Open Kitchen Design

by | Last updated Sep 5, 2021 | Apartment Renovations, Houses, Interior Design, Renovations

An open kitchen design is the current standard for modern homes. Opening a kitchen by removing partition walls can make the space feel larger. Open kitchens are also a more modern way of living in contrast to the small closed kitchens common in older homes and apartments.


Open Kitchen Design

Kitchens in the 20th century were typically small rooms enclosed with walls and doors for entry and exit. In the 21st century we find more people wanting open kitchens. An open kitchen is a staple for Modern Home Design. There are many advantages to an open kitchen aside from the obvious design sensibility.

Open kitchens make a space feel bigger. Having a lot of partition walls with smaller rooms makes space feel small. Culture also evolves and cooking is becoming far more popular with young people. Also kitchens today are far more a design feature. People really want to show off their kitchen. The kitchen is now a center piece in home design. All of our new construction work has open kitchens these days. As we renovate older apartments and houses we find the majority of our clients opening their kitchens as well.


Advantages of an Open Kitchen 

Today people often prefer open kitchens to closed kitchens. The open kitchen layout allows for more open space making the home seem larger. It also allows the person in the kitchen to be connected to the living space. Kitchens are now treated as a design feature and an open kitchen is often the centerpiece of a modern home.

  • Visual connection throughout the space without barriers.
  • Makes the home feel larger due to less walls.
  • Has social value allowing more interaction when entertaining or on normal days.
  • Kitchen can be a design feature, therefore greater emphasis on kitchen design is necessary.
  • Increases the flexibility of the space for example a kitchen counter can double as bar seating.


Open Kitchen Design

Open Kitchen Design in a Tribeca Loft we renovated with our client Bahar Kural Development


Open Kitchen Design With Island

A kitchen Island is a counter area with base cabinets that is freestanding and not touching any walls. You can walk around the entire perimeter of a kitchen island.

When you have an open kitchen you can now have a kitchen island. In the kitchen below the sink and dishwasher are in the island. The owner has stools so the island can be used for counter sitting.

Open Kitchen With Island

Open Kitchen With Island


Floor Transition for Open Kitchens

Flooring is very important for open kitchens and their adjoining spaces. The transition between them is important. you probably do not want a saddle between the two like you may find at a doorway especially in older apartments and homes. Nowadays people are installing saddles much less and on an open space they would look silly. I recommend whatever flooring you use make sure the contractor installs them flush to the finish surface so there is a smooth transition between the two. If you use the same flooring for the kitchen and adjoining space like the living room you don’t need to worry about transitions.

It is very common to put 2 different types of materials in the kitchen and the adjoining space. For example prefinished wood floors are common for a living room and porcelain tiles for the kitchen. These are installed differently and have different thickness but you want them flush when they are done. Of course you also want to pick materials that looks good together. don’t be scared of a little contrast. Get samples of materials and lay them down on the floor next to each other to see how they look. Always look at flooring samples with them laying down because the light hits them differently flat on the floor then when they are hanging on a wall in a showroom.

Below is a picture of the floor at an open kitchen in a Brooklyn Apartment Renovation our New York Architecture firm did.

Open Kitchen to living room flooring

Open kitchen to dining room and living room with smooth floor transition porcelain and cherry wood floors. Kitchen open to living room.


Open Kitchen Details

Details can make or break a kitchen renovation project. One popular detail is the waterfall countertop or what I usually refer to as countertop side panel. This is when you put a countertop material on the side of the kitchen island as in the picture below. The corners are miter cut and should meet perfectly. You can bookmatch the counter for an even more seamless look. Book match is where they cut the countertop slab and match the two pieces together so the material appears to be continuous.

Kitchen Countertop Waterfall

Open Kitchen Countertop Waterfall


Under Cabinet Lighting

One of the major points of having an open kitchen design is that the kitchen is a feature. Kitchens can be beautiful crafted items within a home. One great and simple way to accent the open kitchen design is with under cabinet lighting. You can install LED strips under the wall cabinets that will provide illumination to your countertop and backsplash. This is really a great design feature that makes the kitchen pop. It is also a really useful element because you can never have to much light.

Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting

Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting


Unique Kitchen Faucet 

You can use a unique faucet design or color to stand out and give the kitchen a little extra something.

White Subway Tile Backsplash & Gold Kitchen Faucet

White Subway Tile Backsplash & Gold Kitchen Faucet


Smoke Soffits in Open Kitchens

Some building codes will You may want to consider a smoke soffit. These are required for kitchens in NYC if the kitchen does not have a window. The soffit is typically 12″ down from the ceiling around the perimeter of the kitchen. These are meant to prevent the spread of smoke throughout the living space. Most people do not like them but they are required by code in certain places like NY. One tip I have is to use it as a design element and install small LED recessed lights in the soffit.

Modern small open kitchen design

Modern small open kitchen design


Kitchen Hoods for Open Kitchens

A kitchen hood is always a really good idea if you can add one. A kitchen hood is a device with a fan that sucks up smoke from the stove. There are 2 basic types of hoods ducted and recirculating. A Ducted Hood exhausts the air out of the home. A Recirculating Hood basically filters the air and blows it back into the kitchen. A ducted or vented hood is much better. If you are renovating a kitchen in an apartment you may not be able to do a vented hood unless you had one originally. Below is a brief video or a retractable kitchen hood we put in a kitchen renovation we did.



Pendant Lighting for Kitchen Islands or Dining Rooms

Pendant lighting means lights that hang from the ceiling. When looking for decorative lighting pendant lights are often used at kitchen islands and dining room tables as an accent piece.

Open Kitchen with Peninsula

Open Kitchen with Peninsula


Open Kitchen Plans

We always do detailed plans for our kitchen designs. Kitchens are very costly you want to put a lot of forethought into every decision. Work with a competent team and make sure you have a good set of drawings and specifications before you proceed with building your kitchen.

NYC High End Residential Architect

High End Residential Open Kitchen Design for a SoHo Loft


Kitchen Shop Drawings

Aside from architectural plans you should also get shop drawings for your kitchen. Shop drawings are not done by the architect but by the kitchen manufacturer or kitchen installer. This may seem strange but this is a common practice that the shop makes additional drawings and takes their own measurements at the job site. This will really help prevent problems on the job. You should never order cabinets or countertops from your own measurements always let the contractor do it. I cannot emphasize the importance of being careful with cabinet and counter measurements. I have another article that goes into who should measure for kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Construction Photo

Semi Open Kitchen Construction with cabinets drafted on walls by contractor before manufacturing custom cabinets.


Planning Your Open Kitchen Design with Living Room and Dining Room

As an architect I take planning very seriously. You want to make sure you have plenty of space and a good layout. Not only for your kitchen but also for the attached living and dining rooms. Your furniture layout is really important. Plan this out and avoid buying furniture that is too big for the space. You want to leave enough clearance around the furniture, counters, and island to comfortably move around and not have to squeeze into a chair. Below is a drawing we did for one of our clients to make sure the furniture layout worked before we renovated their kitchen.

Open Kitchen Furniture Design and Layout

Open Kitchen Furniture Design and Layout


Opening Up a Kitchen Before and After

In the example below we opened a kitchen in an UWS Manhattan Apartment renovation our architecture firm did. The existing kitchen had a structural column on one side and an exhaust vent on the other. We could not completely open it but we opened the kitchen as much as possible creating a more open feel and making the kitchen a centerpiece of the living space. This is called a pass through kitchen.

UWS Kitchen Renovation Before and After

UWS Kitchen Renovation Before and After


Opening A Kitchen

If you want to open your kitchen you should always consult with a licensed architect and have a licensed qualified contractor do the work. The biggest thing to think about is what walls you will remove. Removing a wall to create an open floor plan is serious business. You want to know if the wall is load bearing or has utilities like pipes or ventilation ducts running through it. Relocating these items can sometimes be prohibitive and costly, but depending on your budget and the physical conditions you may be able to do it. Opening a kitchen is one of the most common home and apartment renovation trends we have noticed.


Open Kitchen Designs

As an architect I study design and construction closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article we reviewed the basic points with regards to designing an open kitchen. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Open Kitchen Designs.

We wish you the best of luck with your kitchen design. Please feel free to leave questions or comments below. If you want to discuss your project with an architect you can directly. We are always happy to hear about your upcoming projects.


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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.