1. Give Thought to Size and Layout
One of the benefits of building a new house, or extending and/or remodelling an existing home, is that you have more flexibility to decide on the size and shape of your kitchen diner. Ideas include:
- Large square or rectangular rooms work best when carefully zoned.
- An L-shape arrangement is another option (and may be readily achieved by extending to the rear and knocking through to an existing reception room). This layout allows a degree of separation between the kitchen and dining space, and often means you’re not in sight of kitchen mess when sitting at the table.
An L-shaped room can be advantageous for open plan kitchen diners — the kitchen is tucked out of the view of the dining space (or sitting area in this case), meaning dirty dishes and the like are not on show.
2. Your Lighting Scheme Plays an Important Role
As multifunctional rooms, kitchen diners are arguably one of the most complex spaces to light in the house. A well-designed lighting scheme features layers of light:
- ambient (general) lighting
- task lighting (i.e. under-cabinet lighting, introduced to facilitate activities such as food prep)
- accent lighting used to highlight features (used within glazed kitchen units, for instance)
Think too about the other activities which may take place in this room. For example, while pendant lights look stunning above a dining table or island used for informal dining, if this spot doubles as a place for the kids’ to write their homework, you may want to consider an additional source of light.
Lingering cooking smells are a common problem in open plan kitchen, dining and living spaces. Giving extraction some thought at the design stage can help mitigate this issue.
- Specifying a ducted hood – which removes air to the exterior, rather than a recirculating hood, which instead uses filters to purify the air and expels it back into the room – is a good idea.
- Opting for a model with an intensive power setting, designed to eliminate odours quickly, is not a bad idea either.
The cooker hood should be adequately sized for the space, too. Cooker hoods need to be at least the width of the hob. (For an induction hob, you’ll need a hood which is wider than the hob in order to catch vapours which dissipate outwards.)
“Ducting and correct installation is also crucial as inefficient ducting is the number-one cause of poor performance, including noise,” adds Richard Treffler, product manager for kitchens at Miele GB. “For efficient extraction, the ducting should be as short and straight with as few bends as possible, with smooth walled ducting.”
The ingenious solution sees a partial wall separating the cooker and cooker hood from the dining area beyond; the effect is not only to ‘zone’ the kitchen from the rest of the space, but to contain cooking smells more efficiently too. The Original kitchen is a range of handmade furniture from Harvey Jones.
4. Introducing Natural Light is Vital
Given this room is likely to be the most-used space in the house, maximising potential for introducing natural light is a very good idea. ‘Daylighting’ will inevitably reduce reliance on artificial lighting too.
Windows and glazed doors (think French, sliding or bi-fold across the length of the room) aside, one challenge in rooms of this size is introducing light into the depths of the floorplan. Try one of these practical and beautiful solutions:
- a bank of rooflights
- a large roof lantern above the kitchen or dining table
Material choice can also have an impact. Gloss kitchen units in light colours or neutrals can help bounce light around the space; while light flooring, such as limestone, travertine or pale wood can be beneficial, too.
The natural light pouring in through rooflights and bi-fold doors bounces off the Neil Lerner Antique White high-gloss laquer kitchen.
5. Zoning is Vital
Successful open plan spaces are not only cohesive, but are zoned, with different areas of activity defined. Zoning helps you move from one activity to another — i.e. sitting down to watch TV, without feeling like you’re in the kitchen (and feeling the need to wash or tidy up).
There are many ways of zoning a kitchen diner:
Considered furniture placement
Using a kitchen island or breakfast bar is not only a cost effective way to visually divide the space, but adds surface area and storage.
Use different circuits to ‘shut down’ the kitchen when dining, or utilise dimmable lighting to create different moods.
Varying ceiling and floor heights
A particularly impressive means of creating zones, however, is through creating various levels. One classic example is placing the kitchen beneath a standard ceiling (say, 2.4m high), with the dining space beneath a vaulted ceiling or double-height space.
Split levels help to zone this kitchen diner within this self build.
6. Give Thought to Flooring
Flooring can require some considerable thought in kitchen, dining and living areas. You have two key choices:
- the same floor running throughout, creating a sense of cohesion across the entire room
- a hard-wearing, low-maintenance floor in the kitchen, like slate, and something softer underfoot in the other areas, such as wood or carpet.
If you want the same flooring throughout then stone flooring such as slate or limestone is a practical choice. Luxury vinyl tile (in a stone or wood effect) is another solution which is a little softer underfoot.
A variety of floor finishes can work well in zoning different areas in an open plan space, but the juncture where the two floors meet can be a challenge; transition strips often look ill-placed and clumsy. Solutions include:
- introducing a partial wall divide
- a variation in floor height (although it’s perhaps not the best solution with young children).
In addition to the partition wall between kitchen and dining area, the spaces in this American-style remodel are zoned using different flooring.
7. Conceal Kitchen Clutter
Sitting down for an evening meal or settling on the sofa with dirty plates and pans on view is not a recipe for relaxation. It can be a particular problem when entertaining in an open plan space, too.
- One solution for larger properties is the introduction of an adjacent food prep room.
- Another clever solution, without having to introduce a dedicated room, is designing in sliding partition doors which can be closed when guests arrive.
- Space-spacing ways of hiding clutter include introducing a raised worktop or breakfast bar.
- Again, setting the kitchen at a different height to the dining space is another idea.
The partition wall between kitchen and breakfast bar helps enclose the messy prep areas.
8. Connect Your Kitchen Diner with the Garden
Positioning a kitchen diner at the rear of the house is a good way to make the most of the garden views and opportunities for alfresco dining. To make the garden more accessible from this principal living space, try:
- Adding an opening. While French doors suit period homes, sliding and bifold doors have become a staple of the modern home (as below).
- Incorporating a well-placed outdoor eating area — preferably on a level threshold and readily accessed from the kitchen.
9. Consistency of Design is Key
Using a similar palette of materials and/or a unified colour scheme across an open plan space is particularly effective in creating a cohesive interior.
- Many bespoke kitchen companies will create cabinetry for the dining space which matches units.
- Picking up accent colours used within the kitchen in the dining space will help tie these spaces together.
- Symmetry and repetition of shape help too — for example, introducing a dining table of similar proportions to the kitchen island.
The English kitchen collection from Martin Moore
10. Address Noise
While noise-generating appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers can be tucked away in a utility, there are some essential pieces required in an open plan kitchen diner.
The cooker hood, for example, needs to be both powerful enough to quickly eliminate odours, but also ideally quiet. (Correct ducting and installation are key here). The dishwasher can be another significant source of noise, sloshing away just as you sit down to diner.
- Invest in appliances which promise a low decibel (dB) rating
- Look out products which come with Quiet Mark approval
- The Servis dishwasher, works at just 39dB, which is quieter than a fridge humming; while Bosch offer models with Silence Program and SuperSilence programmes — the quietest work at 38dB.
But appliances aren’t the only source of noise within a kitchen diner. Our penchant for open plan spaces often goes hand in hand with our desire for hard flooring, lots of glazing and other such hard surfaces — all dreadful for acoustics. If noise is a potential concern:
- Introduce soft furnishing (rugs, curtains, soft wall panelling, etc.)
- Acoustic plasterboard, such as Gyproc SoundBloc, can also aid in reducing airborne sound transmission.