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How to design the perfect open plan kitchen diner

Sarah Warwick 22/07/2015 09:15:38 DIY and How-to Guides

Extending or knocking through to create a bigger kitchen that will include a diner and living area, too? Here’s how to plan your space and furnish it successfully.


Ikea kitchen www.ikea.co.uk

Plan the layout

The most important part of the room to get right is the kitchen area. A few tips to get you started:

  • Choose the part of the room with the most available wall space for the kitchen – too many windows or doorways will limit the layout possibilities.
  • Make a list of what you want to include in the kitchen and work out if you can fit everything in. The worst outcome is to compromise the kitchen in order to squeeze in a dining and living space, too; a well-equipped kitchen diner only would be preferable.
  • If possible, ensure the kitchen isn’t a thoroughfare – leave that for the living space.
  • Want to distinguish the cooking area from the social space? Consider separating the two with an island. If you’re a sociable cook, house the hob on the island so that you face your guests while cooking.
  • Use the kitchen side of the island to hide away ugly appliances and fittings, such as the bins, microwave and dishwasher.
  • Work triangle rules still apply – you should never be more than a few convenient paces from the fridge, oven, sink and prep area, and ideally you shouldn’t have to walk around furniture to move between them.
  • Got your gaps right? The space between a run of kitchen cabinets and an island should be at least 1m; dining chairs or bar stools need at least 1.25m of free space behind them; and the gap between a sofa and dining table should be a comfortable 1.5m.

As for the rest of the room, the dining area needs to be nearest the kitchen (you don’t want to have to cross the living space to reach it), and the living space will work best if it’s nearest French doors or overlooks the garden through a picture window.

Choose the right kitchen for your room

Fitted or unfitted? Matt or gloss? Modern or traditional? If you’re not sure, have a think about the style of the rest of your home. Is it a contemporary new build or a period property? Do you favour cool industrial style or cute country cottage? Whatever you choose, consider how your new cabinetry will fit in, whether it will suit the furniture in the dining and living areas, and if it’s practical. Here are a few golden rules:

  • If you have children, high gloss anything will show finger marks instantly.
  • If the kitchen space is narrow, lots of fitted wall cabinets will make it feel narrower still – but if you need the storage, you can fix this with glass-fronted cabinets.
  • Thinking of moving on soon or renovating for a profit? A white or cream kitchen pleases most people; a dark black gloss one won’t.
  • Like a streamlined look? Consider having fitted furniture for the living and dining areas built to complement the cabinetry.
  • Prefer the opposite? Not all cabinetry needs to be matching – an antique dresser, for example, makes just as good crockery storage as a fitted piece.


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Zone and define the spaces

With furniture… Using the island to separate the kitchen from the dining space is an easy trick – and you can use other pieces of furniture to define the rest of the room, too. For example, a high-backed sofa can create a similar effect to divide the living space from the rest of the room.

With focal points… A focal point for each of the different zones will give them definition – although they need to be complementary style-wise. This might be an Aga in the kitchen, an eye-catching light fitting over the dining table, or even something as simple as a large rug in the living area, with seating grouped around it.

With colour… Using one neutral colour throughout the room will make the space feel calm and spacious, but adding highlights and hints of a stronger, bolder shade in furniture, accessories and even window dressings will make it feel cohesive. Bear in mind that anything you choose needs to be highly practical and wipeable – upholstery in this type of room, particularly if you have children, takes a real hammering.

With lighting… You can use lighting to create distinct zones quite easily. So, in the kitchen, you’ll need task lighting that focusses on the work surfaces and cooking areas, plus ambient lighting to highlight an island or breakfast bar. The dining area can be illuminated with low-hanging pendants, and the living area by creating warm pools of light with table lamps. Where possible, have lights that are dimmable, so that you can adjust the lighting to suit the mood you want to create.


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Get the basics right

Dress the windows: curtains are a big no in an open-plan kitchen dining living space – they gather everything from kids’ fingerprints to sticky cooking dust, so choose practical, wipeable window dressings, such as shutters, which won’t date, look classy and, if you choose a DIY option, are extremely affordable.

Get good ventilation: where there’s upholstery there needs to be efficient ventilation, so invest in either a cooker hood, down draft extractor or a fan that ducts through the ceiling or an exterior wall. Windows or a door that can be easily opened are handy, too.

Tackle the heating: the best option is underfloor heating, which will allow you to do away with radiators entirely, saving valuable wall space for cabinetry and furniture.

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