Open to a fresh lifestyle

Richard Atkins, design director at DesignSpace London, shares tips on how to create open plan kitchen living for your project

Traditionally, kitchens were hidden from view, with meals prepared out of sight and doors firmly shut between the cooking area and other living spaces. These days, this space has become the focal point of modern living and top of the list in our domestic aspirations. The new ideal is an open plan, multi-purpose, ultra-sociable space combining high function with informal living and entertaining.

Creating this lifestyle is feasible in most homes, but the secret of its success is all in the planning; from the flow and layout of the room to the final finishes. This makes it essential to get good planning advice, whether you are starting from scratch with a brand-new extension, or simply rejigging existing space. Interiors professionals can rationalise the design to make the very most of the available footprint, and – especially with new or larger rooms – there is a long list of important criteria to be taken into account if the ergonomics are going to work.

Start by looking online, and through interiors magazines, to create a mood board of the sort of space and decorative impact you are looking for. List your ‘must haves,’ and get tips from friends who’ve already commissioned their dream kitchen to find out what does and doesn’t work for them. Whether you are buying from a high street outlet, an independent retailer or a bespoke joinery company, choose your supplier according to your needs and budget. On the high street you might find an off the shelf solution and bargain offers while the independent retailer will generally be able to offer more flexible design solutions from a wider and more diverse product range.


As the new focal point of our modern lifestyle, an open plan kitchen is by far the most popular solution, flowing seamlessly into adjacent eating/living space. With this in mind, you need to consider the look of the room as a whole, connecting colours and finishes throughout. Kitchen designs have evolved dramatically in recent years with the introduction of cabinetry that can make cooking and storage almost invisible within an open plan scheme or, conversely are bold and dramatic enough to command the space.

The choice is yours to make, but don’t be afraid to use colour and texture to define different zones within the open plan area or the latest trend – ‘broken plan,’ using furniture or bookshelves as informal dividers to create cosier pockets of space. Don’t forget the importance of multi-source, adjustable lighting, both across the whole space and in different areas to change their mood as needed.


With kitchens being incorporated in the complete living space, there is a need for more flexible storage space and for inventive ways of integration. Consider kitchen furniture which incorporates sliding door technologies such as pocket doors or bi-folding systems to conceal appliances and workspaces when they are not in use.

The conventional ‘patchwork’ of doors in varying sizes does not lend itself to modern interior design – taller or wider one-piece doors and cupboards are needed to achieve the right scale. The actual business of cooking and storage can now be largely concealed, coming into play only when needed. The extractor can be hidden away, the hob can be flush with the worktop, the fridge, freezer and dishwasher fully integrated, and large pull-out drawers can hold everything from glasses and plates to the toaster, food mixers and other small appliances.


Dark colours and highly textured dark woods are back, no longer just as accents, but in cabinetry and surfaces. This is a bold, visual look and if you are ready to fully embrace the trend you could consider combining dark lacquered cabinetry with black and grey marble.

Today’s kitchens place a great deal of focus on finishing details, with key trends including a mix of warm metallics, introducing elements of bronze, copper or pewter, all of which lend themselves well to layering.

Whether you choose an almost invisible kitchen or one which creates a dramatic statement, the time you invest in careful planning will always pay itself back, creating a welcoming and highly-functional new living space where friends and family will look forward to gathering.