The Open Plan Kitchen

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Here is an article we just wrote for the Home and Garden section of the latest Northfield Entertainment Guide – you can check out the full guide here.

The Open Plan Kitchen

Emily Schwamb Custard – Interior Designer at Steven Schmidt Construction

If you are building new or considering a kitchen remodel in the near future, you might want to consider the open plan kitchen.  It is a trend that has been developing for years and gaining momentum.  Increased connectivity, circulation, and functionality are just a few of the benefits to mention.  While no one should plan a space around a trend, and every homeowner/family functions differently, the benefits of an open plan kitchen are worth considering and may be right for you.

Kitchens of the past were hidden for a reason – they were purely utilitarian, and the idea of a guest seeing the host preparing the meal was unheard of.  We no longer cook and entertain the way we did 50 years ago, our appliances and attitudes have changed significantly.  Dining has become increasingly more casual, evidenced by formal dining rooms collecting dust across the country.  Hosts prefer to put the finishing touches on the meal while conversing with their guests.  Busy moms and dads enjoy the luxury of being able to prepare a meal in close proximity to their children. Your kitchen needs to function around your individual and family needs.

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Most of the lovely folks I get to work with would like some level of increased connectivity with the dining room and living room from the kitchen.  What we do most often in a kitchen remodel is remove visual barriers and correct circulation issues by enlarging existing doorways & openings, removing walls – even structural walls can be removed by transferring the load with a properly sized header, thus opening the space between the kitchen, dining and living room.  Closed kitchens often have dead ends and bottle-neck areas where traffic flow is blocked.  Closed kitchens are typically not suited for multiple cooks in the kitchen with tight corners and inadequate clearances between work zones.

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The open plan also allows for greater flexibility when entertaining.  Guests can gather around the island and table without leaving the conversation.  If the dining room lighting is flexible (not a single fixture over the table), changes in size of gatherings can easily be accommodated by modifying the size and location of the dining table.  The island can also function as a buffet with clear circulation in and out of the kitchen.

You can still maintain a level of separation with architectural features such as partial walls, post or beams, through décor such as furnishings, textiles, lighting and color.  Regardless of the extent to which you open your kitchen, cohesiveness is a must.  There should be an overwhelming sense that these rooms belong together.  A well thought out design and plan will be functionally, aesthetically and psychologically beneficial to you, the homeowner.

Whatever you decide to do with your home is completely up to you.  Research your options; hire a designer to get a full menu of options and a kitchen plan that caters specifically to your needs.  Start with a list of needs and wants; think about what is currently working in your kitchen and where the trouble spots are.  Allow yourself to dream – what would your ideal kitchen look like and envision yourself working in that space.

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