Do you have a small, cramped kitchen that’s in need of some extra counter or cabinet space?
Or perhaps your kitchen is big enough for the entire family to gather in, and your living room goes unused as a result. A remodeling trend that’s been popular since the early ’90s is to combine the living room and kitchen into one central room called a “great” room. You can actually create a lot of extra space in your home without doing an addition, simply by using existing under-used space.
Most families spend more time in the kitchen than any other room. Over the past few decades, main floor plans have seen a trend toward a great room that functions as the main living area, and a trend away from distinct kitchens, living rooms, and dining rooms. By putting these main rooms in a shared, open space, contemporary design has put the heart of the home where the bulk of the action takes place.
This classic Great Room by Case Design integrates plenty of comfortable living space adjacent to the kitchen and dining area. Pillars were added where the wall was removed to retain some separation between the joined spaces.
Listen to Ronald Reagan and “…tear down this wall!”
Older homes with lots of separate rooms often have an advantage when it comes to remodeling projects: all that’s usually separating these main living areas is a couple of walls. Removing the walls creates a light, open feeling with additional spaces that can be used for extra amenities and storage.
Consider this sample floor plan. This is the type of plan I recommend to my friends and clients who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on an addition but are faced with limited space and a bunch of separate rooms.
This 1569 square foot home from Stockton Design has a great room as the entire main floor of the home. You can see where walls used to separate the dining, living, and kitchen areas. An island now provides additional storage and counter space, as well as some separation between the kitchen and dining area. While this plan includes a small foyer, it could easily be closed off and made into a mudroom.
Many homes constructed pre-1990s are designed with what I like to call the Bermuda Triangle of the main floor: the kitchen, dining room, and living area are all adjacent to one another but separated by a bunch of walls and short hallways. Removing these walls and halls can create enough space for an island in the kitchen, a walk-in panty, a laundry room, and a powder room, all adjacent to the great room, without doing a costly addition. Homes with a front foyer have even more room to work with. Foyers are nice aesthetically, but they are, quite frankly, a big waste of space. Foyers in mid-sized modern homes have largely been replaced by mudrooms, which can be located off any entrance to the home.
In a remodel on a mid-sized home with a foyer, the homeowner has even more room to work with. It’s easy to put a mudroom where the foyer was, but if there’s another entrance that gets used more, I recommend that a mudroom be added there and the old foyer absorbed by the room it’s already adjacent to. This often means adding a mudroom off the kitchen where the entrance from the garage is usually located, and then shifting the kitchen space toward the living or dining area.
The kitchen is the new living room
Homeowners are now approaching their homes as long-term assets rather than short-term investments. It’s not always realistic for families to trade out their current home for a new one as the family grows and its needs change. This means that maximizing usable living space is a key component of innovative remodeling. Homeowners and designers alike are rising to the challenge by finding some creative ways to make the most of existing spaces.
The kitchen is the place that most families do their living, while their designated “living rooms” have turned into funeral homes for outdated furniture. Modern interior design offers ideas for transforming unused living room space into a kitchen with features like a walk-in pantry, laundry room, computer console, extra counter space, and additional appliances. Contemporary kitchens integrate amenities that make cooking, cleaning, and storage more efficient.
This remodel by Case Design replaced wall between the kitchen, dining, and living area with pillars to provide support and transparency between the three spaces, giving it an open, yet still structured feel.
Be a member of your family instead of a slave in your kitchen
Combining living spaces increases the quality and quantity of time a family spends together. And if that’s not enough to convince you to knock down a wall and turn your coffee table into kindling, consider these other ideas.
- Homes with separate living rooms and kitchens further isolate families at the end of a day apart. Integrating the living room and kitchen allows family members to relax at the end of the day while enjoying the company of a spouse or parent who’s preparing dinner.
- People tend to migrate to the kitchen because that’s where the action is. Combining the living room and kitchen into one great room puts wasted living room space to use by expanding the kitchen and bringing people back into their living area. Some home remodels are downsizing or altogether eliminating their living area by building a dining area with amenities adjacent to the kitchen.
This innovative Case design has put the dining room right in the middle of this roomy kitchen by creating an island that doubles a dining table. The table top is a durable natural stone slab suitable as a workspace and dining.
- With the resurgence of farm-to-market food and an increased awareness of health and nutrition, American families are spending more time in the kitchen cooking and sharing meals together. Many households are happy to trade less frequently used living room space for innovative kitchen amenities and appliances that make cooking and cleanup faster, easier, and more fun for the whole family.
- More households are finding the home office room obsolete in the wake of laptop computers and electronic filing systems. An existing office or den can become a much-needed bedroom when a combined kitchen and living room integrates an office nook, computer console, and/or work table.
This integrated kitchen remodel gives our cook the perfect vantage point for supersizing homework while preparing dinner!
Remember, you don’t need more square footage to increase your usable living space and the functionality of your home. All you need is a wall, a sledgehammer, and a mind to use it.