The pros and cons of broken-plan kitchens

Is broken-plan living making a comeback? KBB journo Charlotte Luxford discusses the pros and cons of this classic kitchen layout…

While open-plan kitchens remain incredibly popular, some designers argue that broken-plan living could be the way forward. So, if you are planning a renovation and can’t decide which layout to go for, here is all you need to know about broken-plan kitchens to help you make a decision…

First, what is a broken-plan layout? The idea is to maintain that element of visual connection between the spaces but with the ability to define distinct areas using physical features such as different floor levels, half walls or glazed internal doors.

Broken-plan kitchen with green wall panelling, yellow cabinetry and wood dining table
A broken-plan layout and change in levels maximise the available space in this project by MW Architects while the continuation of panels subtly connects the kitchen to the dining room. The cabinetry is by Naked Kitchens, painted in Farrow & Ball’s India Yellow and Green Smoke. Photography: French + Tye.

The benefits of broken plan

“Broken-plan designs open opportunities to homeowners who may not be able to accommodate an open-plan configuration, such as those with small or awkwardly proportioned rooms, or where an open space that combines living and dining areas doesn’t suit their lifestyle,” explains Ruth Lavender, design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens.

Privacy is also more attainable with a broken-plan layout – a metal-frame window, half wall, floor-to-ceiling shelving or pocket doors can offer flexibility and connection, but also make spaces feel tucked away. More walls and partitions will provide additional areas for storage solutions, allowing you to introduce pieces that aren’t just set around the perimeter of the room, as is often the case with open-plan spaces.

view of dining room from the kitchen
A breakfast counter overlooks the living room and banquette dining area in this broken-plan kitchen. Design and joinery by Artichoke.

How to make it work

“Broken plan works well if you need to include multiple functions within the space and want a sense of separation while still maximising light and visibility,” says Julia Brown, director at Mowlem & Co.

“Broken plan can be achieved by something as simple as bench seating separating an office area from the rest of the kitchen, or fluted or glass doors leading to the pantry, an island on wheels, or by introducing a raised level, particularly at a transition space to other areas of the house.” This works especially well in city homes with subterranean gardens where the kitchen extension is at a lower level than the rest of the living spaces at the front of the property.

broken plan kitchen design with blue cabinets, matching island, and three bar stools
A spacious central island subtly splits the cooking area from the adjacent living space in this broken-plan layout. The Sheraton Interiors kitchen is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue and Ammonite and costs £50,000.

If you’re working with an L-shaped floor plan, Will Durrant, owner of Herringbone Kitchens, suggests making one area a dedicated kitchen space, while the other side of the L becomes a dining area adjacent to the kitchen with a living space at the back. The sitting area can be closed off using pocket doors to provide a quieter space to relax.

Light is another important element, so wherever possible ensure that at eye level you have a view to the outside or access to natural light. Glazed partition screens, room dividers that you can see through, glass doors and windows (consider clever clerestory, slit windows and roof lights, particularly in darker spaces) will all help maintain that element of airiness.

pastel island with marble worktop, brass tap, integrated sink and open shelves
Internal glazing helps partition off the kitchen from the living space when needed. Devol kitchens start from £12,000.

Key considerations

While addressing some of the privacy concerns, broken-plan layouts can feel a little more visually confusing if not planned carefully. The partial divisions might still leave homeowners feeling somewhat constrained, missing out on the seamless flow of an entirely open design.

Solutions such as pocket doors over conventional doors that open up into the room can alleviate pinch points, and make sure any furniture isn’t too overbearing in the space with plenty of room to walk around it.

Sometimes it’s best not to overwork a space and introduce too many clever elements or divisions – a happy medium of a predominantly open-plan space with a few broken-plan elements is often the way to go when creating the ideal layout for modern-day living.

broken-plan kitchen, living and dining area with bespoke joinery
This bijou kitchen, living and dining area was designed by Artichoke, which also created the bespoke joinery.
organised study featuring open shelves, wood furniture, wallpapered ceiling, closed off with a sliding door
A former bedroom in this property is now a neat study with a sliding door.

Featured image: Devol

Enjoyed this post? Check out the pros and cons of open-plan kitchens

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