If you have an open plan kitchen already or have plans to design and incorporate one into your home, we're here to advise you through every step of your project. Just as designing a kitchen requires careful planning, building a kitchen extension or knocking through walls to create an open plan layout – particularly a kitchen, dining and living space – is a task that needs careful planning and know-how.
From where to start and what to consider in the design stages such as zoning, to beautiful open plan kitchen ideas to help inspire your decor scheme and the style of your space, budgeting and employing the right people for the job, we're going to take you through everything from A-Z. This expert guide has all the vital information that you need to make your open plan kitchen a true success.
For more expert kitchen ideas and advice, you can look to our feature.
- Kitchen design: how to design a kitchen – this is the guide you need for step by step planning
What is an open plan kitchen?
Open plan kitchens are one of the most sought after features of a modern family home, thanks to their light, spacious and versatile design. They usually combine the kitchen and dining area of a home, while you can also include a lounge setting as part of yours. They are in fact completely versatile which is, quite frankly, the reason why we love them so.
How do you create an open plan kitchen?
The first step, when it comes to designing an open plan kitchen, is considering the layout of the kitchen and how it functions with the rest of the zones of an open-plan arrangement is vital, especially if you're thinking about creating a practical family kitchen, which needs careful planning.
We have plenty of tips on how to create a traditional family kitchen, should you need them.
Bear in mind that once a kitchen is part of an open space it will impact on every other area – there’s no closing the door on noisy appliances and clutter left on worktops after preparing a meal. Likewise, the cabinetry will be in plain view all of the time, so it needs to look stylish.
Getting it right needn’t be tricky, though. Whether you’re working with a kitchen designer, architect or builder (our guides are designed to help you source each) use our guide to create a stylish, open plan kitchen and living space.
- Jump straight to our open plan kitchen ideas
Open plan kitchen design and layout options and considerations
Take time to think about how people will move through the open-plan room. Circulation space between zones needs to be unimpeded by furniture and it’s also vital for safety’s sake that people aren’t going to pass through the work area of the kitchen to get from one zone to another.
Is the kitchen zone far enough away from the seating area? Watching TV or talking may be difficult against the background noise of clattering pans and worktop appliances, so think about the distance between these zones.
Think too about whether you want appliances like washing machines and dryers to be part of the kitchen. Remember that noisy spin cycles will do nothing for the atmosphere of the room. You may wish to plan cupboards or a separate utility room in which these can be kept. Artificial light will suffice for a utility space so this closed-off zone can be located at the centre of an open-plan floorplan.
For tips on planning and designing a utility room, check out our handy guide.
Top tip: Visualising an open-plan space as a series of rooms can help you plan the space effectively.
Zone your open plan kitchen, diner and living space
An open-plan, live-in kitchen diner needs to have defined areas – seating, dining, cooking – even if they’re open to one another, so start by planning which zone the kitchen will occupy.
Although not essential, locating the kitchen by an external wall is convenient for both waste water and ducting for an extractor fan, and is more budget-friendly. An external wall is also useful in the kitchen zone for locating base and wall units against, as well as kitchen appliances.
You should also consider where the dining table will be positioned. Bear in mind that you won’t want a long walk from preparation and cooking areas to take food to the table, so kitchen and dining zones need to be thought of together.
How about a garden view from the kitchen? If that's on your list of priorities, your kitchen will need to occupy an area of the room near to windows or bi-folding or sliding doors. You may prefer to create immediate views from the dining and seating areas instead, though, in which case the kitchen can be located further back.
Create a broken-plan layout
Apparently 'broken-plan' living is the new 'open-plan' living. It's about creating distinct zones within an open-plan layout with different floor finishes, split-level flooring and partitions, such as half-walls, bookcases, glazed doors or screens.
What's the benefit of broken-plan kitchen, diners and living spaces? Visually, you can keep a spacious, bright, sociable feel for your room, but also create a definite impression of separation between the various zones.
From a practical point of view, it means that a messy kitchen can be quickly screened from a dining area; or a noisy kitchen diner can be separated from the lounging space.
Devise an open-plan kitchen floorplan
Once you know in which zone of an open-plan area the kitchen is to be located, it’s time to plan the kitchen itself. For this, your kitchen designer or architect can make scale drawings, or you can create your own using graph paper.
A scale drawing can help you focus on what the space offers in terms of walls against which you can position base and wall units and appliances. You can note the position of windows and any external doors that lead from the kitchen zone, too.
Choose the best open-plan kitchen layout
When it comes to the layout of an open-plan space, there are plenty of options available to you. These include:
A linear galley kitchen
This layout can work effectively in an open-plan space, maximising use of an exterior wall for the sink, base and wall units and appliances.
Linear layouts are often teamed with a kitchen island directly opposite. This can visually and physically mark off the kitchen zone from the rest of the room and helps keep the work area safely apart.
An island can incorporate a breakfast bar, leaving kids or guests in contact with the cook but away from preparation and cooking space. Plan in space on the dining side for kitchen island seating to be pulled in and out.
In a small open-plan kitchen layout, the dining table could be positioned opposite the linear run of units to perform the same separation function. Get a better idea of what's possible with our beautiful small kitchen ideas.
Alternatively, consider incorporating a peninsula to create a more closed-in preparation area. Find out more about designing a galley kitchen in our guide.
Using the corner of an open-plan floorplan can maximise space as well kitchen storage potential. L-shapes can also be combined with an island.
Find inspiration with our L-shaped kitchen design ideas.
This is another option available if maximum separation without losing the open layout is required.
Explore more of our U-shaped kitchen design ideas.
Be prepared to tell your designer or architect your ideas, but take their advice on combining the kitchen layout with the rest of the zones and on how the preparation and cooking spaces, storage and sink are positioned within the kitchen.
- Starting your kitchen design from scratch? Check out our feature.
Decide on what to include in an open-plan kitchen
Put together a list of all the must-have elements of the new kitchen so nothing gets missed from the design. Now’s the time to check that all that’s required will fit into the zone:
- Kitchen wall units
- Kitchen base units
- Glazed kitchen display units
- Open kitchen shelving
- Kitchen larder units
- Kitchen island
- Kitchen peninsular unit
- Breakfast bar
- Range cooker
- American-style fridge-freezer
- Kitchen sink(s)
- Boiling water tap
- Extractor fan
Pick an open-plan kitchen style
Once you’ve decided on the elements your open-plan kitchen should include, think about the style of cabinetry and the materials both units and worktop are made from.
You can find guidance with our expert advice on the best types of kitchen worktop, which covers everything from granite, quartz and marble, to laminate, glass and wood.
In an open-plan layout these will be on display all the time and will be set alongside the dining table and chairs and sofas and armchairs. With this in mind, you’ll need to consider how the individual furniture choices you make for each zone work together.
When it comes to the style of your kitchen, there are a number of options available to you.
If the overall look of your open-plan layout is contemporary, sleek, flat-fronted kitchen units can be a winner, complementing the fuss-free lines of sofas and dining furniture.
If your furniture has a more classic or country feel, go for cabinetry that continues the vibe. Shaker kitchens are perfect in this instance, though they work equally well in a kitchen with more of a contemporary feel, too.
It's important to think about your unit finish during this stage, too. High-gloss cabinetry can maximise light while painted kitchen cabinets are easy to update if you want to change the colour in the future making them a cost-effective choice.
Make sure to take a look at our kitchen cabinet design ideas for even more inspiration.
Consider the following open-plan kitchen design know-how
You'll want to keep the following design tips and tricks in mind if you're wondering how to design an open-plan kitchen, as it's these small details that will make the difference between a nice kitchen and the kitchen of your dreams.
- Think about the style of extractor you choose if you’re positioning a hob on an island. An island hood may compromise views across the room. Would a ceiling extractor be better?
- A breakfast bar or peninsula with a raised side can provide an effective screen between a seating or dining area and the kitchen so the remnants of meal preparation aren’t on show.
- Look at the noise levels of appliances when you’re buying. Even if it’s in a utility room, a louder washing machine might be heard, and a dishwasher could be intrusive, too, if it’s not designed to be quiet.
- Half walls, changes of level and banks of kitchen storage can help to zone the kitchen area further from the rest of the space if you like the idea of extra privacy without losing the benefits of a 21st century layout.
- Some kitchen companies offer storage furniture for living areas in the same style as kitchen cabinetry, which can create a cohesive feel.
Select an open-plan kitchen unit colour
Choosing the right colour for cabinetry can help distinguish the kitchen as a zone within the open-plan layout, so don’t be afraid to choose hues such as blue or green for units.
This can be repeated in accessories or soft furnishings in other zones to create a subtle link across the open-plan space.
Our kitchen paint ideas provide an inspiring overview of the options, if you're not sure what you're looking for. Alternatively, read on for our favourite options.
White’s a popular choice in an open-plan layout, reflecting light to keep the overall impression airy and spacious. If you’re worried it’s too cool, try adding in wood finishes – for example for wall cabinetry, or on a kitchen island unit or bar stools.
Our white kitchen design ideas provide all the inspiration you could ever need.
Grey is as popular for open-plan kitchens, as in other kitchens, and can tone with grey upholstery in the seating area. Grey makes a great alternative to white if you like the idea of a light, spacious feeling kitchen but are concerned about it getting dirty.
Take a look at our grey kitchen design ideas for more inspiration.
Cream and off-white kitchens
These tones can look softer than white in classic and modern country-style homes, making them a popular option.
Black and dark, atmospheric kitchens
Black, black and white or inky toned units can make a striking impression if you want an on-trend, atmospheric kitchen.
Find plenty of inspiration in our dark and dramatic kitchen design ideas.
Opt for the right open-plan kitchen worktop
Choosing the right kitchen worktop is an important stage when designing a kitchen, open plan or otherwise.
The whole gamut of worktop materials are available from economical laminate through natural stone, manufactured composites and wood, together with other materials such as stainless steel and concrete. Bear in mind that each has its own maintenance requirements as well as qualities.
Once again, the important point to note is that the open-plan layout means the worktop is on permanent show and is also set against other surfaces across dining and living spaces so consider the aesthetic qualities alongside the room’s other materials as well as thinking of the look of the kitchen.
Choose open-plan kitchen splashbacks
Consider the splashbacks in the context of the whole open-plan space, too.
A simple upstand on the worktop may be enough in the preparation area with more protection behind the hob. Metro tiles here will give the room an industrial twist that can be picked up in lighting and dining furniture, or try a stainless-steel panel instead.
Alternatively, for a minimal finish, choose clear glass, which will be an unobtrusive presence in an open-plan room.
Take a look at our kitchen splashback ideas for inspiration.
Get the right window dressings for open-plan kitchens
When dressing windows for an open-plan kitchen, diner and living space, you need to find a solution that suits and complements all zones in the room. They might also need, for example, to be fitted to a bay window at one end of the room and folding sliding doors at the other.
This makes window shutters or kitchen blinds an obvious choice. They come in various styles, can be colour matched to suit your scheme, are easy to keep clean and needn't cost a fortune if you opt for DIY-fit designs. If you want to add a softer touch to your scheme, café-style shutters look wonderful matched with curtains at a bay window, for example.
Plan open-plan kitchen lighting
Kitchen lighting should be planned for individual zones in an open-plan space and operable on a separate circuit. This way, when you’ve moved away from the kitchen to the dining area the lights won’t be shining brightly on the accumulated cooking dishes and pans.
Light the zone just as you would light a kitchen elsewhere: task lighting is necessary to provide good light for work areas, and there should be effective overall ambient light, too. What about hanging pendant lights above a breakfast bar as well? They can create a fantastic focal point.
Our guide to how to plan kitchen lighting will talk you through the steps and ensure you get your lighting right first time.
Consider open-plan kitchen flooring
Most often the flooring in an open-plan layout extends across all areas to emphasise the proportions of the space and help it feel unified. Kitchen flooring needs to stand up to floor traffic, splashes, and dropped items, so make sure the floor you choose across the whole space meets its demands.
Another alternative is to mark the kitchen zone with a change of flooring – for example patterned tiles that introduce a more decorative element to a work area. If you’re taking this route, make sure there’s a style or colour link with other features in the open-plan space.
For expert tips, take a look at our guide to how to choose the best kitchen flooring.
Open plan kitchen ideas
Whatever size or style of open plan kitchen you have, we have brought together a variety of ideas for you to get inspiration from...
1. Maximise natural light for an open plan kitchen that feels open and spacious
For those designing a modern open plan kitchen, it's often the prospect of a space flooded with natural light that appeals the most.
The use of skylights, roof lights, clerestory and glazed doors is the easiest way to flood a space with natural light, though it's worth considering suitable window treatments if your kitchen diner is south facing and you want to prevent it feeling like a greenhouse during the warmer months.
Browse our kitchen window treatment ideas for stylish, yet practical, solutions.
2. Make the most of open plan design tricks in a small kitchen
While 'open plan' often conjures up images of large, airy kitchens, it is possible to achieve similar outcomes in a smaller space by applying slightly adapted design tricks.
As mentioned, you'll want to make the most of natural light and might also consider opting for a light scheme in order to make your kitchen feel as spacious as possible.
In terms of incorporating the dining aspect, it's best to opt for a table in a similar shade and finish to your kitchen cabinets, which will help it blend into the scheme effectively. Alternatively, round tables or glass tables are go-to options for smaller kitchen-diners.
3. Embrace the dark and atmospheric interiors trend
Despite everything we've said about using light shades for a bright and spacious open plan kitchen diner, you shouldn't write off the dark and atmospheric interiors trend as good open plan kitchen ideas altogether.
Designed as part of a scheme with plenty of natural light, darker, moodier shades can make a stylish addition to an open plan kitchen diner and is an on-trend option at the moment.
Tempted? Browse our dark and dramatic kitchen design ideas for more inspiration.
4. Create a laid-back, unfitted feel with open shelving and other Scandi-inspired design features
For an open plan kitchen idea with a laid back, or unfitted, family feel, you might consider turning to Scandi-inspired spaces for inspiration.
Incorporating features such as open shelving or freestanding kitchen units and intentionally mis-matching materials is an easy way to make a space feel lived in, without compromising on style.
If you like the sound of a kitchen diner with a relaxed feel, take a look at more of our flexible freestanding kitchen ideas.
5. Invest in contemporary bi-fold doors and bring the outdoors in
A popular addition to contemporary open plan kitchen ideas – and in particular those designed as part of a larger kitchen extension – bi-fold doors make for a stylish design feature that draws the eye, effectively creating flow between the kitchen and the outdoors.
While bi-fold or sliding doors tend to be more expensive additions, they're worth the investment if you have budget to spare and what to add a standout feature to your dream kitchen diner.
Use our guide to how to choose the right bi-fold and sliding doors for your home if you're considering either as an option. For more of an idea of how they might work as part of your kitchen diner, take a look at our bi-fold and sliding door design ideas.
6. Alternatively, opt for stylish metal windows and doors if you're on more of a budget
If you love the idea of bi-fold or sliding doors to flood your kitchen diner with light and give it a distinctly contemporary feel, but don't have the budget to invest in such a standout feature, it's worth considering floor-to-ceiling metal windows and doors as an alternative.
They're equally stylish, have the same effect light-wise and, while not to be considered cheap, make a much more affordable alternative. Use our buyer's guide to metal doors and windows for more practical advice and information.
7. Incorporate colour into your open plan kitchen ideas
If you're working a modern open plan kitchen diner into a period property, you might consider opting for a colour scheme that complements the history or character of your space – our guide to how to choose paint to decorate a period home will point you in the right direction.
Bear in mind that this hint at a properties history can be subtle, allowing for a scheme and space that's, in every other respect, modern.
8. Use pendant lighting to create a focal point in an open plan kitchen diner
Positioning pendant lighting above a kitchen island is an easy design technique that can be used to create a striking (or understated) focal point within an open plan kitchen diner and can be effective in helping to zone a space.
Use our guide to styling and zoning a large room if you're looking for tips on how to define different sections of your open plan scheme effectively. We've got practical tips on how to create good flow in your open plan layout, too.
9. Design your open plan kitchen diner around a centre island
If you plan on using your open plan kitchen diner as a location for socialising and entertaining guests, it's worth considering incorporating a kitchen island into your scheme.
Teamed with stylish bar stools, they're the perfect open plan kitchen idea for creating that social hub while you cook dinner or enjoying a laid back breakfast on a Sunday morning.
10. Create an open plan kitchen diner that works in a flat
Similarly to small homes, it's possible to implement an open plan scheme to create a spacious-feeling kitchen diner in a flat.
It's worth minimising the number of kitchen cabinets to what's absolutely necessary and opting for slimline appliances in order to maximise space. Open shelving will prevent the space from feeling boxy and can make an attractive addition if styled with only the prettiest of accessories.
Our pick of the best slimline dishwashers is a great starting point.
11. Or an open plan kitchen that works in a loft space
How gorgeous is this open plan kitchen? if you are lucky enough to live in a loft space (these New York-style digs are becoming more popular over here) then take some inspiration from this Plain English kitchen. The actual kitchen space may be small but because of high ceilings and open plan design, the space doesn't look cramped or shoe horned into the corner. Plus by adding some stools to the other side of the kitchen cabinets, a kind of breakfast bar has been created too, a great way to save space.
12. Experiment with colours and texture for a more unique scheme
Incorporating colour and texture into your open plan kitchen ideas is an easy way to add interest and create a space that feels a little more unique.
We love this use of rattan bar stools and lighting to add texture and a subtle boho vibe, as well as bold yellow chairs which complement the use of a stand-out blue kitchen island.
13. Choose furniture in a similar style to create cohesion throughout your open plan space
If you want to create some consistency in your open plan kitchen diner, you'll need to choose furniture that's similar in style and finish, but not too matchy.
This might be achieved by opting for furniture in similar wood finishes – in this kitchen diner the bar stools and dining table complement one another – or through the use of an accent shade incorporated subtly throughout a space.
14. Create an industrial feel by combining dark shades and exposed brick
Exposed bricks walls make for a statement open plan kitchen idea, creating a distinctly industrial feel when paired with darker, more atmospheric shades. Renovating a period property? Exposed brick can be used to hint at the history of a space while still working as part of a more contemporary interiors scheme.
Use our guide to creating a feature wall with exposed bricks for more expert advice and information.
15. Design a space with rustic appeal
Looking for rustic open plan kitchen ideas? If designed effectively, they can have all the functions of a contemporary space without sacrificing its country appeal.
The trick is designing the space with a muted or neutral colour palette and opting for furniture with more traditional appeal – we're thinking a Shaker style kitchen design and country-style dining tables – you'll find plenty in our guide to the best traditional dining tables.
16. Add comfort to your open plan kitchen design with a living room
An open plan kitchen doesn't need to end at a kitchen and dining room, if you have got the space, why not incorporate a small living area too? We aren't talking a three piece suite and a 75in inch TV here, just a small sofa and a coffee table or even just a statement armchair could create a chill out area. Pop down a rug to add comfort and to break up the space, and there you go, a mini living room in your kitchen.
What does a new open-plan kitchen cost?
Before you start getting down to the specifics of how to design an open plan kitchen, you'll likely want to consider the costs.
Prices start from around £3,000 for good quality units for an average sized kitchen. Add in worktops, which will cost from £100, and appliances and fitting, which can vary from a few hundred pounds to more than £2,000, depending on the kitchen design.
Bear in mind that an open-plan space tends to be larger than the average kitchen, and includes more elements that need to co-ordinate for a cohesive feel; this means the cost of refurnishing and accessorising the room will be incrementally greater.
However, there are clever ways to cut the cost of a new kitchen to help you keep to your budget.
Will you need planning permission for an open-plan kitchen?
Demolishing walls to create an open-plan layout doesn’t usually require planning permission.
If you’re extending to create an open-plan layout, this can often be achieved under the permitted development regime. However, you should check with your local authority’s planning department to verify that this applies in your case.
Structural changes will require the input of a structural engineer, and the building regulations will apply to aspects of the work, too.
Who can fit an open-plan kitchen?
If you’re working with a kitchen company, they may provide a fitting service, and kitchen designers can also take charge of the entire process from design to final fit out, managing the trades involved.
It’s also possible to find a reliable builder yourself to install the kitchen, or even take on some aspects of the work yourself if you are a competent DIYer.
Use our guide if you want to know how to find a good builder.