Open Plan vs Closed Plan Kitchen – Which To Choose!?
As a kitchen designer for the past decade, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with open plan vs closed plan kitchens. I’ve witnessed the ongoing debate between the two floor plans and the challenges people face when deciding which kitchen layout is best for them.
Should you knock that wall down or not!?
In this post, I’ll delve into the intricacies of open-plan and closed-plan kitchens. Compare their respective benefits and drawbacks, and provide guidance on making an informed decision.
Let’s get into it!
What is an Open Plan Kitchen?
An open plan (or open concept) kitchen is a modern design concept where the kitchen, living, and/or dining areas are combined into a single, open space. An open kitchen layout is more commonly seen in contemporary homes, as it encourages social interaction and creates a sense of openness with the rest of the house.
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Pros of Open Plan Kitchens
- Spaciousness. An open plan kitchen creates a spacious and airy atmosphere by eliminating walls that separate the kitchen from other areas. This layout is ideal for hosting gatherings and allows for easy movement between different zones, making the space feel larger and more inviting. It can often allow for more natural light to fill the room from windows in adjacent rooms.
- Social Interaction. Open plan kitchens promote interaction between family members and guests, as they enable seamless communication during meal preparation. This layout is perfect for those who enjoy engaging in conversation while cooking, making the whole experience more enjoyable and inclusive. Having your living room and/or dining room as part of your open kitchen concept can help to promote these social interactions.
- Natural Light and Improved Visibility. Open plan kitchens often benefit from more natural light, as they are connected to adjacent rooms with larger windows or glass doors. This layout can create a brighter and more inviting atmosphere, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the space. Additionally, the improved visibility can make it easier to navigate the area and keep track of family members or guests during gatherings.
- Versatility and Adaptability. An open plan kitchen offers a versatile and adaptable space that can be customized to suit various needs and functions. Homeowners can easily rearrange furniture or change the layout to accommodate different activities, such as dining, entertaining, or relaxing. This flexibility makes open plan kitchens particularly appealing to those who enjoy experimenting with their living spaces or have evolving needs.
- Easy Supervision. For families with young children, an open plan kitchen allows parents to keep an eye on their kids while cooking or doing other chores. This layout provides a clear line of sight to play areas or living spaces, ensuring the safety and well-being of children during meal preparation. You can keep a careful watch on the kids while they are meant to be doing their homework!
Cons of Open Plan Kitchens
- Lack of Privacy. An open concept kitchen can feel too exposed for some, as there’s no wall to hide the inevitable mess that comes with cooking. This layout might be a concern for homeowners who feel uncomfortable showcasing their countertop cooking clutter and messy sink during social events or gatherings.
- Noise and Smell. Without walls to separate the kitchen from other areas, noise and cooking smells can easily travel throughout the space. For instance, cooking a meal with strong odours and fumes may result in lingering smells that can be bothersome to guests in the living or dining areas. Even after the cooking is done, noise from kitchen appliances such as your dishwasher can interrupt conversations or your favourite Netflix show!
- Higher Heating and Cooling Costs. Open-plan kitchens are part of a larger space, which can lead to higher heating and cooling costs compared to a closed plan kitchen. This difference in energy consumption might be noticeable during extreme weather conditions when maintaining a comfortable temperature becomes challenging.
- Lack of Storage. Due to the absence of walls in an open plan kitchen, there can be fewer opportunities to install cabinets and shelves for storage space. This can result in limited storage options, requiring homeowners to be more creative and strategic with their storage solutions. This challenge might be particularly concerning for those with extensive kitchenware collections or limited space for freestanding storage units.
- Potential for Overwhelming Visual Clutter. In an open plan kitchen, the visual continuity between the kitchen and the living or dining area can lead to an overwhelming sense of clutter if not managed properly. Since there is no wall to separate the spaces, mess and clutter from one area can easily spill over into another, impacting the overall aesthetic appeal and comfort of the living environment. Homeowners with open plan kitchens need to be more diligent about maintaining tidiness and organization to prevent visual clutter.
What is a Closed Plan Kitchen?
A closed plan kitchen, also known as a traditional kitchen, is a separate room enclosed by walls, with a door that can be ‘closed’ off from other areas of the house. This design was popular in older homes and is still favoured by some for its practicality and privacy.
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Pros of Closed Plan Kitchens
- Privacy. A closed plan kitchen allows you to keep the mess and clutter hidden behind closed doors. This can be a relief for many homeowners, as they won’t feel self-conscious about their cooking mess when hosting parties or having guests over. Those pots and pans can stay soaking in the sink!
- Noise and Smell Containment. The walls in a closed plan kitchen help contain cooking noise and smells, making the living and dining areas more pleasant. This can be especially beneficial when hosting movie nights or dinner parties, as the noise from your kitchen mixer and cooker hood won’t interfere with conversations or entertainment.
- Energy Efficiency. A closed plan kitchen, being smaller and separate from other living areas, offers significant energy efficiency advantages, particularly in heating and cooling. Compared to open plan layouts, closed plan kitchens require less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature due to their reduced volume of air and the insulating effect of walls separating the kitchen from adjacent spaces. This results in lower energy consumption and utility bills, especially during extreme weather conditions.
- Defined Spaces. Closed plan kitchens provide clear boundaries between different areas of the home, creating a sense of organization and structure. This layout can be particularly beneficial for those who prefer having designated spaces for specific activities, such as cooking, dining, and relaxing. The clear separation can help maintain order and establish a more efficient flow within the home.
- Easier to Organize and Maintain. With a closed plan kitchen, it can be simpler to organize and maintain the space, as it is not directly connected to other areas of the home. This separation makes it easier to keep kitchen clutter contained and maintain a clean and tidy appearance. Homeowners can focus on keeping their kitchen organized without worrying about how it impacts the aesthetics of adjacent living areas.
Cons of Closed Plan Kitchens
- Limited Space. A closed plan kitchen can feel cramped and confined, particularly in smaller homes. Homeowners might find it challenging to navigate the limited space while cooking and entertaining, which could affect the overall experience.
- Reduced Social Interaction. With walls separating the kitchen from other areas, it can be difficult to interact with family and friends while preparing meals. This could result in a feeling of isolation for those who enjoy being part of the conversation while cooking.
- Less Supervision. A closed plan kitchen may make it harder for families with young children to keep an eye on them while cooking. Parents may need to step out of the kitchen frequently to check on their children, potentially disrupting the cooking process.
- Reduced Natural Light. Closed plan kitchens often receive less natural light than open plan kitchens, as they are separated from the living and dining areas by walls. This can result in a darker and less inviting atmosphere, potentially requiring additional lighting solutions to create a bright and welcoming space.
- Limited Flexibility in Layout and Design. A closed plan kitchen can be more restrictive in terms of layout and design options due to the presence of walls and the separation from other areas. This may limit the possibilities for customization or future remodelling projects, as homeowners will have to work within the constraints of the existing space. The lack of flexibility in layout and design might be less appealing to those who enjoy experimenting with their living spaces or have evolving needs.
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Which is Better? How Do You Decide?
Choosing between an open plan and closed plan kitchen ultimately depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and the specific needs of your household. I’ve put together some factors to consider when making your decision:
- Space Availability: If you have a smaller home, an open plan kitchen might help maximize the available space and create a more spacious feel.
- Entertaining Style: If you frequently host gatherings and enjoy socializing while cooking, an open plan kitchen may be more suitable.
- Privacy Needs: If you prefer to keep your cooking mess hidden and value privacy, a closed plan kitchen might be the better option.
- Family Dynamics: For families with young children, an open plan kitchen could be beneficial for easy supervision, while a closed plan might work better for households with older kids or multiple generations living together.
The Semi-Open Plan Kitchen – Best Of Both Worlds
One option that potentially combines the benefits of both open and closed plan kitchens is a semi-open plan kitchen.
A semi-open plan kitchen is a design that bridges the gap between open plan and closed plan kitchens, offering a balanced combination of the benefits of both layouts. It typically features partial barriers or divisions, such as partial partition walls or sliding doors, to create a subtle separation between the kitchen area and adjacent living spaces.
This design is an excellent choice for those who want some level of openness and social interaction while retaining a degree of privacy and separation between the kitchen and other living spaces.
Key Features of Semi-Open Plan Kitchens
Partial Walls or Dividers
A semi-open plan kitchen often features a half or partial wall, which helps create a visual barrier between the kitchen and the living or dining area. This offers a sense of separation and privacy, keeping your cooking mess partially hidden, while still allowing for some level of interaction and communication between spaces.
Large Pass-Through Windows
Another design element that can be found in semi-open plan kitchens is a large pass-through window between the kitchen and the dining or living area. This window allows for easy communication and passing of dishes while maintaining a sense of separation.
Kitchen Islands With Raised Bars
A popular feature in semi-open plan kitchens is a kitchen island with a raised bar. This design provides a natural division between the kitchen and the adjacent living space, while also offering additional seating for guests. The raised bar can help conceal the kitchen’s clutter, while still allowing for conversation and interaction.
Sliding or Folding Doors
Some semi-open plan kitchens incorporate sliding or folding doors that can be opened to create a more open feel or closed for privacy when needed. This flexible design provides you with the option to choose between an open and closed kitchen layout, depending on your needs and preferences.
Advantages of Semi-Open Plan Kitchens
- Flexibility. A semi-open plan kitchen offers a flexible layout that caters to various needs and preferences. You can enjoy the openness and sociability of an open plan kitchen while still having the option to create a sense of separation when desired.
- Balanced Social Interaction. With a semi-open plan kitchen, you can still engage with family and friends in the living or dining area without feeling completely exposed. This balance between social interaction and privacy is ideal for those who enjoy entertaining but also value some personal space.
- Partial Noise and Smell Containment. A semi-open plan kitchen provides some level of noise and smells containment, thanks to the partial barriers and separation between spaces. While not as effective as a closed-plan kitchen, it still offers a better solution compared to a fully open-plan layout.
- Aesthetic Appeal. The design elements in semi-open plan kitchens, such as partial walls, pass-through windows, or kitchen islands, can add visual interest and style to your home. These features can make your kitchen appear more modern and appealing to potential homebuyers.
Are closed kitchens making a comeback?
Open plan kitchens have been a popular choice for homeowners over the past few decades. They became increasingly popular during the 1990s. However, I must admit, there seems to be a growing trend of closed kitchens making a comeback in recent years.
One factor contributing to this trend is the shift in lifestyle preferences. As more people work from home or adopt flexible working schedules, the need for separate, functional spaces has increased.
A closed kitchen design provides a designated area for cooking and meal preparation, allowing other family members to focus on work, study, or leisure activities without distractions.
Another reason for the popularity of closed kitchens is the desire for privacy and noise reduction. Closed kitchens offer greater privacy, allowing homeowners to conceal kitchen mess and clutter, especially when hosting guests.
Additionally, closed kitchens help contain cooking noise and smells from other parts of the house, contributing to a more comfortable living environment.
Lastly, some homeowners are drawn to the classic, cosy feel of a closed kitchen, which can evoke feelings of nostalgia and comfort. Closed kitchens can provide a separate, dedicated space for cooking, evoking a sense of tradition and warmth.
Whether the closed kitchen is making a ‘comeback’ is hard to tell. Did they ever really go away?
Does an Open-Plan Kitchen Add Value to a House?
An open-plan kitchen can potentially add value to your home, as it is a popular and sought-after design feature in today’s real estate market. Many homebuyers appreciate the spaciousness and social aspects of an open-plan layout.
However, the added value depends on various factors, such as the overall size and design of your home, the local real estate market, and buyers’ preferences.
There you have it! What you need to consider if you’re deciding between an open plan or closed plan kitchen.
Both open plan and closed plan kitchens have their pros and cons. Deciding which one is better for you depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and household needs. It’s essential to carefully consider the factors I’ve discussed and evaluate what works best for you and your family.
And remember, a semi-open plan kitchen might be the perfect compromise if you can’t decide between the two!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.