Planning a big kitchen

Discover what to consider when planning the layout for a large, open-plan kitchen

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Choosing the ideal layout is vital for a successful scheme, especially in a large, open-plan space with different functions. 

IMAGE ABOVE: Using your home’s architecture in the design can be a good way to give cohesion to a large room with a high ceiling. Here, cabinetry, splashbacks and display shelving in a dark wood finish echo the beams and window lintels. New York Collection kitchen, from £4,250, Betta Living

While many people dream of a large kitchen that sits at the heart of their home, kitchens are actually getting smaller, mostly due to the average size for a new-build property shrinking. However, despite separate kitchens becoming smaller, they are increasingly being opened up to create multipurpose spaces.

The size of the room will dictate the layout to a large extent, but there are general rules that apply everywhere. ‘A kitchen needs to make an everyday routine both easier and enjoyable – this can be achieved with a well-designed and well-laid out kitchen,’ says Clotilde Passalacqua, interior design leader at Ikea UK and Ireland. So whether you are opening up a small space, or maximising the square footage, there are plenty of design tricks you can use to make the most of your space.

Choosing the right layout

At first glance, it might seem that having a large space will make designing an open-plan kitchen easier, but that’s not always the case. Having lots of room can work against you unless you’re careful about beautiful design not overriding functionality. The first thing to consider is how you want the kitchen to work within the rest of the open-plan room. If the plan is to have the kitchen as open as possible, a good choice is an L-shaped design, as it allows for plenty of cupboard space while not cutting off the kitchen from the rest of the living area. In a room that’s likely to have numerous functions – such as a dining or media room, or a playroom – a G-shaped or island/peninsula solution is best.

The working triangle rule (how the sink, cooker and fridge are positioned in relation to each other) is just as important in a large space as a small one – more so if you don’t want to end up constantly walking the length of your kitchen between a poorly placed fridge and preparation area. In open- plan rooms, an island or peninsula with a sink or hob will act as a great ‘third point’ for your triangle. It will also help to create a defined area for the kitchen itself, allowing the cook to chat with diners or keep an eye on the children while preparing a meal. If you’re concerned about mess, adding a raised area to the rear of the island will help to protect preparation areas from prying eyes.


IMAGE ABOVE: Different floor materials help to define the separate zones in this large kitchen-diner. Stone is a hardworking option for the cooking area, while wood gives a warm feel underfoot in relaxed living spaces. Elsewhere, touches of teal on the walls and in soft furnishings tie in with the bar stools in the kitchen, pulling together the look. Bespoke kitchens from Woodstock Furniture start from £30,000.

Creating zones

Use different flooring materials to split the room into its various functions or zones. Natural stone or porcelain in the working part of the kitchen is both durable and easy to clean, while wood in dining and living areas helps to give a more relaxed, warm feel. In contrast, using one surface throughout will give a sense of cohesion to a room, although the surface you choose will depend on how many functions the room will have.

Wood flooring, or engineered wood flooring, is a good solution for a surface throughout a space that will also serve as a children’s play area. For a room with a dining area beside bi-folding glass doors, try using a stone or porcelain floor that co-ordinates with surfaces outside, so that in summer you have a seamless indoor-outdoor feel. 


IMAGE ABOVE: A raised floor area helps to define the kitchen space in this open-plan room. The glossy dark grey floor tiles and Roundhouse Shark matt lacquer cabinetry painted in Timeless by Dulux are highlighted by the Tabu veneer wall units and matching panel on the island. Roundhouse kitchens cost from £30,000.

Planning a lighting scheme

You can also add to the zoning effect by giving careful consideration to your lighting. There are three main types – task, feature and mood – and a mix of all three will be beneficial in an open-plan room that has varying uses.

Ensuring that the task lighting in your cooking area is efficient enough for you to see what you’re doing is a must, but putting it on a dimmer circuit allows you to lower the lights, too. This has the dual effect of creating a more ambient mood for dining and helping to hide mess made while preparing the meal. ‘Each zone demands dedicated lighting, but keep the overall scheme flexible,’ says Neil Lerner, the eponymous owner/ designer of his kitchen design company. ‘If the dining table doubles as a work space or children’s play area, you will need both task lighting and the option to take it down to a romantic glow. 

IMAGE ABOVE: It’s a good idea to have a well-defined lighting scheme in multifunctional rooms. Here, the island and dining table are one unit. Pendants on dimmer switches above the dining table, spotlights in the ceiling and light inside and below cupboards all help to create the triangle of task, mood and feature lighting. Aldeburgh kitchen, from £35,000, Davonport.

Using colour

In a large room, colour can be used either to create contrast or to give the room a cohesive feel. Although larger rooms can allow for more dramatic colour schemes, it’s essential not to overdo it.

A single feature wall, or carefully placed bold piece of furniture, in a similar shade to accessories in the kitchen can help to tie the room together. ‘Subtle colour co-ordination can work incredibly well in a large, open-plan kitchen/living space,’ reveals Andrew Hall, chief designer and managing director at Woodstock Furniture. ‘Choosing one colour to use strategically throughout the space will tie together your scheme in an instant. For example, a subtle green fabric on cushions in the living area can be teamed with green accessories in the kitchen.’

Bigger rooms also allow for a bolder choice of cabinetry colour. Darker units in black, aubergine or navy will not overwhelm a room if used carefully. Mixing and matching cabinetry colours is a good idea, too. Try a bold shade on an island, for instance, or use darker base units and lighter ones for walls.


IMAGE ABOVE: A simple palette of colours, and clean-lined cabinetry design, help to draw together the different areas in this large open-plan scheme. Touches of lime-green add contrast to the media area, while the island acts as a barrier to keep the dining space defined. High-gloss kitchen in Magnolia and Tobacco Oak, from £30,000, Neil Lerner.

Arranging furniture

Getting the seating right in a big room is vital. Not only will you want somewhere for your guests to rest comfortably while you’re cooking, but you’ll also need to think about the placement of dining tables and areas for relaxing.

A breakfast bar on a peninsula or island is a welcome solution if you like to entertain. It not only gives guests somewhere to sit while the cook is preparing the meal, but placed well will also help to conceal any dirty dishes and pans when you sit down to dinner.

Dining tables next to large expanses of window allow for a view during the day, but at night you could end up dining next to an uninspiring wall of black, so window treatments such as blinds or curtains are a good idea. Don’t forget to design your room with storage as close as possible to your dining table, so that everything you need to lay it is close to hand; the rear of an island is a useful place to put cupboard.

IMAGE ABOVE: Adding an eating area to an island or peninsula is an effective design solution even in rooms where space is not an issue. Here, the cabinetry forms a U-shape, containing the kitchen area neatly. The lower level breakfast bar around the peninsula provides a place for people to perch out of the way. Arcos kitchen in Santiago and Caneo, and Loft cabinetry in Panama. Schmidt kitchens start from £6,500.

Choosing appliances

If you don’t have the luxury of a utility room, it’s likely that your appliances – and the noise that they make – will be open to the rest of the room. This can be distracting, particularly if you have a media or relaxation area. The way to avoid extractors or dishwashers ruining dinner conversations or family film night is to invest in ones with the lowest decibel rating possible.

Normal conversation has a rating of around 60dB, so it’s best to find appliances with settings lower than that. Integrating appliances will not only give a cleaner, less kitchen-like feel to a room, but will also help to mask noise from a dishwasher or hide the gentle hum of a fridge-freezer.