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20 of the Best Open Plan Kitchens

Newly built housing has embraced open plan living completely. One of the most popular layouts, the kitchen-diner-living space reflects how our lifestyles and the way we use our homes has changed. As people are increasingly renovating or extending their current homes —remodelling Victorian terraces and 1930s semis — the demand […]

Newly built housing has embraced open plan living completely. One of the most popular layouts, the kitchen-diner-living space reflects how our lifestyles and the way we use our homes has changed. As people are increasingly renovating or extending their current homes —remodelling Victorian terraces and 1930s semis — the demand for a functional and interactive layout is essential.

Creating the perfect atmosphere in your open plan kitchen is a fine art. The practical has to meet the aesthetically-pleasing in a way that suits your home and family. Open plan spaces enhance the feeling of light and space in a home but it pays to think carefully about the design so you don’t sacrifice the opportunity for privacy and cosiness.

Here are 20 great homes that show how a successfully executed open plan layout can work.

Low pendant lights over the dining table help break up the floorplan in the ground floor of this home. The empty space between the kitchen-diner and living areas creates flexible room for play and entertainment.

Utilising this kitchen’s natural light and abundance of space was essential so an independently-sourced white worktop and bifold doors were included. The flooring is tile throughout, but the wooden beams and furniture bring warmth and a sense of zoning to the area.

Although country-style by design, the layout of this oak-framed kitchen optimises the modern use of an open plan kitchen and living area. While the horseshoe shaped cabinets provide a natural partition, its leads straight into the garden room and beyond.

kitchen diner in cottage extension

This kitchen-diner extension to a home created from three listed cottages, is accessed via the living room. A vaulted ceiling in the light-filled kitchen and dining areas creates a sense of space, while the living room ceiling is much lower and features exposed beams for a cosier cottage feel.

Building Regulations

If your home has more than two storeys (as is common where a loft has been converted), then you need to be sure that your open plan space will meet the Building Regulations with regards to fire and escape. This is usually an issue if the open plan area is your main means of escape. In these cases, you may need fire doors between the kitchen and first floor, as well as a fire protected escape route from the first floor.

If the first floor can be exited without having to go through the kitchen and open plan area, then this should not present a problem. In any case, it is sensible to look into fire suppression systems – such as sprinklers and smoke curtains – to limit the spread of fire and smoke throughout the home.

Read more about sprinklers here

Revolutionising the way the family interacts with their listed barn, this ultra-modern extension features a pitted Amazonian granite worktop that contrasts with the vast amounts of natural light.

The kitchen is the heart of the home in this urban self build — it even features a swing and leads to a small courtyard garden. A triangular kitchen island makes efficient use of the space, while creating a divide between the areas for cooking and relaxing.

The walnut worktop and orange steel support provide a visual break in this white-walled contemporary kitchen. While maintaining a social atmosphere, this bungalow utilises its structural elements for a zoned effect.

The dining space of this self build is overlooked by a galleried landing. Long pendant lights hung from the double-height ceiling illuminate the dining table in the evening, while large windows at the front and back of the home flood the area with natural light by day.


Some of the best open plan spaces work so well because they have clearly defined zones for various tasks. Ideally, you should divide the room without affecting the flow of light. You may also want some private areas, but if you have young children it is important to think about the sightlines between where you may be working or relaxing, and where they will be playing.

The following are great ways to zone a room:

  • Use breakfast bars, islands or low-level furniture (or low stud walls) to section up the floorplan
  • Where possible, varying the floor levels is extremely effective, but think carefully about safety and steps in areas used for cooking or playing
  • Lighting is an unobtrusive and practical way to zone. Use low pendants over a dining area and spotlights for task lighting
  • Use different flooring in different zones of the room. This also means you can use softer flooring in cosy areas and hard-wearing options in the kitchen-diner

This minimalist loft look’s industrial elements such as the concrete floors, fresh white walls and low-hanging pendant lights create a harmonious atmosphere throughout the kitchen, dining and living area.

What could have been an overwhelmingly large space in this converted chapel, has been cleverly sectioned into cosy and practical spaces for relaxing and eating. A sofa and ornate rug (just in shot) have been positioned to zone the living area.

The floorplan of this inviting home creates naturally separated areas of function, but the warm wood throughout encourages informal interaction. Cleverly designed, the space enjoys far-reaching views through large expanses of glazing without compromising privacy.

Located at the rear of the house, this family area is most frequently used and the wooden topped breakfast bar creates a focal point and a place to congregate, while drawing attention to the natural surroundings.

The architect owner of this home has utilised several popular zoning techniques to break up their kitchen-diner. The dining table sits in a double-height space with industrial style lighting, while the kitchen is clearly defined by a lower ceiling and structural column. The sink and worktop for food prep have been positioned facing out into the dining area so that the hosts can talk to any dinner guests from the kitchen.

How to Keep Cooking Smells Contained

Open plan spaces present the problem of cooking smells and steam filling the whole area. Therefore a good means of extraction is essential. If possible, place the cooker near a window and as far from the living spaces as possible. An efficient cooker hood is also required, but look for models that are quieter so as not to interrupt people relaxing in the living area.

If you are still concerned about smells and steam (or noise — more on which below), then it might be sensible to install sliding pocket doors between the kitchen and living room.

A large extension to the rear of a 1950s bungalow has created a versatile open-plan living space. This is partially open to the hallway, separated by a curved glass wall which allows the flow of light between the front and back of the home. A slate-effect feature wall in the living area helps to create a defined zone for relaxing.

(MORE: 15 great ways to bring in light from above)

White walls and light coloured furniture creates a bright and breezy flow to this extended farmhouse. This kitchen is subtly zoned with lighting: the pendant lights hang intimately low while the high ceilings enhance the sense of light and space.

(MORE: Clever lighting design ideas for your home)

New York loft-style has been mimicked in this open plan kitchen and enhanced with industrial style lighting and exposed brick. The double-height void above the dining area (out of shot) and a third floor habitable room meant that a sprinkler system was required to meet Building Regulations.

Sound Control

Open plan spaces with hard flooring and lots of smooth surfaces are bound to be noisy and prone to echo. To minimise this, use soft flooring or rugs in the living areas and remember that soft furnishings and textiles will absorb noise too.

You should also plan the layout to minimise disruption. If you want an office or homework zone, keep this away from the TV or play areas. It is also a good idea to look for appliances that claim to be quieter, but check out their reviews to see how people find them in practice.

This home features an open plan mezzanine level with spare bedroom, allowing light to flow freely throughout the building. Practical concrete flooring on the ground floor unifies the space, while the wooden structure and panelling bring warmth and colour.

Colour blocking through this large open plan living area is essential for the feeling of movement within a shared space. The blue-toned kitchen conceals a larder — a popular way of maximising on potential lost space when designing an open plan kitchen. A bespoke kitchen table and light sofa complete the zoning effect.

The kitchen-diner with a vaulted ceiling sits in the former vestry, and a mezzanine level has been added above the living area creating a lower ceiling. Wooden flooring has been used in the cosy living room, and stone in the kitchen with its industrial-style fittings. A double-sided woodburning stove can be enjoyed from both sides of the room.

Combining the kitchen, dining and living spaces maximises limited space and natural lighting. The industrial style used throughout unites the areas, while a snug is separated by a double-sided fireplace, containing the woodburning stove.

For image credits follow the links to individual projects.

This year marks the very special 30th anniversary of Homebuilding & Renovating. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite memories and bringing you special content to mark the occasion. Thank you for celebrating with us.


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About The Department of Interior Architecture and Design, housed in the College of Fine Arts, encompasses a CIDA accredited undergraduate curriculum and a one-year master of science (M.S.) degree or a 2-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.  Students are exposed to design theory, history, technical skills, and participate in studio […]

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