For several years one of the top trends in kitchen design has been the open floor plan. These kitchens allow for greater function and flow between the work space of the kitchen and the areas where the rest of the family or guests gather. Furthermore, with the kitchen tending to function as the center of the house, an open floor plan concept provides better connectivity and accessibility to the entire home. At Key Residential we have seen first hand the popularity of open floor plan kitchens, both in our custom home builds and remodel projects. The design has many benefits and the trend seems here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
But now that the open floor plan kitchen design has established a strong foothold, the next trend is in perfecting that design to truly capitalize on its benefits. So instead of creating just an open floor plan kitchen, take it a step further to achieve a social kitchen. The social kitchen, like the name implies, places a heavy emphasis on the social aspect of an open floor plan kitchen. People want to be able to easily connect with others who are nearby, whether they are also in the kitchen or in the adjacent living area. So how do you make sure your open floor plan kitchen is also a social kitchen? It all comes down to smart space planning.
One of the first ways to help create a social kitchen is to ensure that it can accommodate multiple users at one time. Spreading key items and functions out more in the kitchen will help. For starters, take the work triangle concept to the next level by creating multiple work triangles. Don’t put all the cooking appliances next to each other. By spreading them out it will be easier for multiple items to be used at a single time when there are extra hands pitching in to help. Having ample counter space is also key. As with appliances, having plenty of counterspace and spread out tasks is a benefit. A large island could be a great asset. Finding ways to spread out the duties of the sink can also help alleviate some bottleneck. A fill up faucet by the range or a special clean up sink that is separate from the main sink area are two ideas on how to accomplish this task.
As already mentioned, a great addition in a social kitchen is a large island. This key feature can serve multiple functions that contribute to the features that make a kitchen a social kitchen. Ideally and most likely the island will be in an area that is close to another zone, be it a breakfast area with table and chairs or a living room type area with couches and a TV. This location allows the island to essentially serve a functional role in both spaces. The island can provide additional cabinet storage space and working countertop space. If hosting guests or holding a party, that countertop space can also be used as a serving area. The island also always seems to become a general gathering space for everyone. If someone is busy in the kitchen, family or guests tend to gather around the island to include whomever may be working in the kitchen into their conversation.
Creating a space that feels open and has few visual impediments when it comes to seeing people anywhere else in the open floor plan is another important factor in the creation of a social kitchen. An obvious way to achieve this is by reducing the number of walls. Some walls are necessary, such as around the perimeter. But walls that float within the middle of the room or that block other general living spaces from the kitchen should be removed if possible. Any appliances that are tall or take up significant space should be located against the necessary walls so that they in turn do not impede the line of sight either. The other key item to focus on is cabinet placement. As with appliances, upper cabinets should be limited to areas where they can hang against a wall. Floating upper cabinets should be avoided at all costs. While this may cut down on available cabinet space in the actual kitchen, it does allow for the possibility to add cabinets in the general living spaces of the open concept area. In turn this will help add more connectivity and cohesiveness to the different zones.
However, before jumping into the deep end and committing fully to the creation of a social kitchen there are a few downsides to consider. But luckily there are some ways around them that can help to ease any burden they create. One of the biggest downsides in that creating such an open and multifunctioning space can be that it create disorganization that hinders the efficiency of the space. Combat this by creating specified zones throughout the kitchen. If your kitchen has an island consider adding bar seating on the side that faces into the kitchen to give guests a place to easily gather without being in the way of whoever is working in the kitchen. Families with school aged children might want to create a specific homework zone that is stocked with all the essentials that might be needed. A nearby drop zone for belongings might also be a good idea. Within the functional areas of the kitchen itself try to create enough space for multiple work zones so that users of the space aren’t having to work on top of each other.