A kitchen is often used as so much more than a simple cooking space. Whether your family is clustered in and around the kitchen at the end of another busy weekday or you’re cooking a wonderful weekend gourmet meal with friends or extended family are joining in festive holiday events in your home, the kitchen often becomes a central social gathering place. When this happens, it’s nice to have a connecting space such as a family room or den that allows the opportunity for everyone to interact, without having everyone right in the kitchen. That’s where the open floor plan comes in.
It’s an idea with wide popular appeal, and realtors say that ads that specify an open floor plan attract the most potential buyers. Between school, work, and numerous other obligations, most people have packed schedules. The ability for family and friends to be together in one large area, centered around the warmth and comfort of the kitchen, provides a communal hearth for today’s home.
So how do you create this kind of welcoming place? Designing an open floor plan that connects the kitchen with a family room or den requires stepping back and looking at the overall space. The two areas must connect visually; there should be a similar theme and style between the two rooms. When designing a kitchen, there are many different ways to achieve this aesthetic balance with a family room or den.
For starters, the island is a perfect transition piece between family room or den and kitchen. Today’s islands are larger in size than ever before, serving to accommodate social activities that take place close to the kitchen. As a result, islands are no longer being seen as simply functional cooking and prep places, but they can now also act as areas to dine, play, and work—and their appearances can reflect this. Sofas (some positioned higher for dining), cushy banquettes, and other soft seating options can be installed around these islands. This creates both comfortable places to sit as well as a visual connection to areas beyond the kitchen. In addition, an island can also function as a piece of furniture. With dressed-up trim, a beautiful cabinet finish, perhaps legs or a decorative valance at the lower toe kick space, and dressy hardware, the kitchen island can compete with any furniture piece in the space beyond. A countertop of natural stone or other luxury material adds elegance and style.
Storage becomes an important issue in a kitchen with an open floor plan. In some cases, taller storage could be used; in others, wall storage might be sacrificed to achieve a lighter look. Consider how much storage is truly needed, taking into account those items you use regularly as well as what you rarely ever use. Take an honest survey to determine true storage needs. Dishes can be stored in drawers and a few open shelves can accommodate dishes and/or glasses and selected serving ware. Abundant storage space may not be as urgently needed after all.
If standard wall cabinets are removed to open up the space, then cabinet pantries, freestanding armoire-type pantries, and walk-in pantries are excellent alternatives. Less wall cabinetry also gives the opportunity to add artwork, wall sconces, or a few open shelves, easing the transition between connected spaces and offering a highly decorative view of the kitchen from adjacent rooms.
To continue a more seamless look between the kitchen and family room or den, many options are now being offered that hide the functionality of fixtures and fittings. Appliances—including refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves—can be tucked away inside drawers, and understated cooking appliances are available with hobs or modules with covers to conceal the burners. In addition, the sink can also be made to disappear. Decorative or understated glass covers can completely conceal the sink in a new wave of modern sink design, which also helps expand countertop space, an asset in a small kitchen. There’s even a disappearing faucet to finish the look; just guide the faucet spout all the way down to the sink level and lift it up when it’s needed.
A few finishing touches when designing the open floor plan kitchen may include ensuring that windows are in same sizes and configuration as those in surrounding spaces, and keeping colors and materials in mind, maintaining either a deliberate contrast or complementary look with the hues of the family room or den.
By taking into account the marriage of multiple spaces, you will be assured of having an open floor plan where both space and people flow easily. The flexibility of moving from one space to another combined with the ease of communication and accommodating multiple lifestyle situations comes close a state of nirvana right. The open floor plan—it feels good.