Which Is Better: Open or Closed Floor Plan?

This post is written by Kelly Parkinson, my fabulous Design Assistant. When we left for our vacation to the Amalfi Coast I asked her to write a guest post to show us the updates on the house they recently purchased! It needs lots of work, here’s a common dilemma a lot of people wrestle with when planning a renovation.

During the start of my renovation six years ago, the contractor said “Why don’t you open up the space between the kitchen and dining room? When I asked my designer friend Jan Romanuk about that, she said “Why would you do that? You’re already further opening up the space between your kitchen and family room.”

Given that was her advice to me, I was surprised at what she said to Kelly and her husband Mike when they started their renovation.

However, this is why it’s always the best to hire a professional (I cannot help you with the footprint of your house or designing your kitchen, that’s not my expertise), read on to find out what Jan said:

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kelly and mike parkinson

My husband and I took possession of our new home, a 70’s original rancher in March 2018. The entire house, interior and exterior needed a complete re-model. This is the largest renovation project the two of us have taken on together, but we were very excited to be able to call it our forever home.

Here is the front of the house.  The picture was taken standing in the driveway. The exterior landscaping was beyond overgrown you couldn’t see the house from the street. That’s wild bamboo growing in between the walkway to the front door. I’m a 80’s baby, I have never seen scalloped fascia boards before – Wowee! Was this a trend in the 70’s or a custom install 😉

Kellys House_Front yardFront of house

My Dad and two brothers run a local contracting company, so thankfully, we were connected and were able to get them to start right away. They did an amazing job with our last home, see the home tour here.

Mike and I had one month before we had to move out of our house and into the new one, so plans needed to be figured out relatively quick! Maria came by to take before pictures. While she was on site, she suggested we hire her good friend Jan to help us with the layout because my husband and I couldn’t agree on whether we should take out the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

Here is what the interior of the house looked like when we took possession:

Kelly's House_Entry and Living RoomFront entrance with wall panelling and pink beige carpet

Kelly's House_Fireplace beforeFireplace in formal living room

The main wall colour throughout the entire house was similar to BM OC-12 Muslin. It looked especially pink against the pink-beige carpets and yellow-beige fireplace surround tile.

Kelly's House_Dining Room & Living RoomFormal living room and adjoining dining room

When Jan came over I mentioned how odd it was that the only way to get into the kitchen was by walking all the way through your formal living room and dining room. She replied that back in the day, it was intentionally designed that way to deter people from walking through your formal living area and to use the hallway.

Also, notice the two tall skinny windows in the dining room? These look into our garage. We assume the owner enclosed the existing carport and never got around to removing and filling in the old windows.

Kelly's House_Kitchen beforeKitchen Area (Fireplace is directly behind the drywall on the right wall)

We saw the potential in this home when we bought it, but it was really difficult to envision the kitchen space while it was so closed off from the rest of the house. However, my husband’s design inspiration and mine were entirely different.  We both wanted to open the space up, but how open was the question. . .

I kept thinking about a post Maria wrote about open concept spaces here, where Eddie Ross’ said it best:

“It’s often difficult to make an open plan work.  How do you know when to stop one paint colour and start another? Can you do stripes in the kitchen and a floral wallpaper in the living area?”

So, as usual, Jan Romanuk came to the rescue and helped us determine what we needed to do.

Here are the two design options we discussed:

Option 1:

Working with the existing fireplace structure and opening up on either side to flow into the kitchen

My design inspiration incorporating the fireplace

This image perfectly illustrates our house layout, even the blue-green painted room off the back which is where our laundry room is. I thought if I could find a nicely designed room that perfectly illustrates my idea my husband would be on board. . . it turns out it wasn’t that easy to convince him.

The problem was, I became too attached to the fireplace, so I couldn’t hear any other ideas.

Our massive fireplace that you saw when you walked in the front door was actually quite bossy in the space, but I have a thing about fireplaces.

They are so cozy and inviting.

Our last home only had a fireplace in the formal living room which we never spent anytime in, except when I was reading a book or watching a Netflix series that didn’t interest my husband.

Seemed silly to me.

It made more sense that a fireplace should be in every living/family room. So my preference was to keep the existing fireplace, and work with it. Re-design the front with new tile, add a new mantle and millwork, and create two large openings on either side that flow into the kitchen.

Option 2:

Removing the fireplace and wall to create an open concept floor plan

Open Concept Kitchen designMy husband’s design inspiration, open concept kitchen

Mike envisioned opening the space up by adding an architectural beam to create a 14′ span kitchen opening.

At the start of our conversation we told Jan we wanted our home to reflect our personality.

Mike and I entertain a lot. It’s not unusual for us to have friends over almost every day of the week so his design reflected this. He suggested keeping the dining room walls as is so that it is still it’s own room, but opening the formal living room up to a large kitchen.

Which option do you prefer? Are you an open or closed floor plan type?

Before we agreed on a plan, we decided to remove the drywall that needed to be replaced because it was damaged. This would allow us to get a better picture of the space and how it would feel if it was opened up.

Once we had exposed the two rooms, immediately, it was clear that my design wasn’t going to work. The massive fireplace wasn’t centered on the wall between the kitchen opening.

It would make it very difficult to create a balanced opening on either side to flow into the kitchen.

Jan advised us to remove the fireplace and told us that we could always add in a two sided fireplace between the dining room and living room, similar to this (below).

I was sold and my husband was thrilled.

two sided fireplaceTwo sided fireplace design

 

Here is the progress picture of what we did!

Kelly's House _ Kitchen beforeBefore, Kitchen design 

After, Kitchen design 

In the end, we both compromised, but we’re happy with the decision we made with the layout of everything as I think it makes the most sense for what we both wanted.

We are so excited to be able to create a home that is reflective of what we love and who we are. The progress continues on our 70’s rancher, we are so excited to show you the transformation. Stay tuned.

Thanks Kelly!

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My holiday in the Amalfi Coast (after we spent one week in Seville and Barcelona) started with my luggage that did not make it to Naples from Barcelona where we took a boat to Capri for two nights.

After packing up all the correct outfits I did not have on my trip 3 years ago to Tuscany, I have to admit, I was profoundly disappointed. It’s Day 4 here and I still don’t have it back, but the news that makes me feel better is we just found out today that they had a glitch with their tagging system on the day we flew here and it’s taking longer than usual for them to locate my bag and apparently I’m not alone with lost luggage as a result so fingers crossed!

If you’re following me on Instagram you would have already seen this photo, but if you’re not, this was the view from the suite that we booked in Capri (below). Truly breathtaking!

This is me with a hat firmly place on my hair which is stick straight without a curling brush or iron!

Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it’s going!

PS. I have already moved from one hotel I didn’t like to another hotel (in Barcelona), and asked to move to a different room when we got to the hotel we’re currently staying in. However, I have learned. I did not lose my mind, I asked sweetly. I guess it helps to get older and wiser.

Are you a fan of open or closed floor plans?

Related posts:

The Timeless Flooring Everywhere in Italy

Should Your Great Room Fireplace Relate to the Kitchen

How to Save Money (While Renovating) With a Second Opinion

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  1. Your vacation looks lovely!

    I think opening a floor plan depends on the house. Personally, I don’t like walking in the front door and seeing everything (especially the kitchen). That being said, I love having a kitchen open to an area where I can converse with my family or guests while I prepare a meal. I’m lucky that my current floor plan allows a kitchen open to part of the house but separate from the formal living area.

    Looking forward to seeing Kelly’s remodel progress. We remodeled a 70s ranch last year, but it was much smaller. Also had windows that looked into the garage (which is a safety concern).

    • I agree on not walking straight into the kitchen. Sometimes it’s a train wreck, during or especially after a gathering, and you just don’t want to see it or show it off when the next random person knocks on your door. I was bummed about losing the fireplace, but agree adding one back in is a better solution. I’m currently working on a house now that we will be redoing the tile surround on a 3 sided fireplace.

  2. I always admire people who have the fortitude and vision to proceed with huge renovations. I am really looking forward to following this one and I know that no matter what they do, it will be lovely. I just love your honesty about your direct personality, Maria! I am also deeply affected by my surroundings and have been disappointed in accommodations often. Good for you for speaking up (sweetly!)

  3. A hat always styles up any outfit. You look darling!
    And being nice, treating others with respect, is always the best way. I always say, “Why can’t everyone just be seeet?!” 😊

  4. This is a very timely post for me. Just yesterday I was standing in my kitchen overlooking basically the entire first floor, since it’s completely open wondering why this house is not working for us. I think it’s because it’s completely open!!! It makes decorating so difficult and when my girls make a mess you can see if from everywhere. I have a wall that is 25 feet long and 9 feet tall and there are no windows. It’s quite difficult to work with. Thankfully we are going to put this house on the market in the spring and build a one level house that truly meets our needs instead. I will not be going with a completely open floor plan for sure.

  5. Scalloped fascia boards appeared on 1950s ranch homes. They were called Cinderella ranch homes and have a quaint, rustic, kitschy style. Historically, they had heavy shake roofs, diamond windows and Dutch doors.

    Your ‘70s ranch home appears to be a combination of the earlier, rustic ‘50s ranch with more contemporary elements from the ‘60s.

    • RetroRenovation has a lot of information on that style, but they call it “Storybook Ranch.” https://retrorenovation.com/?s=storybook+ranch I think the scalloped fascia boards and diamond panes lasted well into the seventies, and there was a sort of a stylized Tudor Revival thing going on then too. It can be kind of quaint in a mid-century kind of way, or a poorly done cover-up.

      I think the bones of this house is more contemporary, so it doesn’t bother me that the fascia and some other details are going by-by. The floorplan of the kitchen is nearly identical to my grandmother’s and it was very efficient to work in, but it did have another counter in the wall where your fireplace wall once was.

      I would have kept the fireplace and widened the doorways, even if they weren’t centered, but I’m a total cheapskate with stuff like that. I might have redesigned the fireplace surround to be asymmetrical and with some built-in bookcases to make it look intentional. And I don’t mind a closed or semi-open kitchen–keeps mess and smells and excess heat from the rest of the house.

      I think the pendulum might swing back to more closed, or ‘semi-open” plans someday, at least for energy conservation purposes. Most homes in Germany where I lived for 11 years are closed floor plans so that each room’s heat can be adjusted individually–it is so wasteful to heat and air condition all that volume of air that is not being used, and so nice to be able to turn the heat up a bit at night and be cozy without feeling guilty.

      Of course, a double or three-sided fireplace is also a very midcentury feature and should look very nice once it is finished. If you use gas, be sure to vent it. The unvented versions have problems with moisture build-up and can leak–not worth it in my opinion, although they are cheaper. They have been banned in some places.

  6. I like something in between – I’m a mom of young children so it’s really nice to have a decent chance of finding the kids at a glance rather than traveling to every room, but I don’t like a completely open kitchen because a) I fiercely concentrate when getting dinner together and don’t like to chat/be interrupted, and b) as an introvert I like to be able to hide behind a wall for a few minutes. Our current house is nearly ideal. The kitchen is L shaped and placed in one quadrant of the main living space, but where some people might put an island for separation we did two walls, thus making a space for the fridge and a built in pantry as well as partially enclosing the kitchen. I can see the dining table through one end of the kitchen while I work at the stove & countertop, and through the other opening I have a view of the corner fireplace, but I can’t see the main sofa & chairs unless I step out of the kitchen. Bonus: I can eat a piece of chocolate without my kids seeing.

  7. We moved into an open floor plan when our daughter was 18 months old. 7 years later we had our son. During high school my daughter had to hide in her bedroom upstairs to do her homework because no matter where she was in the entire downstairs the sounds of the family distracted her. Because of a massive ceiling in the family room/kitchen the sound is all angled towards the front of the house where the living room and dining room are. It’s a great house when we’re all doing something together but if you want to curl up and read good luck! I think a traditional closed layout would be better as long as there is a small family room area off the kitchen.

  8. I prefer partially open floor plan. My kitchen is open to the adjoining family room which opens to our terrace, back yard but it is in the back of the house so from the entry foyer you cannot see into the kitchen. Decades ago when I was in college and taking design classes one guide line of good design then was that you should not be able to see into the kitchen from the front entry. Sometimes the kitchen can be a “train wreck” as already expressed by one comment. I have lived in a home that had the kitchen separated from the family room by a wall which I did not like. I always felt like everyone was in the family room enjoying each other and I was in the kitchen. We lived in a rental home back in the 90’s that was built in the 60’s. The concept for this home was that every room had individually controlled heating so every single room was enclosed and they were all connected by hall ways. That home absolutely drove me crazy and thank heaven it was a rental that we only needed to live in until the home we purchased was ready!

    Maria….so sorry about your lost luggage. Our son and his wife were in Italy in May. Every single thing they had with them except the clothes on their backs was stolen so do be careful. The photo from your suite is incredible. I have been to Italy several time but never Capri. It just went on my bucket list!

  9. I like the option #2 also! It will be very pretty. Are you going to paint walls white? I hope so. I love white!

  10. I too am a fan of open but off to the side. My entry, living room, and formal dining are open to each other. The kitchen is behind a wall, we have a bar for close friends and family, but with 14’ceilings and cutouts on the wall, I can hear everything but not be seen, best of both worlds. Since I cook everything from scratch, it helps to hide the mess. The various angles act as lines to change paint colors.
    I do so enjoy all the beautiful pictures you are sharing, sorry about the luggage 🙁

  11. I like a closed floor plan, and they are now hard to find. I don’t want people watching me cook or seeing the resulting mess. When we have company I have to scurry around the clean up the kitchen when company comes and I am cooking. That’s just a lot more stress than I need. I think open floor plans looks beautiful in pictures, but I generally don’t care for them for real day to day living. It’s true a lot of people gather in the kitchen, but it’s my experience is that they gather at the kitchen table and not in the food prep area. I have a partially open kitchen to the family room. It can also be seen partially from the front door.

  12. Maria, I enjoyed reading this post by your design assistant Kelly Parkinson. An open floor plan is very popular now. I like the way that they made the final decision by removing the fireplace and the option of adding one was brilliant! I don’t like walking into a home and looking at the kitchen. I remember when homes were built with the kitchen in the front of the house. Thankfully the architects decided to move the kitchen to the back so that parents could see the children playing in the backyard and not the street. (do children play outside anymore? lol) I do like the kitchen open to the family room as mine does. However there is a problem with the noise of a TV or the dishwasher running when you are trying to watch TV. There definitely is a noise problem but it looks spacious and coherent.

    I have been following your trip on Instagram and totally enjoying it. I feel like I am there with you and also feeling your pain of lost luggage. Such a bummer! We had luggage stolen in Russia along with several other travelers out of a hotel lobby. Like someone else said “be careful”. Things are not like they use to be. Enjoy the rest of your trip and I will follow along.

  13. I much prefer Mike’s idea of doing away with the fireplace, as I think that seeing only parts of the kitchen either side of it can look a bit distorted and not very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. As desirable as a fireplace is, I think it would be better on another wall, as Jan recommended.

    Good luck Kelly and Mike with the renovation and I look forward to seeing the beautifully finished product.

    And to Maria, enjoy the rest of your Mediterranean holiday, both of you.

  14. At this stage in my life I like open plan but when our sons were preteens and teens, I preferred to have a big kitchen somewhat closed off. My husband and I liked being able to read in the quiet living room or watch tv in the family room while they noisily cleaned up after dinner or did their homework in the kitchen. Now that they’re young men and we’ve downsized, I love open concept for entertaining and smaller spaces to clean and upkeep. For me, it’s all about lifestyle. I’d miss a fireplace though. That’s a must for us so I hope Kelly gets her fireplace back!

  15. Open floor plans (open concept) came to Canada much later than to the USA. We saw open concept floor plans in USA building plan magazines 30 years ago, my husband loved them, but the ones we saw were not suitable for Canada (no mud rooms, nor enough closet space at the front door!) So we picked a different, very traditional plan, but didn’t end up building it.

    The market definitely prefers open plan for the past 18 years anyhow. And I have that in my third home. Wouldn’t change anything! But with all the hard surface (lots of ceramic tile) and 16 foot ceilings, it was noisy when the kids were younger. We found we never wanted to use the closed off dining room in our second house, because the wood burning fireplace was in the family room, which was open to the very large kitchen. So even New Year’s dinners were in the kitchen…. Now we have the dining room table adjacent to the open kitchen and use it for dinner almost every day. So much more practical and beautiful. The builder did put a separate closed off room that *could* be a dining room (he called it this) but we use it as a study.

    I painted all the walls orange, even with the high ceilings. It is gorgeous.

    It is difficult to convert old houses to open plan, very hard to make them work. My niece in Calgary bought one that was opened up. It just doesn’t flow right.

  16. This is something I have been thinking about a lot as we are buying our first home. There are so many houses on the market where the walls have been ripped out. (On a side note sometimes the stairs are left so naked and awkward in the center of a big open space.) I fall into the camp that prefers not open or only partially open floorplans. The biggest reason is that even if I wash up as I cook, at the final moment of serving, this inevitably creates a bunch of dirty pots and pans and cutting boards that I don’t want to see and don’t want my guests to see when we are enjoying our meal and time together. Also, I sometimes find it difficult to cook and talk at the same time when I really need to concentrate. As some people have noted you also give up a lot of storage space by getting rid of all the walls. The house that we are buying has a kitchen with open doorways to both the dining and living area. I think this is a good compromise because I can hear what is going on (conversation as well as young children playing, who sometimes require a referee!) but I don’t see the kitchen as soon as I walk in the door or from the dining room, which is open to the living room. As a commenter mentioned above, another aspect of the layout that is very important to me is that the kitchen looks out over the backyard so I can see what the kids are doing. The house we are buying is not perfect of course. The front door opens right into the living room, whereas I wish for a foyer, but when it comes to small houses some amount of openness is just more efficient. Thank you for sharing your renovation plans, Kelly. I can’t wait to see how the space transforms. I love the idea of the fireplace between the living and dining area. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos, Maria. So sorry your carefully planned luggage didn’t make it with you. That would make me grumpy too, but it’s also a good excuse to do some local shopping.

  17. I love option 2. Open!!! In the case of this house anyway. I would have struggled too on that one but it looks gorgeous with the open layout. There are pros and cons with the open and closed floor plans. Finding the right balance for your lives and your individual homes is the key. How gorgeous it’s going to be. All of it. Congrats and happy reno!

  18. I prefer a semi open floorplan….best of both worlds! Isnt Capri just amazing??!!! So beautiful
    and your pictures are great! Sorry about your luggage. Hopefully you’ll see the advantage of
    capsule dressing and fabrics that can be washed out in the sink and hung overnite to dry. Maybe
    you’ll be dressed in more casual, sporty clothes than you would like but with the right choices
    you could pack a weeks worth of clothes in a roll-on bag that you take into the airplane cabin
    with you and you dont have to worry about loosing your luggage anymore. If your not going on
    a training trip and traveling overseas why not? At least take a carryon w a couple of days clothes w
    you for assurances.
    (My thoughts after learning the hard way myself)

  19. ps. And for the time your traveling ex: the next two weeks your wash and wear the same outfits
    but mix and match and assecorize w scarves etc and w fabrics you can hand wash it saves you
    when hotel laundrys are not available.

  20. Maria, my husband and I went to Capri (second trip) 3 years ago and flew into Naples first. Somehow one of our suitcases never made it from Naples to Sorrento, the transfer spot for the ferry. I was just sick as I mentally went through what was in that suitcase…my one really nice summer weight dressy outfit, etc. Everything of my husband’s. Here we were in Sorrento going around getting basics from the skin out for my husband, his shaving equipment and so on. But….when we arrived at our hotel in Capri and got to the room…there was the suitcase.
    But then…we noticed that the room was rather…hot. Went to the front desk…oh! They sent a maintenance man up. The wall unit was putting out tepid air. Out in the hall, down in the lobby were fine. The man said he knew exactly what the problem was and rushed out. We sat and waited. And waited some more. Nobody came back. This was prepaid after a LOT of research on TripAdvisor.
    I went to the front desk and said it was unbearable and we needed a refund. The poor girl said she had to call the owner. I said fine, we would be exiting the property and going down the sidewalk looking for more accommodations. Here we went, pulling two rolling suitcases, sweat trickling down our backs….this exact time of year–65 years old. About two hotels away….a delightful place. We asked to see a room with a king bed. (to check the a/c really) It was cool and like heaven. Asked the price….it was a tiny bit more than the previous one. We said ok. Took it. Stayed the 4 nights. Got the full refund from the other place. The owner was very familiar with the other place; said they were famous for deferred maintenance. We got lucky.
    And I cannot wait to go back! I hope you do the chair lift up in Anacapri! Take one of those open taxis to get there…it’s a blast! And go to Axel Munthe’s home up there….rub the top of the sphinx’s head…look out over the water. It’s sublime.

  21. Maria I’m back (following the previous)
    Just saw a new picture–never had looked at your Instagram account. Got to looking and saw that you stayed at the Cotton House in Barcelona…or at least had breakfast there. We stayed there a week about 4 years ago. I hope this was not where you had trouble and wanted to be moved. Anyway, we loved it. I think we went in May, not sure. The older we get the more we have learned to try to avoid the heat! I am dying to go back to the Cotton House and also do more of Spain.

  22. I feel an open floor plan is fine when an illusion of space is required (for example in Condo living) otherwise IMHO having defined or separate areas makes for easier upkeep. With that stated; I am a big fan of ‘pocket’ doors strategically placed to open up or close off a space if need be. As for a kitchen work area being in close proximity of an upholstered piece of furniture (as a sofa), that I am not too fond of however as homes and lifestyles do vary I also feel to each their own. -Brenda-
    P.S.: Its so unfortunate that your luggage is still MIA but having worked in the travel industry many years ago and as a traveller something I learned is: a) if travelling with a companion; divide the contents of your luggage between you. In other words ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. b) When choosing luggage avoid high-end/designer labels as it is an invitation to thieves. Sincerely hope yours turns up shortly and that your Mother arrives safely to join you. FELICI VACANZE to the three of you!

  23. I do like open floor plans whenever I see them but don’t live in one so had to think about. Our floor plan is fifties built around a central courtyard. So living dining is off on one leg of “u” and Kitchen on the bottom of “u”. So open but not. Initially the kitchen had a half wall up with barbamd was completely galley and closed off. It was beyond annoying. 18 years later we took the wall down and replaced with island. Much much better and should have been sooner. But I wouldn’t say it is a totally open concept. And I like it that way.

  24. This helped me so much! I am about to tackle a kitchen refresh in my circa 1963 condo, and I have actually felt ashamed of my delight in its very against-the-trend closed plan. I am a “shy” cook, and definitely not someone who can chat with guests AND get a meal to the table simultaneously, so I rather love the privacy of the current set-up. (There is even a lovely solid wood bifold door that closes to prevent smoke from setting off the fire alarm in the hallway and mask the noise from the dishwasher!) Although there are already two entrances to the kitchen—from the hallway and dining room, I feel kind of pressured by all the design blogs and magazines to “open it up” to the living room by removing one wall. But not only would I lose precious storage space, I would also have to be super mindful of my kitchen mess because it would all suddenly be on view from the main living space. And that just stresses me out too much!

    So thanks for helping me to know I’m not alone in being a shy cook who prefers a bit of privacy. This post has giving me great confidence to proceed the way I want to, design trends be damned!

    Oh, and PS: I truly believe the house dictates the style, and a closed plan is genuinely what this little house wants—more true to its vintage. I have seen some dreadful renovations in this building where owners have tried to assert inappropriate trends on this lovely Jetsons-era space…

    • Yes Julie, you do need to go with your own desires and what the house dictates too, rather than following trends. What looks good and works in one house may not look good or work in another. And knocking out walls is an expensive exercise especially if they are load bearing, or contain plumbing or wiring. We built our house in 1975. A very modest, basic 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom affair with a long lounge-dining room and a small family room off the kitchen. There was no money left for paving, a veranda or carport or garage…..it looked like it fell out of the sky! We still live here…..but happily, we do have paving, verandas and a carport and a beautiful garden!
      The kitchen had a huge walk-in pantry and a wall, as well as a small peninsula countertop with raised bar all of which partially separated the kitchen and any messiness from the family room. There is also a doorway on the other side of the kitchen which leads into the dining room.
      Following the “trend” for bigger kitchens 26 yeas ago, I had the wall and huge pantry that separated the kitchen from the family room removed and installed a beautiful new kitchen with a much larger open, flat peninsula countertop. I always wanted more countertop space, but in doing this lost my fantastic pantry for a much smaller version (because no wall!) so it is now a much more open-spaced area than it used to be. I hated it at first – cried for days – it seemed like such a large kitchen smack bang in the very middle of such a small house. Plus I couldn’t hide anything from the view of the family room! I did become accustomed to It after a while and the kitchen is very functional and very good quality, but I would never go completely open plan. I am lucky that my lounge and dining room remains totally separate and that is where we actually live and watch TV. I have no TV in the little family room off the kitchen, as it tends to be a bit of a walk-through area anyway – the bedroom wing is on the other side – so I just have a few stools at the counter, a large comfy sofa, two side tables and a set of display shelves on another wall. Like the kitchen, this room overlooks and leads into the large back patio and the garden, as does the dining room. People can be with me in the family room while I’m busy in the kitchen, but If I’m entertaining, I generally shoo them off to the living room or out to the patio with drinks and nibbles. I try and have the major cooking components done and dusted before guests arrive, including any nibbles and dessert, because I need to concentrate when I’m cooking. After all these years I still haven’t been able to master riveting conversations whilst in the depths of chopping, measuring, stirring, and generally cooking up a storm and making a mess. (No cooktop in the middle of the island, so-that-i can-stir-the-pot-whilst-conversing, for me, thank you!) And I rather like the fact that I have a separate entry foyer with a door that closes it off from the family room which leads into the kitchen. This means that most people (unless they’re close friends or family, come into the lounge room. Any kitchen mess is only visible if one steps into the family room. The house feels spacious because the living areas open and lead into each other, but it’s still separate enough from the living and dining room to have privacy in the kitchen.
      I have relatives on both sides of the family who have quite large open plan living areas and have lamented at one time or another about the mess and noise in the kitchen competing with the TV, competing with conversations, competing with kids toys etc, and also the cost and difficulty in heating and cooling one huge space. Do what feels right for you.

  25. I’d LOVE to see the final outcome of Kelly’s house!! We have a VERY similar problem and I’m flip flopping about removing the wall btwn our kitchen and living area. The dining area is already open to the kitchen but the wall really prevents enjoying time with our company while cooking or seeing the TV…but at the same time the lack of walls means any mess will be on display & there’s nothing to dampen sound…Grh!