By Monique Reprezas
Have you been thinking of remodelling or perhaps having your dream home built? One of the main decisions you will have to make is whether you want an open or closed concept kitchen. Everyone has a different opinion about these two types of kitchens and there are advantages and disadvantages for both. Let’s explore these, and then you can make a decision based on your personal needs and desires for your home.
Over the years, the design and structure of the kitchen has dramatically changed because homes and families are not as big as they once were, and the needs of the residents have changed as well. The kitchen used to be the space in your home that existed only for functional and practical reasons but has now become the central place and heart of the home.
In residential architecture, "open floor plan" is a phrase that refers to a house where common areas have been joined by removing a few walls that divide rooms. The objective is to join kitchen and dining room, living and dining room or perhaps even all three. The kitchen was last to join the open concept. The dining and living rooms converged years before the kitchen.
Open Concept Kitchen | Apartment in Lisbon | Rehabilitated by Neves & Ferrão
Open Concept Kitchen Pros
The first thing I would like to point out is that an open kitchen is one without a wall separating it from other spaces, usually the dining room, living room or both, which means that the kitchen will be in full view for all guests and residents to see. You can really do a lot to the kitchen to show off your decor style. Now remember, when it comes to decorating, the kitchen will need to be in sync with the rest of the home. You do not want your kitchen to clash with the rest of the home’s decor. Think of ways to create harmony between each space regarding flooring, decor and colours.
This concept is definitely ideal for entertainment, because you will be able to interact with guests, even when preparing meals or doing basic kitchen chores. I personally feel as if an open kitchen creates an informal and welcoming atmosphere in your home. It is perfect for small homes such as apartments as it will make your home look bigger and more spacious.
Light passes through a lot better when there are no additional walls and I would say that an open kitchen looks more glamourous, brighter and is easier on the eyes. Appearing brighter is a must in those cases where natural light is scarce.
Open Concept Kitchen Cons
Now that we have spoken about the advantages, let’s discuss the disadvantages. Firstly, an open kitchen will need to be tidied and cleaned up quicker than a closed kitchen, simply because it will look messy, especially to your guests, if you do not keep it clean and tidy while entertaining. This is because it is visible in the home. However, you could change your perspective of this and see it as motivation to keep your kitchen clean and organized more often than you usually would.
When it comes to sounds and smells, this will definitely fall under the con category for open kitchens, as every sound and smell in the kitchen will be carried out to the rest of the home, because an open kitchen is completely exposed and has no additional walls around it. For example, using the dishwasher or doing manual dishes, using a blender, using pots and pans will cause a lot of noise that will not be pleasant for a guest or resident if they are trying to watch television. Regarding the smells, I am referring to the smells that come from cooking and pan frying. One could argue that this problem has been greatly reduced with the recent development of ever more silent and efficient extractor fans, also known as cooker hoods.
When comparing two kitchens that are equal in square metres, you will have limited storage space in an open kitchen because of the absence of the walls.
Closed Concept Kitchen | Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay
Closed Concept Kitchen Pros
A closed kitchen is perfect for people who enjoy cooking and preparing meals in privacy.
If you do not feel like cleaning or neatening up while you are entertaining guests, then this would be ideal for you, because the kitchen is not visible to anyone as it is closed and isolated. If you are very busy, you can also just close the door and the mess in the kitchen will not bother you until you tend to it.
There will be more storage space because of the additional walls in the kitchen. The kitchen will become independent because it is closed, so this will give you more leeway when choosing decor and colours. The kitchen could have its own theme, and it will not affect any other room.
Closed Concept Kitchen Cons
Closed kitchens are completely isolated and the person, whether preparing meals and beverages or doing a quick kitchen chore, will be excluded from the entertainment area and will only be able to interact with the guests or other residents of the home once they are finished in the kitchen.
In small homes, like apartments, it can certainly make it look smaller. Cleaning also becomes an activity you do alone, not in all cases, but this would generally be the case if everyone else remains in the entertainment area, for example the living room.
Open Concept kitchen on display | Porcelanosa Lisboa
Everyone has their own personal opinion and preference when it comes to these two concepts. Not only does it depend on preference, but also on the personal needs of an individual as well. Let’s have a look at a few different opinions about these concepts.
Let’s start with the open concept kitchen. In a blog by Hausera, they spoke about planning and achieving an open kitchen by renovation. They wrote that the open layout is most ideal today. It is much more accommodating for cooking and socializing. There is ample space which makes cooking easier. As mentioned before, the blog also states that open concept solves the problem of having limited light, as you will not only rely on windows anymore, because the walls that would have blocked the kitchen would now be gone.
In the past, it was common for families to eat in a formal dining room and the kitchen would not be visible. Having the kitchen at the back of the house was for safety reasons as well. It was not unusual for stoves to catch fire. Today, however, we use modern appliances with secure safety features.
This blog noted that times have changed, and they are most certainly right. New buildings will usually have an open kitchen or an open plan. There is more visibility and accessibility. It also makes decorating easier. Many people enjoy a more relaxed and social environment when it comes to cooking, where family members end up cooking together in the kitchen. They added that it seems nicer today to have more space visible as soon as you walk into a person’s home. The primary point when it comes to the kitchen is functionality, accessibility and appearance.
Closed Concept Kitchen | Image by Deborah Flōden
Now let’s talk about opinions regarding the closed concept kitchen. Lloyd Alter talks about the case for closed kitchens. He says that kitchens should be closed and not open.
One of the reasons he does not like open kitchens is because he thinks they do not work with the way people live and eat today. He quoted on his article, "There are a few people around for whom cooking is a performance, but for most, it is a matter of different members of the family using small appliances, which are proliferating, and need a place to hide."
He refers to Kate Wagner’s writing about the case for rooms, where she writes about the messy kitchen offering hope for a transitional period where open spaces can become closed again. A messy kitchen is a smaller kitchen pantry area hidden behind the main one. It is used for meal preparations, hiding unattractive appliances, storing the takeaway boxes and specially to store all the dirty dishes post-meal, keeping it out of sight. The main kitchen, which is the visible kitchen, will be used for the cooking, eating and visiting.
Kate Wagner got this information from an essay, by Ian Bogost. In this essay, Ian talks about the open plan as well as the messy kitchen. The end of the essay truly caught my attention and had me thinking. I quote now the end of the essay, "In this respect, the open plan might represent the most distinctly American home design possible: to labor in vain against ever-rising demands, imposed mostly by our own choices, all the while insisting that, actually, we love it. It’s a prison, but at least it’s one without walls." This was worth reading, despite the fact that my opinion differs from Ian’s.
I enjoyed reading Kate Wagner’s writings and seeing her perspective was captivating and very interesting indeed. She finds it mindboggling that homes are being designed around "entertaining", which only happens a few times a year and finds it wasteful. She believes that new technology advances are the reason the open concept emerged. It is what made it possible. She wrote, "When people come to visit, they are there to see you, not your open concept." and she also believes that not separating cooking, living, and dining is an acoustical nightmare.
Both Kate and Lloyd share the same reasons regarding their preferred concept, and even though I do not share the same opinion, their perspectives are food for thought.
Open Concept kitchen on display | Porcelanosa Lisbon
We asked Vanessa Nogueira at Neves & Ferrão which concept she prefers and why:
"I, undoubtedly, prefer an open concept kitchen. I like an open space between the kitchen and the living room. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is communication between the users in both common areas.
This type of concept makes things easier. It brings both common areas closer, allowing the users of both areas to perform different functions while still remaining close to one another. This has become a practical option on a daily basis as well as on special occasions.
In addition to communication, the house seems larger in width and will have the potential for spatial organization that closed kitchens will not allow. Who does not like moving furniture from time to time or had ever had to adapt the space to accommodate a large amount of guests? The space is adjustable with this concept, allowing various configurations and room divisions with just the furniture.
The evolution of materials has also played a very important role in this new concept. Its evolution, both in terms of finishes and new constructive possibilities, has brought a wide range of choice allowing to easily reconcile the aesthetics of the kitchen with the rest of the house.
I have many more reasons for my preference. However, the most important is to adapt the concept of the kitchen, whether open or closed, to its user as we all experience the space differently.
New concepts and trends reflect new ways of experiencing spaces, but at the end of the day, what really matters is how each person feels in the space that they inhabit."
I enjoyed the Hausera blog about open concept kitchens, because I agree with it. I have lived in a few apartments so far, and each one had an open kitchen. It made the apartments look spacious and brighter, and I really enjoyed the time I had with my family while cooking, cleaning or just preparing cups of coffee for us. I would not have enjoyed it as much being in a closed kitchen at all. The kitchen really is the heart of my home. I will always choose an open kitchen, no matter how messy or loud it may get! To every reader who prefers the open kitchen, may you have many loud and messy social events ahead, I know I will!