Open Kitchen Layouts and Design Ideas

By Lyle Weischwill | Nov. 10, 2016 2:18 pm PST

Home improvement ideas to open up your kitchen

Everyone’s in the kitchen…again! Make some room for your guests in their favorite hangout this holiday season by following our open kitchen design ideas.

If you’re entertaining for the holidays, you know where everyone will end up — the kitchen. But in many homes, especially older ones, kitchens weren’t designed for entertaining. They were set up for one person to prep, cook and serve daily meals. But today, in that same space, you’ve likely got a gaggle of guests between you and the sink at the precise moment you need to drain the pasta.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. That’s one of the reasons many homeowners choose to open up their kitchen area. But what’s the best way to lay out your new culinary domain with an open kitchen design?

Open Up

If you’re creating an open kitchen layout, “you don’t want to sacrifice storage,” says Minneapolis-based interior designer Christine Nelson. If you’re taking down cabinets, consider leaving base cabinets along the ground.

Oftentimes formal dining rooms are adjacent to kitchens. Nelson says some of her clients are happy to see that space transformed into a more usable, welcoming room. Install a bar with stools between the two rooms, and voilà, you’ve got a casual space for everyone to enjoy.

Felix or Oscar?

Are you a clean-as-you-go cook, or do you leave a mountain of dirty pots and utensils in your wake? With an open kitchen, it’s all on display for your guests to see. Do what you can in your kitchen remodel to keep the sink out of sight. If, for example, you have a half-wall separating your kitchen and a hangout space, make the counter with stools higher than the sink on the other side.

Noises Off

Consider the noise factor. How will your family feel about hearing the kitchen exhaust fan whirring away while they’re watching football? This might be as easy a fix as moving the location of the stove — as far from hangout areas as possible.

In the Kitchen Zones

The heralded kitchen “triangle” — the ideal layout of your stove, fridge and sink for easy use — just isn’t enough today, Nelson says. The triangle was based on the model of one person working solo in a small kitchen. Today, Nelson recommends zones. Here’s what should be in each:

The prep zone

Group everything you use to prep your meal — the fridge, a countertop for chopping, the garbage disposal, trash and ideally, a sink. Islands near the stove work well for this. In the nearby cabinets, store mixing bowls, measuring spoons, knives, utensils — anything you use to prep your food.

The cooking zone

Within easy reach of the stove, you’ll want spices, oils, pots and pans, cookie sheets and a surface to set hot pans coming out of the oven.

The cleaning zone

This zone centers on the dishwasher, your main sink and garbage disposal, which are all ideally under (or at least close to) where you keep your dishes. The goal is to open the dishwasher and put your clean dishes away without taking a step. Nearby you’ll want all of your cleaning supplies, tin foil and plastic wrap, and food storage containers.

Those are the three main zones, but Nelson also recommends a couple of other fun and handy zones, if space permits.

The breakfast zone

This should be everything you need for breakfast that even those who haven’t had their morning coffee can find easily. Near the fridge, place a countertop with a microwave, toaster and coffeemaker. In the cabinet above keep your coffee and filters, jams, honey, cereal, bowls, mugs and anything else you like to nosh on in the morning.

The command center

This zone answers the question: “Where are my keys?” It might be a desk or a standup area near the door. It’s the place for your keys, purses, backpacks, briefcases, a calendar, mail and a charging area for your phone and tablet.

That’s our guide to creating a new, spacious and useful kitchen. Where you keep the wine for the cook is up to you.

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