photo by Christina Kiffney Photography
We remodel a lot of kitchens. It makes sense.. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether we’re designing a complete home overhaul or a strategic addition, it’s very common that improving the kitchen is very high on people’s wish lists.
Let’s dig into what the latest and greatest is regarding kitchen design. First off, there are so many details and directions this blog could go. I’m going to focus on high level kitchen layout and talk specifically about opening things up to the rest of the house. It’s not news that most folks want an open kitchen concept. Today’s kitchen represents more than the place where you prepare your food. Nowadays it’s where families live. The kids’ homework gets done in the kitchen. When you have a party, people end up piled into the kitchen regardless of how cramped or outdated it is.
What are we talking about when we say “open kitchen”? One simple way to describe it is that we’re removing walls that separate the kitchen from other areas of the house. We are almost always also improving the lighting and increasing natural light in the space so things feel bright and energetic. Here’s a great example of a Sobo project with an open kitchen:
In this project we blew out a wall where the stools now live. We also installed the large window to bring those amazing Flatiron views into the home. (NOTE: Check out how the door extends all the way to the ceiling! This subtle detail could be a whole other blog post).
Here’s another open kitchen that we recently completed:
One side effect of open kitchens is that there are less walls to house upper cabinets. People want site lines to the outside and/or to the other areas of the home so we now look for storage solutions that utilize base cabinets. There are dozens of new design answers that keep plates, cups, bowls and microwaves all below the countertops.
Another tactic we use is to create one ‘grand wall’ that houses the big bulky stuff. In this kitchen, the back wall houses the double wall ovens, full height pantry storage, appliance garage, and the refrigerator.
The last thing I want to point out in this picture is that you can’t really tell where the fridge is. (Answer: it’s camouflaged in the sea of blue cabinets along the back wall). Another side effect of an open kitchen is that you can see the kitchen (for better or for worse) from everywhere inside the house. And let’s be honest, refrigerators aren’t that attractive. Cladding the front of the fridge in cabinet panels is a great solution to make the kitchen feel warmer and less industrial. The term for appliances that can accept these cabinet panels is “fully integrated”.
Now let’s study two projects that we are actually in the midst of building right now.
Here’s the ‘before’ picture of the kitchen:
As you can see, the kitchen is cut off from the rest of the main level. The plan is to open things up. One complication is that the kitchen has flat ceilings, while everything else is vaulted. One option could be to blow out the entire blue wall and vault the kitchen. After collaborating with the owners, however, we came up with a different plan:
We will install exposed steel beams to replace the solid wall. There are several major advantages to this design:
Here’s a 3D rendering of what the space will look like when we’re done:
That was fun, let’s look at another project:
Here’s the ‘Before’ picture:
Granted, this is a funky picture, but it highlights the kitchen’s tile flooring and drywalled opening to the rest of the house. The living room is actually on the other side of the wall behind the stove.. So no picture can communicate that.
Our plan here is to completely relocate the kitchen to where the dining room is. The two main reasons to move the kitchen are:
We’re also vaulting the ceilings to create more space and volume.
When we’re all done it will look like this:
The wall you see in the foreground is the new half-wall that separates the stairwell from the main level.
This project also highlights another popular trend: floating shelves. Traditional upper cabinets can feel bulky and heavy. Well lit wood floating shelves can be a great fit for people who don’t have a lot of clutter and really like a curated look.
In conclusion, the open kitchen is as popular as it’s ever been. People want the kitchen to feel integrated with the rest of house. The current evolution of kitchens is focused on coming up with innovative ways to make highly functional kitchens and yet keep things clear, clean, and open.