances so your TV area isn’t affected by the drone of a washing machine or dishwasher. And, if you have a family, consider planning quiet spaces for homework. Always allow for concealed storage, too. A good rule of thumb is to put your everyday needs ahead of the appeal of occasional use – that way, you’ll create a space that’s as functional as it is visually satisfying.
THE POTENTIAL OF KNOCKING THROUGH
“Knocking through doesn’t have to be resigned to the ground floor or kitchen-diner. These days, the homeowners I work with are putting a renewed emphasis on daily comfort. This often means reworking a layout or even reducing the original number of rooms to better serve their lifestyle, rather than focusing on the property’s resale value. I think it’s a more authentic approach that produces a personal feel.
“One project I did recently – a Docklands apartment renovation – embodied this perfectly. The plan was to knock through a compact ensuite into the adjoining wardrobe to create a larger bathroom (a great way of stealing space). Some people also forgo a guest room to create a dressing area or a bigger bathroom. Bear in mind that while this approach might be tailor-made for you, it can be less appealing to prospective buyers, so consider making bigger changes like this in a forever home.
A WORD OF CAUTION ON OPEN PLAN KITCHENS
“Before you do anything, though, it pays to take a good look at your property. Knocking through to create open plan kitchens requires the right structural support to be in place. Some walls are non-load bearing, meaning they are not supporting a wall above and can easily be removed. Others are a key part of your home’s structure. These walls require reinforcement in order to knock them down.
“New builds tend to feature plasterboard stud walls that are easier to remove. As a starting point, look at your floor plans to help you identify which is which, but always consult an architect or structural engineer before making any changes.”
Featured image: Blue Shaker kitchen, priced from £10,000, Olive & Barr.
Want to read more about open plan kitchens? Read Irina’s fantastic article on how to create a fun and functional open plan family kitchen here.