1. Give Thought to Size and Layout

The benefit of building a home, or extending and remodelling an existing one, is that you have much more freedom to decide on the shape and size of the kitchen diner you hope to create.

  • Large square or rectangular rooms are arguably the norm, but bear in mind that this room shape works best when carefully zoned;
  • An L-shape arrangement is another option, (and can 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 spaces, and often means you’re not in sight of kitchen mess when sitting at the table.

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2. Design Your Lighting Too

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. undercupboard lighting, introduced to facilitate activities such as food preparation)
  • accent lighting (used to highlight key features)

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 kids’ homework, you may want to consider an additional source of light, or ensure the pendants are dimmable.

kitchen open plan lighting scheme

A cleverly designed John Cullen Lighting scheme


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.

  • 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, it is recommended to go for a wider one as vapour dissipate outwards. Gas vapour rises vertically so a cooker hood that matches the hob width will be effective.

“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 below 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.

Harvey Jones yellow shaker style kitchenThe Original kitchen is a range of handmade furniture from Harvey Jones, from £18,000


4. Introduce Natural Light

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 (in turn, helping a little towards easing electricity bills).

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. In darker rooms, gloss kitchen units are a good means of bouncing light around the space; light-coloured flooring, such as limestone, travertine or pale wood are beneficial too.

high gloss fitted kitchen with rooflights
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 those which are cohesive, but where different areas of activity are ‘zoned’ or 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.

traditional kitchen diner

Kit Stone‘s handmade American oak Henley Kitchen from £15,000

Well-designed lighting

Use different circuits to ‘shut down’ the kitchen when dining, or utilise dimmable lighting to create different moods.

Variation of 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.

open plan split level kitchenSplit levels help to zone this kitchen within a PAD Studio self build

varyting ceiling heights for a kitchen dinerVarying ceiling heights lend definition to this Oakwrights oak frame home


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).

American-style kitchen-diner with exposed brick wallAs well as an exposed brick partition 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 a recipe for the opposite of relaxation! It can be a particular problem when entertaining in an open plan space, too.

  • One solution adopted in larger properties has been 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

kitchen diner with pink features and breakfast barThe partition wall between kitchen and breakfast bar helps enclose the messy prep areas


8. Connect With the Garden

Positioning a kitchen diner at the rear of the house is a good way to make the most of potential views whilst maximising privacy. To make the garden more accessible from this principal living space, try:

  • Adding an opening. While French doors suit period homes, sliding and bi-fold doors have become a staple of the modern home.
  • Incorporating a well-placed outdoor eating area — preferably on a level threshold and readily accessed from the kitchen so that you can make the most of it during warmer months.

Martin Moore kitchen diner with bi-fold doorsMartin Moore‘s New Classic kitchen collection


9. Think About Interior Design

Using a similar palette of materials and/or a unified colour scheme across the entire 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 — in this example the cooker hood complements pendant lights in a similar shade.
  • Symmetry and repetition of shape help too — for example, with a dining table of similar proportions to the kitchen island.

Martin Moore Hygge kitchenThe English kitchen collection from Martin Moore

Second Nature Milbourne in frame kitchen diner

Second Nature’s Milbourne in-frame kitchen


10. Address Noise From the Outset

While noise-generating appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers can be tucked away in a utility, there are some essential pieces of kit required in this open plan space. 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

But appliances aren’t the only source of noise within an open plan space. 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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