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.

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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


Long, rectangular kitchen diners need zoning, as this example goes to show

2. Your Lighting Scheme Plays an Important Role

As multi-functional 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, if this spot doubles as a place for the kids’ to write their homework, you may want to consider an additional source of light.

kitchen open plan lighting scheme

This cleverly designed John Cullen Lighting scheme shows how a good lighting scheme can bring a kitchen diner to life

Pendant lighting helps zone this kitchen dining space, while also providing ambient lighting for informal dining at the kitchen island

3. Plan For Extraction Early On

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. Ideas include:

  • Specifying a ducted hood – which removes air to the exterior, rather than a recirculating hood, which instead uses filters to purify the air before expelling it back into the room – is a good idea
  • Opt for a model with an intensive power setting, designed to eliminate odours quickly
  • 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,” state the experts at Miele GB. “For efficient extraction, the ducting should be as short and straight with as few bends as possible, with smooth walled ducting”
Harvey Jones yellow shaker style kitchen

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 (French, sliding or bifold) aside, one challenge in rooms of this size is introducing light deep into 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.

kitchen–diner-with-rooflightsRooflights can be a clever means of introducing light deep into the floorplan of a kitchen diner

5. Get in the Zone

Successful open plan spaces are not only cohesive, but are zoned, with different areas of activity defined. 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.

traditional kitchen diner

Kit Stone‘s handmade American oak Henley Kitchen

Well-designed lighting

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 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.

open plan split level kitchen

Split levels help to zone this kitchen diner within this self build

varyting ceiling heights for a kitchen diner

Varying ceiling heights lend definition to the kitchen diner in this Oakwrights oak frame home

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6. Give Thought to Flooring

Flooring can require some considerable thought in kitchen, dining and living areas. You have two key choices:

  • Use the same floor running throughout, creating a sense of cohesion across the entire room
  • Using 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
American-style kitchen-diner with exposed brick wall

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
Holloways of ludlow red partition door kitchen

This bespoke kitchen from Holloways of Ludlow features Asian-inspired wall panelling, allowing the food prep area to be closed off while dining

open plan kitchen diner with dividing units

The back of the worktop is raised to hide the sink and washing up from diners

kitchen diner with pink features and breakfast bar

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

Connecting with the outdoors is a good idea in a kitchen diner

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

This classic kitchen (the English Collection from Martin Moore) showcases how consistency of design helps different zones within an open plan kitchen diner feel coherent

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. 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
  • Look out products which come with Quiet Mark approval

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

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