The kitchen has maintained the same general design and layout for decades – until the past few years! Designers and homeowners alike discovered the huge benefits to throwing out the old paradigms for the boxed in kitchen, and opening up the space to the rest of the house. The open floor plan is all the rage in the design world: if you have a wall, take it down! If you’re closed in, open up!
It’s interesting to observe which comes first: form or function? Which dictates the other? The answer can vary based on the scope of the job. When we look at kitchens, it’s been an interesting evolution of one, but not the other. Kitchens were originally a service station space for the house staff – servants, maids, etc. Then they evolved to the woman’s place in the house. Now, they’re considered the heart of the home and the start of every party. One could argue the function of the kitchen has evolved over the decades (even centuries) but this is really the first time we’ve seen a reaction in its form.
If you are considering opening up your kitchen to the rest of your home, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, is the wall you are taking down load bearing? It’s imperative to have this assessed (and ultimately performed) by a professional. Taking down a non-load bearing wall will contribute to the cost of your project but is usually not monumental. However, removing and restructuring a load bearing wall is much more involved and will definitely increase the cost of your project. Sometimes walls that weren’t originally designed to be load bearing can incidentally become load bearing over time, as the house settles and sags (especially if it doesn’t have a solid foundation) – so it really is important to have this assessed and be working with professionals who can restructure if necessary.
While taking down walls between rooms will open the space up, it’s important to have some definition between the rooms with different purposes. This isn’t to say they need to be confined, boxy, enclosed spaces; but some subtle, designed definition will go a long way to distinguishing rooms. Maybe you’re taking down the walls between your kitchen, dining room, and living room? You may want to consider a different floor and/or wall material in the living room. Or perhaps, you don’t eliminate the walls between entirely: you just open them up to be extremely large framed doorways. What this does is achieve the openness while still maintaining subtle boundaries between rooms.
Another important factor is lifestyle. Are you a messy cook? Do you leave dirty dishes out on your stove and sink? There’s no shame in that – this is the way most people are! But it’s important to be aware that opening up the kitchen is a “two-way mirror” – while the cook/hosts can look out, everyone else can also look in. There are many ways to address this in the design phase, so that we can open up your kitchen but leave the “less than picture perfect” parts concealed still. So be sure to discuss your style of cooking and cleaning in the kitchen with your designer so they can be sure to accommodate and customize everything to your habits!