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Planning an open plan kitchen diner

With our busy modern lifestyles it can often be hard to find the time and space to spend at home with friends and family. Creating an open plan kitchen diner is a great way to make meal times a more social occasion and can even add value to your property. Here are some top tips for creating an open space that can be utilised from breakfast through to dinner time.

Planning an open plan kitchen diner

Planning an open plan kitchen diner

Planning your kitchen diner

  • A rounded or oval island can bring new life to a kitchen. It's a good place to fit an oven or sink, additional cupboard space and extra plug sockets.
  • If you're short on space, opt for shallow ceiling-mounted cupboards.
    Leave about 120cm between units and islands.
  • Set aside ten per cent of your budget for unforeseen costs.
  • Do some of the easy work yourself such as painting and pulling up old flooring, although don't be tempted to take on more than you can handle.
  • Use coffered or vaulted ceilings to vary the height across your kitchen. This helps to create the illusion of more space.

Create different zones
Think carefully about where to define your activity areas. You don’t want guests getting in the way while you’re preparing food but you do want to be able to clink glasses with them. Opting for a kitchen island is a good way of naturally dividing up your space, and choosing one with a tall backsplash (which can also support a breakfast bar), will hide the preparation clutter and dirty dishes as well. Have a look at our kitchen island gallery for inspiration.

How to layout your kitchen diner
Try to position the eating area as close to natural light as possible. If you live in a house the optimal view is over the garden so if budget allows you could open up your kitchen to the outdoors by installing French windows or floor to ceiling glass – a dramatic contemporary statement – to enhance natural light.

If you live in a flat, position your table next to a window. If your kitchen/diner is big enough to allow for a separate ‘living area’ try to anchor this space with a focal point such as a fireplace or sofa and coffee table. If the area is more limited you could introduce a nook or alcove to the plans to make the most of your kitchen space. This is a great way of creating a little privacy in an otherwise busy room – ideal for homework, office work, reading or chatting on the phone. However you arrange your kitchen diner, make sure that people at the table can pull their chairs back freely and have room to move around without traversing obstacles. For more advice read how to plan your kitchen layout .

Choosing lighting
In the kitchen/diner you can reinforce the notion of separate ‘zones’ by selecting distinct lighting for each area, so in the cooking and preparation area of the kitchen you’ll need task lighting. You can also adjust track lights to illuminate a particular area and angle spot lights over a painting, for example. In the dining area low-hanging pendants on dimmer switches create atmosphere, particularly if combined with low-level lighting. If an area is often used for reading or working, a funky anglepoise lamp is ideal. See our guide on installing a pendant lamp.

Decorating a kitchen diner
The kitchen is the area of your home with the highest footfall and passing traffic so it needs to be easy to keep clean, particularly if you have children. Use paints which are wipeable and make sure chair covers can be easily removed and washed. Steer clear of carpets – if food is being served spillages are inevitable – and choose practical kitchen flooring. Try to harmonise the styling of the kitchen and eating areas, as the rustic Tuscan themed dining area won't go well with an industrial stainless steel kitchen, but add a glass table and white leather chairs to the mix and it’ll work perfectly.

Consider creating a social space
If you’re lucky enough to have the space why not create a small seating area for friends and family to relax in? This will encourage social use of the space and will make cooking dinner more enjoyable! Again, opt for hard wearing fabric that can be easily cleaned should any splashes or spillages occur.

Ensure the room is well ventilated
The smell of cooking is delicious in the kitchen but not so great in the bedroom. To prevent odours wafting from your open-plan ktchen diner into other areas of your home you’ll need effective ventilation ducted through the roof or exterior wall. A cooker hood with a strong extractor fan is an essential investment.

Consider clever storage solutions
If you’re knocking a wall down to create a new space you might have to sacrifice some high level cupboard space. If so choose a kitchen island or a peninsula which can offer up valuable cupboard and drawer storage to help you use your kitchen space wisely. Be aware that in an open-plan area all your clutter, utensils and foodstuffs are in full view of your guests so be ruthless with what’s allowed on the worktop.

More design ideas for open plan living
If you've decided to go for an open-plan kitchen diner, have a look at the following articles for further information:
Open plan kitchen design ideas
Ideas for open plan living
George Clarke‘s advice on open plan living