Open-plan living - The kitchen

A multifunctional kitchen-diner and relaxing space is practical, airy and sociable. Is it time to open up?

For many people, the dream is to knock down dividing walls so their kitchen becomes part of a carefully considered living/dining space. As the following projects expertly demonstrate, there are no hard and fast rules to achieving a successful open-plan scheme. The trick, however, is to ensure the different areas work together seamlessly.

Keep clutter out of sight
One of the disadvantages of an open-plan scheme is that your kitchen is on show all the time. The solution is storage, and lots of it.

Tactically display things that add to the look of the space – here, a block of open shelving for colourful cookery books adds a flash of colour to the monochrome scheme – and create closed cupboards for the rest, keeping clutter out of sight.

Remember that with an open-plan design, it’s not just about your kitchen looking clean and tidy, but your living and dining areas, too.

Go all the way up
The advantage of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry that runs the length of this room is twofold: firstly, it provides a fantastic amount of storage to help you achieve that clutter-free look; secondly, it lends a clean, cohesive look to the narrow space – a subtle change in the depth and height of the units differentiates the kitchen from the living area.

Build a palette that creates ‘flow’
To achieve an open-plan space that flows, start by selecting core materials and colours and then introduce accent hues. Let your palette connect the different zones for visual coherence.

Here, a white and grey colour theme is pepped up by fresh spring greens, seen on the cushions in the sitting area and the mugs and glassware displayed on the open shelves in the kitchen.

Plan for entertaining
In this stunning kitchen, the marble island separates the kitchen from the dining area, allowing dinner to take place without guests crowding the host. Always position your island so that whoever is in the kitchen can work efficiently, but also keep up with the conversation at the dining table.

Connect your zones
Laying wooden flooring throughout the ground floor of this family home is an excellent way of unifying different zones within a shared space. A large rug helps define the living area, injecting texture, colour and warmth.

Display your treasures
Take your cue from the living room and make a feature of favourite objects by putting them on display. Shelves are perfect for storing everyday items and keeping them within easy reach, while seldom-used or precious pieces can be stashed away on the top shelf. Plenty of storage is found in the base units, where less aesthetically attractive pieces are hidden away.

Create a secondary dining space
By extending the island with a table, these homeowners have created a versatile, table-height surface that can be used for everything from informal dining to chatting to the host, peeling potatoes or doing homework. It also makes kitchen seating multifunctional and saves on buying separate, high kitchen stools.

Consider a platform
There are a number of practical ways to separate a kitchen from the dining area without banishing them to different rooms. By locating the kitchen on a slightly higher level, this space is conducive to cooking and entertaining without one impeding the other. Wooden flooring runs throughout to create a cohesive look.

Include the outdoors
Gardens and patios are now an extension of our kitchens and living spaces, and should be treated as such. Use similar flooring both inside and out so that when the doors are open, one space appears to flow into the other. You will need to think about the thickness of your indoor and outdoor tiles – they should be laid flush to avoid tripping hazards.

Use flooring to create zones
If your kitchen and living areas are on one level, a change in flooring will delineate one area of activity from the other. Here, the warm tones in the wood and stone complement each other, but do a good job of defining the different areas, too.

Don’t forget your extractor
Invest in the best extractor fan or cooker hood you can afford. Firstly, if you’re planning to dine or relax in the same space as your kitchen, you don’t want your extractor hood drowning out conversation, so you’ll need a quiet model. Also, cooking smells from the kitchen are more likely to drift into the living areas in an open-plan setting. Excellent extraction is crucial for keeping them at bay.