Is the open kitchen over?
Some homeowners are tired of letting everyone see their dirty dishes and are seeking ways to block off the kitchen, at least part of the time.
My parents bought their first (and only) house in 1966. What clinched the purchase was the kitchen/dining layout, unusual for its time. The square kitchen was open to the square dining room, which opened through French doors into the living room.
The designer of that 1955-era home was ahead of his time in creating what has become the most popular space for modern design: a kitchen that is open to the living area.
Now, some homeowners are saying that what they really want is to be able to hide the kitchen, harking back to the design of the past.
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"As nice as it is to talk to someone making dinner, people are tired of looking at the dirty dishes," Steven Harris, a New York architect, told The Wall Street Journal.
Back in the olden days, when even middle-class homeowners had staff to do the cooking, kitchens were small and hidden away. Who hasn’t toured a beautiful vintage home only to discover that the kitchen, while updated, was still claustrophobic and there was no way to open it up?
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the architects who began breaking down walls and opening up homes. The WSJ also credits a 1926 German design and the SoHo loft craze of the 1970s with inspiring architects and homeowners to open kitchens up to living areas.
Most homeowners today prefer open floor plans, and few want a closed-off formal dining room, which was popular a generation ago. Some expensive homes have open kitchen/living spaces as big as your house.
But the open kitchens do have their drawbacks, one being that anyone who comes over can see your dirty dishes. Cooking smells travel, and a cook who wants to hide from guests can’t do it.
Architects interviewed by The WSJ have closed off kitchens, at least partially, with glass walls, semi-opaque walls, curtains, pocket doors and islands designed to hide a mess. Check out some photos and renderings here. (Don’t forget Mary Tyler Moore’s pull-down kitchen window in the 1970s.)
People who entertain particularly like an open kitchen, because it makes the cook part of the party and bows to the fact that everyone always ends up in the kitchen anyway.
Do you have an open or closed kitchen? Do you like it, or would you prefer a different design?
Sloppy people should not have an open kitchen, and I know a few.
Being in the restaurant industry for 28 years, I still prefer an exhibition kitchen in my restaurants and the open floor plan in my house. I enjoy cooking at home, while at the same time having a conversation with someone in the family room or sitting at the island or watching TV, and I have a "clean as you go" policy.
My home was built on the "open" floor plan. Twenty years ago, when we moved here from a very small home, the open aspect was very welcome. But now I'd like a more traditional home where I could close the door on the kitchen and keep the kitchen business to the kitchen. The ideal plan would be a sliding door that could open up the kitchen or contain it, as desired.
65 years ago, my father and his partner i home building were very young and forward-thinking as they had just started
building lives after WWII. Homes were built with "living in mind, as well as cooking". Big enough for cabinets and storage,
they offered plenty of floor space for a big table for the famly to gather around for meals or for games or company chats
or children's homework activity while mother prepared dinner and waited for Dad to come in after a hard day's work.
The big kitchen was the "gathering room" and where all probems were solved and great food was served, along with
a neighborly pot of coffee to drown problems with.
The big living room was necessary for the family to relax in and for togetherness while listening to the radio news or
favorite programs to add some laughter or story-telling to avid listeners. This graduated into the television era quite
easily. The living room was also a much cherished "private date room", on special evenings when a suitor would be
at the house and Dad and Mother would retire to their room and other members would be assigned to their bedrooms
so that "sister" could entertain her :"beau"for an hour in the living room;but not much longer as Dad and Mother did
observe rules and order in the home and nothing was a secret in most families.
A big bathroom was appreciated by all and a laundry room was pure luxury or a basement took care of utilites and
laundry and perhaps later on in life a party room for teens.
Family rooms became popular in the early 60's and a second bath was expected. A fireplace was a luxury and came
to be a middle-class symbol of luxury and having arrived. This was soon followed by a -bedrom home being common.
I spcifically remember my mother not wanting anyone to see dishes or remants of a large meal preparation area
being exposed to comany, so dishes were done immediately, dried and put away in the cabinets. Later,when women
went into the workforce along side their husbands, the private kitchen gave way to the formal dining room and
that way, a decent room was always ready for company or suprise guests.
An open kitchen has never appealed to me and recently, while watching contractors designing and building the
"open look" for the younger crowd or single owners who like to "hang in the kitchen". This is more of a bachelor
concept or living style; although I have noticed many young women leaning toward it and mainly to go along with
their companion or future husband. But having raised my family and now a grandmother and retired interior
planner/former realtor, I don't mind telling them up front they are going to regret leaving that kitchen open for all
My only complaint is the noise between the kitchen and the family room area that adjoins it.
My house has the whole open concept thing - living, dining, kitchen are all one space. I have grown to dislike it immensely. I really want a kitchen that is separate. It looks nice but is totally impractical. The lack of walls makes it hard to arrange the living room furniture. I'll know better next time....
We have a house that was built in the seventy's. IMO, that vintage was becoming more open in concept however, still retaining some of the traditional closed rooms. We hardly used our formal dining room which only opened to the kitchen via a door however completely open to the living room. We hardly ever used are dining room but because it was so open to the living room we felt we couldn't use that room for a office or any other multi-purpose room. Our kitchen was very small with a nook area that we use for all our meals. Our kitchen is open to the family room which we used mostly, so our dining and living room was hardly used.
We took out the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and enlarged the kitchen. We now have a large kitchen, large island and a large dining table which makes it perfect for gatherings. We like the open concept. A smaller spaces seem larger. IMO, keeping hallways to a minimum helps in maximizing space.
We have a efficient exhaust fan which helps in cooking food smell. IMO, unless you are going to completely close off the kitchen and open a window some food smell will spread. I personally don't see a problem with that....there are much worst odors I could thing of that could be much worst than cooked food.
Trends in color, materials, etc are like fashion....change to make you spend $$$. I'm old enough to remember olive green appliances and shag carpet. It's all a personal preference and I for one like the open concept.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.