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.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Feb 20, 2013 2:59PM

Family room & open kitchen (© Look PhotographyBeat/SuperStock)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?

Tags: kitchens
Jan 11, 2014 11:51AM
Closed kitchen. Unless you enjoy the sounds of the microwave, stove, exhaust fan  etc. No question. Not open to anything.
Mar 29, 2013 1:10AM
I think for houses built in the huge, high ceiling California style, open kitchens will always remain just as my small 1950's kitchen remains.  Having lived in both, I actually wanted to immediately gut the small wall between my kitchen and living room when we bought our house.  Until our belongings arrived.  Where does a serious cook put all the tools of the trade when they lose an entire wall? Our solution, lose the eat in kitchen space and actually extend the small wall another 4' at counter height so that I have huge prep area, a view to the living room and an entire wall of pantry cupboards.  I actually love the feeling of peacefulness when I work in there.  I think going forward, especially in colder climates, medium size work spaces that maximize functionality will replace tiny and closed as well as huge and open.  I think a lot of those walls torn down in the past decade will end up being rebuilt to some extent for two reasons.  1, that vertical storage space is needed in our gourmet, foodie culture and 2, no matter how beautiful and spotless your kitchen, when you want to sit back and relax, reading a book in your living room you want that space to be it's own warm and cozy space. 
Mar 2, 2013 10:47PM

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.

Mar 2, 2013 10:21PM

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.

Mar 2, 2013 10:14PM

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

to view.





Mar 2, 2013 10:10PM
I hate watching house hunters on HGTV seeing people wanting to upgrade things that are
still totally functional. A woman who God forbid has nice tile in her kitchen will have to tear
it up to put in hardwood floors. People are so entitled these days. They say they will need this
and that for entertaining but never will have anyone over...
Mar 2, 2013 9:54PM
People in America still cook? I'm surprised to see an article like this. I thought it was the microwave that was the major point in the average American kitchen. Most people run down to the Walmart and pick up those frozen TV dinners or run down to the McDonalds to pick up fast food. What a high standard society we've become.
Mar 2, 2013 8:45PM
Mar 2, 2013 7:28PM
My last apartment had an open kitchen which was tiny.  It looked nice but I prefer some separation between rooms. My current apartment has a kitchen that it open to, and visible from, the dining area, but not visible from the living room.  That way it's not totally isolated, but there's enough privacy so that the living room can be gathering place for guests without the visual or practical distractions of the kitchem, which is, by its very nature, utilitarian.  And a guest can go into the kitchen and wash his hands or wipe a spot off her shirt without everyone else watching.  So I feel I have the best of both worlds.  I also like having a wall between me and the noise of the dishwasher.
Mar 2, 2013 7:14PM
I would never have an open concept.  I grew up with my parents having an open concept and all I can remember is my Dad constantly turning the TV up so he could hear it over the beaters, water running or any other noise you make in the kithcen.  It was the loudest house.  I think it is better to have it closed to a certain extent.
Mar 2, 2013 6:19PM
Maybe a wall made up of mostly true divided lites and french door would do the trick.
My only complaint is the noise between the kitchen and the family room area that adjoins it.

Mar 2, 2013 5:11PM
Everyone congregates in the kitchen, so an open kitchen is the only way to go. 

Besides, what dirty dishes?  If you clean as you go like I do, there isn't a problem.  However, if your slobs like my former girlfriends, you might have a problem.

That was rectified 35 years ago when I found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Mar 2, 2013 4:53PM
Ridiculous. Most middle class people spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so why cut yourself off from the rest of your family? During parties, the food preparation is a fun time and guests congregate around the kitchen. Going back to a secluded, isolated room for food preparation is not my style at all.
Mar 2, 2013 4:28PM
I still prefer the open floor plan.  Most older homes felt like little cubicles next to each other as you went from room to room.  Not a good feeling.
Mar 2, 2013 4:22PM
I like the open concept just so that I can keep an eye on the kids while I'm cooking/cleaning. I won't be getting rid of it any time soon...
Mar 2, 2013 4:13PM
I had my 25 year old house built with the kitchen and dining room opened up and overlooking the sunken living room separated by a 2 by 12 inch, 24 foot long, wooden beam, rail with 2 by 4 supports every foot.  In my previous house everything took place in the kitchen and the dining and living room were wasted space.  This gives us a huge entertainment area with easy access to the kitchen and food and drinks placed on the 10 foot long L shaped kitchen island.  It also enables the family and quests to relax in the living room yet stay in contact with the cook.  My  wife and I would never want a claustrophobic kitchen again.  As for dirty dishes you can't see the sink from the sunken living room and unless you cook a lot of smelly fish the cooking smells are pleasant.  We don't have a grease problem because we are health conscious; so don't fry food. 
Mar 2, 2013 4:05PM

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....

Mar 2, 2013 3:49PM
I don't know if it's just me but I think this kitchen is unattractive. I would replace the shelves with cabinets, add some color maybe integrating different colored cabinets along with the white. I would replace the countertop with color, the whole layout is too sterile for my taste. If this was the kitchen of the year I think I could do better even with no design experience.
Mar 2, 2013 3:45PM

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.

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