Are “Closed Kitchens” Making a Comeback?

by hookedonhouses on April 2, 2014

Chalk Farm Cottage Kitchen Makeover 520

For years the open-concept kitchen has been touted as the best kind. Something every house should have. Countless walls have been knocked down as a result, and it’s increasingly rare to find newer houses that don’t have kitchens open to some kind of adjoining family room. But lately I’ve been hearing from dissenters who would rather have theirs closed, thankyouverymuch…

I remember being kind of surprised when I listened to a podcast at The Skirted Roundtable a few years ago in which they debated the pros and cons of open-concept kitchens. In it, Joni of Cote de Texas said she wished her kitchen was closed off:

They used to design kitchens so the smell wouldn’t go through the house when you were cooking. Today it’s very en vogue to have kitchens open to the den so everyone can watch you cooking, but I don’t like that. I wish my kitchen was closed off. I hate it.

I had never heard anyone sound so passionate about closed kitchens before, so it got my attention. In response to the podcast, Susan, who blogs at Between Naps on the Porch, agreed:

I know it is personal preference, but I just don’t like the huge, cold, open interiors that you see in almost every home that’s been built in the last 10+ years. I love for a home to have rooms, real, separate rooms. A big kitchen is great, but I don’t want it open to the family room, either.

Silvina's kitchen island 525

Over the years I’ve gotten similar comments on my blog from readers when I feature an open kitchen. And in a recent article on Slate, J. Bryan Lowder urges us to “Close your open-concept kitchen — we have walls and doors for a reason.”

There is one distressingly popular design choice that has spread throughout HGTV’s stable of shows like black mold through a flooded basement, and I can no longer abet its growth by keeping silent. I’m talking about the baneful scourge that is the “open-concept kitchen.”

I’m all too familiar with the lies the open concept evangelists have force-fed us from their gleaming, granite countertops: It’s ideal for entertaining! You can chat with the girls and chop onions at the same time! You can monitor your children or watch your favorite programs while whipping up some homemade ravioli!

Penelope Bianchi's kitchen red hutch

A post on the Hilltop Gothic blog echoes his sentiment. Durf writes that she’s frustrated with the argument that we need open kitchens so people can hang out with the cook:

No, please, go sit down and talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. Really. I’m nervous enough trying to put the meal together, with everything cooked to perfection and warm.

Yes, I’m a woman, but my multi-tasking skills are declining as I age. I can’t talk, entertain guests and cook at the same time.

Go watch TV or something and I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.

My family marvels at how ungracious I am, chasing everyone out of the kitchen so I can prepare the meal. I’ve been known to hand out magazines and/or turn on the TV to keep guests occupied and out of my hair.

Ainhoa's kitchen-beams and brick floors 350

I grew up in older houses with small kitchens that were totally closed off from the rooms around them. It always seemed like an open kitchen was “the dream.”

When I bought my first house, the kitchen was so open you could actually see it when you walked in the front door. I thought I’d love all the wide open spaces in a more contemporary house, but I quickly realized it meant that anyone who stopped by could see and smell all, whether you wanted them to or not. Ha.

Amber's white kitchen with black island 500

My current kitchen is open to my family room and I like it, but it’s definitely a distraction when you’re trying to watch TV or hold a conversation on the couch while the dishwasher is rumbling or pots and pans are clanking a few feet away.

My mom’s house has a kitchen that’s closed off to the rooms around it, and the biggest hassle, she says, is when she’s entertaining and has to carry all the dishes and things to the dining room down the hall. It’s not as convenient.

When we got our new hardwood floors recently, the installer told me he had done countless houses with layouts like mine that had originally had a wall between the kitchen and family room. He said it has kept him in business, knocking down walls between kitchens and family rooms and putting hardwoods through both rooms: “That seems to be what everyone wants.”

Candice's kitchen teapot collection 525

But some people are having second thoughts about themRoxanne writes on her blog that she later regretted opening hers up:

I knocked out a kitchen wall in my old house and built a family room addition. Instead of looking out my kitchen window and seeing trees, I created a view of my family room. I had young children at the time. I fell for the “I can be in the kitchen and see the kids” trap. Well, the children grew, the husband left, and I downsized to a much smaller fixer-upper home.

When it was time to do the kitchen, the contractor asked,

“You gonna knock out this wall?”

I said, “No. I want my wall. I need my wall.”

Truth is, I need some division in my life.

So tell us — do you love open-concept kitchens? Or do you welcome a few walls and doors to keep them separate from the rest of the house? 

Julia-simple teal signature

P.S. The kitchens in this post all belong to readers who submitted them for my kitchen contest. For more photos/info about each one: 1. Jennifer’s, 2. Silvina’s, 3. Penelope’s, 4. Ainhoa’s, 5. Amber’s, and 6. Candice’s – or visit my “Kitchens” page to see them all!

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{ 201 comments… read them below or add one }

Fiamma April 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

Like any design, I think open kitchens work in some houses not in others. It would certainly not work in my 1920′s bungalow home and that suits me fine. Since my home is small, I can see right into the dining room and be a part of the conversation or not if I choose and I like that. If I had a more contemporary home I could see an open kitchen being functional there, but I daresay it is not my first choice when it comes to kitchen design.
Certain trends are taken on by everyone, stainless steel, granite, open shelving, without lots of thought to “Do I even like it?” I blame some of that on HGTV and on other outlets that scream about the importance of resale. Shouldn’t we all live how we want in our homes instead of worrying about the next person who buys it? You want a red bathroom? Go for it. You love open shelving, go ahead and if I buy that home I am taking them down, but it would never deter me from purchasing the place if I love it.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:09 am

Good points, Fiamma! Open kitchens definitely suit certain styles of houses better than others. And it’s never good to just take a trend and apply it to everyone, everywhere.

I think homeowners who aren’t entirely sure what they’re looking for like to have a checklist of “things that are supposed to be good to have” — hence the across-the-board emphasis on granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances in an open-concept kitchens. I’d love to see us all move past some of that and think more for ourselves!

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Jonia April 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Very well said, Fiamma :) It’s one of the reasons I so love this blog. All kinds of homes are showcased. Everyone gets to comment on what they like or what they would change if it was theirs. New concepts or trends are dissected both on esthetics and experience and at least for myself, the love and appreciation of architecture. There are things I see on the blogosphere that are really cool, but to look at and live in day to day would not be enjoyable. You are so right. If the house “sits right” with me, I don’t care if the bathroom or whatever is red or sponge painted. I’ll change it. It’s why I love blogs so much. It’s kinda like “Power to the People” lol. I love that retailers are really getting it and paying attention to people instead of just advertisers. What’s truly funny to me is when a blogger “creates” something and then a retail outlet has it manufactured (taking all the charm out of it mind you) and markets it like an innovative product ha ha.

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Mandy April 2, 2014 at 8:55 am

I’ve been recently pondering this same thing. Our kitchen is fairly closed off, but we have an opening above the stove/below the cabinets and a doorway where I can see into the living room and keep up with the family. But they are out of my way there. This isn’t my dream house (or dream kitchen) but I do want something similar if/when we move. It’s a bit of both worlds. I think the kitchen should be “seen but not heard (smelled).” :)

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Claudia W April 2, 2014 at 8:58 am

I still love my open kitchen, but my husband and I are retired and don’t cook that much anymore. I do understand the appeal of the closed kitchen and I certainly wouldn’t rule it out if I were building or buying a different home. What can I say? I like change!

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Carolyn April 2, 2014 at 9:02 am

What an interesting topic! I can remember my mother complaining about feeling isolated in the kitchen and I think that influenced me. I have never had a newer home with a true ‘open concept’ with the kitchen/casual dining/family room basically one large area, so I can’t comment to that. Our 1920′s era home had a narrow galley kitchen closed off by a swinging door. We gutted the kitchen, giving it a much more functional lay-out, removed the swinging door, and cut a large pass-through to the dining room. It still is an enclosed space and we have walls to furnish against (one thing lacking in an open concept), but we don’t feel cloistered in the kitchen. Our dining room is a good size and besides the dining table has bookshelves, a chest, and a corner cupboard, as well as a reading chair. It’s not where the TV is (so not a family or living room), but it’s where we gather with friends and family for a meal. This works great for me. We can be together, but everyone isn’t in the kitchen, and the dining room isn’t a formal space that never gets used. (Our floor plan is such that you have to go through the dining room to get to the kitchen, so it’s a bit of a corridor anyway.) People tend to gather in the kitchen, and I think it generally makes more sense to have it open than a small contained room. But then if it’s a really large kitchen like you see in very expensive homes with huge islands and casual eating spaces that are bigger than a suburban dining room, it doesn’t need to be open to other rooms, does it?

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

Good point about those huge kitchens that are large enough that they don’t really need to connect to additional living spaces, Carolyn. I’ve noticed when we have people over, everyone hangs out in the kitchen even though the family room is open to it. They all want to be together, even if it’s a little crowded, in the “kitchen side” of the house. So I think we could have had a wall between the two of them and it wouldn’t have made that much difference!

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Jen April 2, 2014 at 9:08 am

Great topic! I think Roxanne’s story is a good illustration that we need/want different things at different stages in our lives. No one house/kitchen is perfectly suited both raising a family stage and empty nester stage. There are pros and cons to both open concept and walls…not an “ideal”. I lean towards a walled off kitchen but with a comfortable space for a guest or two…not a crowd. However, my crowd wants to be in the kitchen…open concept works better for us now.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

So true about needing different things at different stages in our lives, Jen. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to kitchens.

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Janet @ Ordinary Mom April 16, 2014 at 9:31 am

I agree about the stages of life. We have younger kids. (7 & 9) and I love our open concept for after school homework sessions while I make dinner. I love that we can do art projects together, that we can all be together even when we are doing different things. :)

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Sherry April 2, 2014 at 9:11 am

I inherited my parents house with a closed kitchen and it’s fine with me but my mom took it one step further and put a lock on the kitchen door. I don’t know why for sure and I can’t ask her but there it is just in case! lol!

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

Interesting! Don’t tell, but I’ve got a secret stash of the “good chocolate” in my kitchen to keep my kids from getting to it. Maybe yours just went a step further with a lock on the door? Ha. :-)

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Patience April 2, 2014 at 9:11 am

I definitely agree that it’s nice to have separate rooms, defined by walls. My biggest beef with open concept kitchens is that they are noisy. Then again, they increase the amount of natural light.

My house is over 100 years old, and the kitchen in its original state must have been very dark. Previous owners carved a large opening in the wall between the kitchen and dining room. It increases the light, but it’s not very satisfactory. I think ultimately, we will knock this wall down for a big farmhouse-style, kitchen/dining room. The other rooms will not be open to our kitchen.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:20 am

The noise is one of my biggest issues with it, for sure. I’d like to get a quieter dishwasher eventually so I don’t have to wait to run them until after everyone’s in bed at night!

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tara dillard April 2, 2014 at 9:25 am

Open kitchens were something ‘new’ to sell.

Open kitchens are easier/prettier to photograph than closed. Magazines are sluts for pretty pictures.

It’s not only what ‘the people’ want, there are strong market forces.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:26 am

Yes! You’re so right, Tara.

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Cindy in Oklahoma April 2, 2014 at 9:30 am

When we built a home 2 years ago I wanted the open plan and my husband did not. So, our builder offered a compromise. Our kitchen has a wall but the bar comes out at an angle opening up to the breakfast area and the living area. Open, yet closed…. and the best part is I have more storage on the wall that remains. I can visit with people in the living area or I can hunker down and work. I would do it again in a heartbeat….. Also, a quiet dishwasher is the only way to go, too.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:43 am

Great compromise! I wouldn’t mind a mix of the two like that. Thanks, Cindy.

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Mary K April 2, 2014 at 9:35 am

I agree that this is one of those features that changes with time. We have moved many times and almost always had an open kitchen. When my kids were young, this was great because I needed to keep an eye out and still prepare food. Now that they are older, I would totally appreciate the closed off kitchen. With the open kitchen we have now I can’t get up in the morning and make a cup of coffee without waking the whole house up!….which has me contemplating that whole coffee maker in the bathroom concept you had on here a few months back. : ) When we finally stop moving, which will be soon, I’ll be looking for an older home with a closed off kitchen.

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LoriD April 2, 2014 at 9:36 am

I love the look of an open kitchen, but I prefer the practicality of a closed-off kitchen. We’re planning a kitchen remodel and there’s an opportunity to knock down a wall, but we have decided against it. We do tend to gather in the kitchen, but it’s where we chat, use our laptops at the table, do homework, etc. The adjoining rooms both have TV’s / Video game systems and it’s nice to have a separation from that noise.

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Olivia Glendale April 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

This was a really refreshing read. Coming from a mother of 2 high-energy kids, when I kick them out of a room, I don’t want to be able to still see them once they’ve left said room :) I also don’t want to be cutting onions, crying, while trying to carry on a conversation with my husband about Walking Dead or something.

I’m glad you touched on this. I wonder what other trends are going to die out. It’s funny how certain blogs keep trends alive. I wish more people would create their own individual styles instead of trying to replicate what they see on Houzz or Pinterest.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

There’s definitely something to be said for cooking in peace sometimes. Ha.

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Jane April 2, 2014 at 9:42 am

I once owned a house that was the perfect compromise. It had a closed off kitchen but it was huge (a wing of it’s own actually). There was room enough for a long harvest table and a walk in pantry. The laundry room was right off of it and there was room in there for the ironing board to be out at all times plus a big table for folding laundry. Plus a little bathroom that you could come in from gardening and shower and leave your dirty clothes in the laundry room. But at the same time it had a door connecting it to the formal dining room that I could close when guests arrived so they didn’t see the dirty dishes. Loved that house! But I’d hate to have to pay the heating bills these days!

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Teresa April 2, 2014 at 9:51 am

I remember as a teenager we had a late 60′s tri-level and it had a very small formal dining room. My mother had my stepfather remove the wall that separated the eat-in kitchen from the formal dining room to make it one big room. It really was much more functional afterwards having one large dining area instead of two smaller rooms. Having been on many house tours, I have seen in some older homes where there have been renovations done to create a semi-open concept which I feel is a good go between the closed vs. open kitchen.

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Mandy April 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

I love the look of an open kitchen but hate that you can hear EVERYTHING that’s going on in the kitchen. My biggest pet peeve is watching TV and my daughter decides its time to unload the dishwasher. Don’t get me wrong, I love that she actually unloads it without being asked sometimes but hearing the pots and pans clank together when you are trying to talk/enjoy a show or just read a book is highly annoying. I thought I wanted an option concept and now that I have it I want a closed off kitchen.

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Laurie April 4, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I agree with Mandy. My great room, dining room and kitchen are all in one space. We built the house and that’s what I wanted, but now I find the noise really bothers me. The dishwasher can’t be run until we go to bed, and when I want to cook and listen to music, I have to compete with my husband who is watching football on TV. I would love to have the opportunity to have a completely closed-off kitchen. Be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it!

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Carrie C G April 2, 2014 at 10:22 am

Open all the way… But get a quiet dishwasher.
We both knocked out a wall in our old 1935 colonial that made the flow of the house was vastly improved (previously you had to go through the foyer to get from the kitchen/dining room to the other ‘side’ of the house with the living room and office… You couldn’t yell loud enough to get someone’s attention if you were on the other ‘side’) and are in the process of building a new home with the open concept and no formal dining room or living room. My family ALWAYS winds up hanging out in the kitchen… or at least the women… I couldn’t have a closed off kitchen. Open conecept all the way baby!!!

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Kathy April 2, 2014 at 10:29 am

We have owned three houses with the first one a bit older but still having the kitchen partially open to the living and dining space. The last two had the great room concept with separate dining and living rooms. They worked great while our boys were growing and now that they are gone, we still like it. We have the living and dining rooms in the front when visitors stop by, with those rooms staying a bit neater, and the kitchen and family room towards the back where all the action and chaos happens. When our boys come home with their families we can still talk and catch a ball game or watch the grandkids while we are in the kitchen. No one feels like they are shut off from the action in either room. It can be lonely to sit isolated in a living room, if you aren’t part of the conversation, while the cook works in the other part of the house. Yes, it can be stressful to have others in the kitchen and I am not one to feel comfortable having others work in my kitchen but I would rather have them close by if they want to chat. I am more concerned with my guests feeling comfortable in my home. They know they can sit and talk but not have to work. We are casual folks and having an open kitchen is less formal and our guests are more relaxed. I have always felt God made us all different and what works for one is not necessarily what makes someone else happy. Besides, when I am closed off, I worry about disappointing my guests who might have expected a masterpiece, which never came out of my kitchen. Being in with me, makes them a part of it all.

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Melissa April 2, 2014 at 10:37 am

I prefer the kitchen as a separate, yet easily accessible, room. In fact, when we were looking at our current home & talking about how we could re-do its old kitchen, my husband said, “we can take down this wall and open it up to the family room,” and I yelled, “no!”

I like to cook & prepare food in peace. It stresses me out to have guests watching me…and it also stresses me out to be at someone else’s house watching *them*. I feel obliged to offer to help and then feel like a lazy shlub sitting there when they decline help.

I also like having an eat-in area in our closed kitchen. It limits the distractions of a visible tv, toys, whatever, so we can focus on enjoying the meal & each other.

Mostly I agree with the PP who said people should make their home work for them and not sort of blindly follow along with trends whether it’s right for them or not.

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The Glamorous Housewife April 2, 2014 at 10:39 am

I have a long and narrow house, so my kitchen is open to the kitchen nook, and then has french doors that separate the kitchen from the dining room, and then on the other side there is a large opening that separates the family room from the kitchen. I like the “semi” open kitchen with the option to shut the doors.

Thanks doll,
The Glamorous Housewife

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

I love your kitchen. Your built-in breakfast nook reminds me of the one we had in the old house I grew up in! xo

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Aryn April 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

For me, it really depends on what the kitchen is open to – family room, dining room, the entire first floor…. I wouldn’t mind a separate room for the kitchen. They make some very nice small TVs, so I’m sure I could find a corner to put one in so I can still watch GMA with my Rice Krispies! And I wouldn’t get bent out of shape if I left a few things in the sink!

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Hildie April 2, 2014 at 10:50 am

I love an open kitchen. But I have six kids who are always coming and going and needing fights broken up. I also spend a lot of time cooking and I would hate to miss out on my husband playing with the kids or the teenagers having an interesting discussion in the family room. We don’t have a dining room (we made it into a mudroom), so our kitchen table is all we’ve got. We entertain quite often and have to use the family room as a spill over for extra seating. I don’t how this would work if it weren’t a large enough space to accommodate everyone. We also got rid of our TV so that it would only be a zone for socializing. If you want quiet you can go to your room! But I would DIE if my front door could look into my kitchen. My big beef with an open kitchen is that it always has to be clean when people come over. Someone needs to invent some kind of pull down screen to hide the kitchen when you need to!

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

Love the idea of a pull-down screen, Hildie! I could use one of those some days. Ha.

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Michele April 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

Our 1960s ranch has the kitchen open to the breakfast area and the breakfast area is open to the family room – essentially one wall down the middle separating what would otherwise be one vast open space. I have a large peninsula where crowds can gather when entertaining. We considered taking down the one wall but decided against it – we pretty much have the best of both worlds. Smells and noise do permeate the living area at times but it is not a big deal – we have a good vent hood and PS – I start the dishwasher before I go to bed instead of during the middle of the evening.

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Oliver D April 2, 2014 at 11:24 am

I agree that whether or a kitchen should be open or closed is largely dependent on the style of house.

Around here, a lot of new construction has one large open living area with an L-shaped kitchen stuffed into a corner and an stupid looking island opposite the corner. This is a terribly lazy design in my opinion.

Our current house is a ’70s cape cod and when we bought it the kitchen was “open” to a family room but there were cabinets in the way. The formal living/dining room was accessible from the kitchen. We changed the family room to a dining room, removed the upper cabinets, and have a nice peninsula that doubles as a breakfast bar between the kitchen and dining room. So it is “open” to some extent but it isn’t a ridiculously large space. Our living room is still off of the kitchen but can be closed off via a pocket door.

To me, this setup is far superior to a completely open house.

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Cheri April 2, 2014 at 11:34 am

My kitchen is closed off and I only wish there was a small sitting area other than kitchen table and chair set, something more comfortable, otherwise it doesn’t bother me.

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bev April 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

I have always loved homes with closed rooms. When younger I wanted to live in a house like Green Gables. I wanted a house with multiple doors, fireplaces, and please throw in a few odd shapes and nooks. Now i like smaller homes but still with separate rooms. A friend had a closed kitchen and it was nice to sit at the table and talk quietly and privately with kids, tv, etc in other rooms.

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Jessica April 2, 2014 at 11:40 am

Our kitchen is what I would call “semi-closed”. ha Our house is very traditional in layout with separate rooms, but the kitchen and breakfast nook have a large opening to the formal dining, so it’s not really closed off, but still formal.
I would personally prefer more open plan, as I do have small children playing in the family room, which is off the kitchen through a narrow doorway. Opening the wall is not an option, though, because of the kitchen layout.
I also like two story great rooms, though, and I know some people don’t prefer those, either.
However, I would not choose a floorplan where you can see the kitchen from the front door.

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Beverly April 2, 2014 at 11:46 am

My problem with an open kitchen is I would have to have it cleaned all the time because it would drive me crazy it a mess was out in full view. Also the noise it creates for the family room, which is always picked up and is the most used space in our house. Close the kitchens!

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Deb April 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I am 200% in the closed kitchen camp. I hate people underfoot in the kitchen, I don’t like having to “entertain” them while I’m trying cook – especially large holiday meals – and I LOVE the fact that I can walk away from my dirty kitchen after a big dinner party, and go sit with my guests in the living room at the end of the evening without constantly looking out of the corner of my eye and the mile high dishes. In the alternative, it’s a great escape if I need a few minutes to chill during a party – go to the kitchen – away from the people and wash a few dishes and catch my breath. I don’t mind a few people hanging out in the kitchen, but to me, my kitchen is my private space.

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Maggie April 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Great topic! I (and my family) feel very passionately about this one ha! There is something so unnerving about having guests watch you as your trying to prepare a both visually and taste pleasing meal. I prefer a closed kitchen that I can indulge my artistic side without having anyone witness the failures along the way;) and then present a culinary masterpiece with a flourish through the door:) I grew up in a farmhouse in Colorado that my parents designed and built. My mom insisted that the kitchen be large (for the 5 girls in the family to cook all at once:) but closed off from the dining room with two swinging arched doors..that locked haha! Guests should respect a hostess space as she creates the gift of a delicious meal. The kitchen is the woman’s private workshop:) As the wizard of Oz put it: “Pay no attention to the man (or woman;) behind the curtain!” Haha!

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Cheryl April 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm

When we bought our 1982 home, it had only a peninsula separating the kitchen from the living room. Felt like the kitchen was IN the living room, which, in my opinion, negates the restful feeling that a living room should have. BUT I also don’t like feeling cut off from everyone else while I cook. So when we remodeled our kitchen, we replaced the peninsula with a half wall with a column on the open end. Cabinetry and the stove were installed against this wall, so I am looking at my family/guests/ (and fireplace) while cooking. From the living room, you can’t see anything but the pretty upper cabinets, windows and lighting. It’s the best of both worlds, and I love it.

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Sophie April 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm

For me, I think it really depends on the house, its design, and the people that live there. Some people entertain a lot and like an open space where they can keep an eye on the kids or chat to people while they’re cooking. Others just don’t need it.

I think I’d prefer a kitchen that’s in its own room, but I’d rather have an open kitchen than a tiny, closed off one.

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classic•casual•home April 2, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I like a small television in the kitchen and just a couple chairs or a few stools…and some division from the other rooms…I wonder if this will be a trend?

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Deb April 2, 2014 at 9:41 pm

You just described my kitchen :) We have a rolling island with two chairs (which is plenty) and my husband and I find ourselves crowded around the little tv at night watching our favorite shows while the kids are usually in the family room watching the big screen – LOL!

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Becky April 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

The home I grew up in had a very roomy kitchen with 3 exit doors (to the dining room, to the den and to the hallway). My mom entertained a lot and kept those doors closed from the guests. She said that she needed to be able to think and stay organized. She would keep her guests (usually 4 or more couples) out in the living room with plenty of cocktails and appetizers and my dad to entertain them. An open kitchen would have driven her mad.

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Brandyn | Southern Distinctions April 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I have had two open concept kitchens so far and I have to say that I now want an enclosed kitchen. I do not enjoy still smelling the evening meal when I’m trying to enjoy a night time t.v. program. What I wish for is a large enough kitchen to have a small dining or lounge area so that family or invited company can join me in the kitchen without being in the way.

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Barbara April 2, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I totally agree with you! My current kitchen is connected to the dining room by a door, for convenience. But it is totally separate from the family room, where people would gather and chat. I do have a small sunroom that is connected to the kitchen, and it can serve the “talk to the cook” function if I want it to. It’s working for me!

A related comment is about those enormous family room/Great Rooms with the two +-story vaulted ceilings. They are so hard to furnish, and end up looking cold and echoing.

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Alie B April 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Finally, someone says what I have been feelings for ages! Why does every home, be it new, mid-century or old, have to be open concept? I live in an old home which is large due to the sum of its parts. Each room is not terribly big (average I would say) but there are lots of them. There is an office in what was once a formal dining room and a family room addition off the kitchen. The kitchen has an eating area which is comfy and rather farmhouse in style. This is where everyone tends to gather. The home has nooks and crannies, and IMO, the walls don’t make the spaces feel “closed” but practical. For instance, I have no idea where my piano would go if not against the living room wall which adjoins the front hall, which seems to be the offending wall that “simply must go” on all the designing shows.

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Peggy April 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I’ve never had a house with an open plan, although I’ve often thought that’s what I wanted. I realize now, I wouldn’t like it. My all-time favorite house had the kitchen open to the dining area, but you couldn’t see the kitchen from the LR. Someone could sit at the table and visit with me while I cooked, but I also could hide away in the kitchen if I wanted to.

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Susan April 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I live in a very traditional and historic home. I love my closed kitchen. While I love to cook I really would not like to have anyone come over and walk in the house and the first thing they see is a big soup pot on the stove and onion skins on the kitchen island. My kitchen is a workroom. I don’t want to have to keep it spotless every minute of the day in case someone drops by. It’s like my studio ~ it’s a workspace. A well loved and lived in house does not look like a model home every minute. Isn’t that why parlors were created?

Big Texas Hugs,
Susan and Bentley

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Karen April 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I thinks this is a great discussion and perhaps a lesson too on how easily we can be swayed by “trend setters” (whoever they are ha :)) when it comes to design and decor. On one hand, we’re often reminded our homes should reflect our personalities and lifestyles. That is our uniqueness afterall right? But then we’re bombarded with visuals of what’s trendy and bam! we start thinking omg my house is so dated. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve considered painting my kitchen cabinets to emulate all these beautiful white/cream kitchens I see constantly. My practical side says don’t do it, they’re custom cherry cabinets that are beautiful as is – not to mention were costly. I have to remind myself often, that just because marketing research does a bang up job targeting us women, doesn’t mean I have to bite ;) I don’t have a secluded kitchen but it’s not completely open according to today’s definition but that’s the one thing I love about it. I’m fortunate that’s it’s large with a spacious eat-in area but hardly anyone sits at that table when visiting. Seems everyone gravitates to the bar stools. But I will say my family, guests follow my lead. I use my dining room a lot and everyone seems to enjoy hanging out in there too. I like the fact after eating, I can leave the dishes in the kitchen and they’re out-of-sight, out-of-mind while I’m enjoying my company in another room.

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Jeanne April 3, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Totally agree with everything you said! I also will not paint my wood cabinets. I love white and have white trim, but need the warmth of wood around me.

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Rhonda Carr April 2, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Great article!. My house is 8 years old and I would not settle for a house that didn’t have a closed kitchen and master bedroom on first floor. I have three entrances to the kitchen, one from patio, opening to family room and opening to hallway. Upon moving in, I made a mental note to add doors to the opening in the hallway and family room(have yet to do). I love the fact that having a closed kitchen keeps me in the moment and focus on food preparations. Hooray for the resurgent of closed kitchens!

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julie g. April 2, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Great topic! We live in a 1970s home with every room being separated by walls. We did take out the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create one large eat-in kitchen but the family room is completely separate and we love it!

Growing up in a home where there was a great room feel, if you were in the kitchen it was nice to feel a part of things but if you were trying to relax in the family room you could always here the kitchen noise and conversation when trying to watch t.v. and vice versa.

When entertainining large groups I do long for a larger space but 99% of the time I am happy when the men or tv folks visit in the family room and the ladies hang out in the kitchen.

Another bonus is there is no competing for attention over the t.v.!

Lastly, when I am relaxing in the family room I really don’t want to be staring at the mess in the kitchen.

After saying all this, I will add that I am amazed that I clean my WHOLE house in preparation for company and everyone always ends up in the kitchen. It seems big or small, the kitchen remains the hub of the house!

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Mary April 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Great points on this subject! Next, can you do a story on all the stupid bathroom remodels? All those lovely sleek surfaces, enormous showers, zen decorations. I look at those and think, “Don’t they have contact lens solution? Toothbrushes? Hair appliances? Washcloths? Cold cream? Where are they putting it all?!” These bathrooms always have two small drawers and no medicine cabinet, and don’t get me started on being a slave to grout….. ;)

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Ha! I totally know what you mean, Mary. I always wonder things like that, too!

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Carolyn April 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Ha! I feel exactly the same way! Where do they hide the make-up and hair stuff? If they’re in a cabinet/closet somewhere out of camera range, it sure would be inconvenient to go back and forth to get ready in the morning. And while an open sink base with rolled towels in it might look nice, it sure doesn’t give you any real storage. Where do you put the toilet bowl cleaner? Good idea for a post.

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Gur April 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

The open plan remains extremely popular, however, to a wide range of people. I’ve yet to see any new home with a completely closed off kitchen. Is it marketing? It could be — but marketing to what people are seeking in new construction. I also believe people with limited square footage get a better sense of spaciousness by coming areas into one larger space, with higher ceilings. The same square footage tends to live larger.

I don’t understand the smells comment. Smells can occur in a home with a closed kitchen as well — the answer is adequate ventilation, not a door. Also, new modern dishwashers are no louder than some swirling water — just above a whisper. Our vacation condo has neither and it is intrusive in one big open space with a loft — it lives very large and is great for entertaining, but bad for private time. To talk on the phone without disturbing tv viewing, I literally retreat to a bathroom!

Having said that, my recently main kitchen is technically, sort of closed. I wanted it open to the family room (influenced by marketing?) but due to economic concerns settled for an expanded eat-in kitchen in a combined DR/kitchen. This is a happy medium. Prior to the reno, during parties, people would try to cram into the closed kitchen, but realized it really wasn’t feasible. Now, they all come into the larger kitchen, hang out at the island or the banquette. There is also a separate tv and two normal-width open door ways lead to the foyer.

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Cheryl April 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Agreed about the smells. I love the semi-closed concept, but the cooking odors don’t come into play for me, for the reasons you mention. As far as the remaining popularity of open concept homes, this post about closed kitchens is an example of change that begins with a whisper. I have hated completely open kitchens since they began, and I welcome going back to (mostly) enclosing the kitchen. One other thing, I have a 3 year old dishwasher that is louder than my last one. It’s in the mid-price range, and I think you have to drop a bundle if you want to guarantee a quiet dishwasher.

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Marianne in Mo. April 2, 2014 at 2:50 pm

We have about a 1900 s.f. house, 7yrs. old, with open concept. I can’t run the vent for the range because it’s too loud. (one of those microwave/vent combos) Our dishwasher just died, so we got a Bosch, and it’s so quiet, you have to put your ear to it to see if it started! Hate a lot about the open concept, the noise, smells, etc. ,but I love it for entertaining. I usually try to have everything ready before guests arrive, and Just warm up or add finishing touches while we all enjoy a drink and hors d’oeuvres, so I don’t mind people there…..they end up there anyway, so it’s nice to have the room. Our old house had a cramped, 7′x 10′ kitchen, so tiny no one was allowed while I cooked! They couldn’t even get a beverage without being in the way.
Having said all that, my daughter just built a house similar to ours, but has 2400 as. ft., and it makes a big difference when comparing ours to hers. So, I am of the opinion that open is great if you have the space and good appliances. And you have to be fairly tidy, too! ;-)

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judy April 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm

It used to be that only trailers had kitchens open to other rooms. Think they were cheaper to construct. I want a real kitchen and separate dining room, too. It was not easy to find them.

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Marie April 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Great post Julia. Our homes here in Ireland tend to be smaller so it’s very tempting to knock down a wall just to get a feeling of light and space. In our last two renovations, we created an L shape layout – so when we’re watching the TV, we can’t actually see the kitchen. I must say, that particular layout works for us.

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Karen April 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I’ve lived with an open floor plan for the last 10 years and I absolutely hate it. My main complaint is the noise factor. Usually when I’m cooking, I feel like I’m in a constant battle with those who are watching television. Clanging pots and pans, the running faucet, the dishwasher noise, etc. prompts family members to turn up the volume on the TV which, in turn, gets on my nerves…..I would love to have a closed kitchen so that I could listen to music while I cook which I rarely do now. And don’t get me started about having to cook a big meal while guests and family stand around and try to chit chat or holler at whatever football game is on :)

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Kate April 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I have a large, maybe you would call it semi-open kitchen, that it is completely separated from both my family room and our living room. And I love it! I wouldn’t change a thing. I have great flow between the rooms, and when I am in the kitchen cooking, my guests can still enjoy themselves in the other rooms. When open concept became so popular, my husband almost talked me into knocking down the wall between the kitchen and the living room, and I am so glad I didn’t. I love the separation. Love it. My living room is cozy and comfortable. I don’t have to see the mess of my kitchen. My family room can be in an uproar and we can still have peace while cooking. And vice versa. I entertain all the time, and it is not unusual for me to have 50+ guests at once. So glad I don’t have open concept so my guests can see what a maniac in the kitchen I am!

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Allie April 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Ours is a closed kitchen and I wouldn’t change it. We have a door on the kitchen which reduces noise and smell (and the spread of smoke when cooking goes wrong!). I like to cook – cooking is messy by nature. I’m always cleaning and happy that it’s not all there for everyone to see.

I don’t think it’s an accident that open-concept kitchens became the rage when all of a sudden everyone wanted granite, stainless steel, chef-grade, etc. I think what made them so popular was to show them off – am I wrong? After all, it’s the room where you can by far spend the most money. Open concept is pretty but I don’t think it’s practical.

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Mole April 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I read a recent article about a multi-million dollar home–all open and vast with fabulous views. The woman who built it wound up hating it because there was no place she could go to get away from the servants! My family once lived in a 1796 home that had a little parlor for the lady of the house off the MBR. Fabulous place to hide out. So, let the kids write on the walls; I had peace.

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Brindusa April 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Our kitchen is my favorite part of the house. It has lots of wood (including two wooden posts) and … many of my wood paintings on the walls. :-) It feels quite warm and cozy to us.

It is actually semi-closed. It has an arched opening that communicates with the living-room. I can use it to pass on a tray of treats into the other room, to talk with whoever is in there, or even watch TV with them… We have a nice metal candle-holder sitting in that opening, and when all the candles are lit, both the kitchen and the living-room bask in the warm glow…

Also, instead of a regular door, our kitchen has an arched door-size opening …

The one thing we plan to work on – which I can hardly wait for – is to install some lovely arched wooden shutters for both openings. My husband is planning to make those. They will allow us to completely shut off the kitchen if/when we want to… in order to either block off the smell, or to be able to work on a culinary surprise. :-)

We’re rather pleased with this arrangement. Totally open kitchens sound like much fun, but I do treasure my walls. :-)

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Andrea April 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Great post! My kitchen is closed, but large and near the other entertainment rooms…..I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Debbie April 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Our house was built in 1977 with a semi-closed off kitchen. There’s a wall with a cut-out & faux shutters & doorway to the family room, and doors/entrances to the foyer & dining room. I LOVE that it’s practically closed off to the rest of the rooms! It gives the house a sense of coziness. My husband can be in the living room reading, I can be in the kitchen, and my kids can be in the family room watching TV and the house still feels peaceful and quiet. Someone once mentioned we should knock down the wall between the family room & kitchen, and I said “No!” I love Historic Preservation and get so annoyed when people knock down walls in old homes to modernize them. Just build a new home!

My mom, however loves an open concept kitchen, living/family/dining room. She entertains a lot and wants to visit with everyone while she prepares the meal. I completely agree that each person should have what works best for them. That said, I don’t have the heart to tell my mom that when we are at her house it’s so stressful. When some of us are trying to watch TV or carry on a conversation while she’s in the kitchen, we compete with all the noise she’s making. Things then begin to get louder & louder. Oh well! She’s happy, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut and remember I can come back to my little house with the closed off cozy rooms! :-)

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David April 2, 2014 at 6:11 pm

No one has mentioned decorating. When the kitchen is open to another room doesn’t the decor need to match? Try matching a refrigerator or microwave to your den sofa. Plus more walls mean more places for cabinets and pot racks. You have to have a lot of square footage in an open kitchen to have enough cabinets.

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hookedonhouses April 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Good point, David! It can get tricky when everything has to go together in one big, open room.

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Connie Nikiforoff Designs April 3, 2014 at 8:42 am

David, I hear ya! I have deal with this dilemma a lot in my decorating business. People have a hard time understanding that to really make an open concept kitchen work, it’ll work best if the kitchen is coordinated in colors and style to whatever room is visible from/to it. The sad thing is, sometimes the budget just doesn’t allow for work done in the kitchen and you get a very incomplete look. Sorta like buying a new suit or dress and wearing it with old, scuffed shoes ;-)

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Karen April 2, 2014 at 8:25 pm

We’ve built four homes in our 20-year marriage. House #1 had a semi-open kitchen, while Houses #2 and #3 had very open kitchens. However, for House #4, I very much wanted a “closed” kitchen. Why? Because (1) I learned I was not adept at cooking and entertaining my guests at the same time; (2) I did not like have my dirty dishes and other cooking activities visible to others in the great room or family room; and (3) those in the family room and those in the kitchen always ended up in a literal shouting match in order to be heard above each group’s conversations, the sounds of the kitchen, and the TV. Since building our new home with the closed kitchen, our guests have raved about this “new” kitchen layout. And we have found that when we are in the kitchen, we are more focused on conversation while eating, so we linger longer over family meals and when we are in the family room, we feel very cozy and connected while we watch our favorite TV shows.

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Kimberly April 2, 2014 at 8:29 pm

This was so interesting to read! We’ve lived with our opened kitchen for more than 2 years now. I still love it (and still love that it was part of your kitchens feature!), and since it’s the trend, I’ve never even pondered the thought that a closed kitchen might actually be preferred. Definitely not for me! I craved an open kitchen all those years that my children were little so that I could keep tabs on them better AND do all the hours of kitchen chores I had to do. Maybe it depends on the way a person cooks and how many hours they spend in the kitchen. I cook a LOT! Food for a family of eight: I grind my own flour and bake all our bread, hot breakfasts every morning and dinners from scratch every night. I always have some nut or bean soaking, some dough rising, some yogurt of kefir fermenting, something dehydrating, some long-cooking stock on the stovetop, and on and on and on. Even though I’m able to delegate all the cleanup now that the kids are older, I still easily spend 4-5 hours in my kitchen a day and there is NO WAY I want to go back to having to do all that isolated from everyone else. The only thing that would make it better is if I could have the laundry room off the kitchen, too, then all my chores could be in one place :)

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Kim April 2, 2014 at 8:31 pm

My house was built in 1981 – a cape cod – and had a tiny beginner version of the open concept. The previous owners remodeled in the early 90s, adding about 8 feet to the back of the house and creating a bigger open concept. While we have a semi-separate family/living room, it’s still an open sight line to the kitchen. Nice when a lot of people are in my house because it’s still relatively small and we need the room for people to mill about. HOWEVER – I HATE being able to see the kitchen mess from the main living area of my house. Drives me crazy. The kitchen is always the messiest place and I see it All. The. Time. Part of me would love a more closed off room, one with a giant eat-in area and island (think the kitchen from 7th Heaven!). But alas, not to be in my little abode so I’ll make do! Interesting topic!

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Stephanie April 2, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Our last house had an open concept with the kitchen visible from the front door. It was a beautiful kitchen – we always received compliments on what a great kitchen it was. However, you could see any book bag, school paper or empty dish from the front door, I really hated that. Our current kitchen is actually in the center of the house, not visible from the front entry, yet has a small family room attached. It’s a great concept. We plan to build soon and I already have plans on how the kitchen will not be seen, slightly separated but not isolated from the rest of the living space.

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Christabelle April 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I’ve been championing this for years. When I moved into my current downsized space of 840 square feet, I noticed, with chagrin, the granite breakfast bar. I don’t have chlidren to feed cereal to. I thought, “Okay, think Mr. Big eating Valentine’s Day dinner by himself in the Big Apple.” So I bought two gorgeous bar chairs. Distressed black wood, Tuscan gold leather seats, the backs upholstered with antique kilim rugs. Elegant, female bar chairs. Only the interior designer who sold them to me did not suggest I measure the height of the counters before spending $3,000. They’re gorgeous chairs, but my chin barely reaches the counter top. (Not a total loss), I took one of them and placed it right by the shorter stove counter so that I could have my “chef’s table” for lunch. As to the breakfast bar, I decided to ignore its original purpose. I stacked a collection of large antique tool and fruit boxes atop it, creating a wall. Inside those boxes went my considerable collection of books on health and nutrition and cooking, right at my fingertips. And my herbs and spices. Stacked almost to the ceiling. I have a wall. And a cozy kitchen. When I finish my working on writing assignments in my dining room (converted into a home office), I shut down my laptop and head into my now cozy and walled-off kitchen. I pop in a VHS into my wonderful 10″ (kitchen-sized) relic of a TV/VCR player, and start chopping and saueteing to my heart’s content. For a blissful hour, I cannot see my work and it cannot see me. It’s a delightful intimate space.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 6:07 am

I love how you got creative and made that space work for you, Christabelle!

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Susan April 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I like the idea of a closed kitchen. I love to cook and the kitchen is my “Mom Cave”!

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Annie April 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Just moved into our new home three weeks ago. 1333 sq feet designed to feel like a cabin/cottage, you walk in the front door and BAM…you’re in the smallish open concept communal area. It works for us because we LOVE to entertain. The house we moved out of was a 114 year old country house with closed off rooms. I could never, ever be with guests while I prepared the appetizers or meal. Now I can and it’s an amazing feeling. It works for us but I totally get why it doesn’t work for other folks and why it would be a huge stressor instead.

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Gum Tree Girl April 2, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I have always appreciated some divide between my kitchen and the rest of my house. In all honesty the biggest reason is because I am not the best at keeping all of my house clean and would rather not have to worry about drop in guests seeing my mess. Maybe some people feel like that is presenting a false image, but I own up to it, I just don’t want people to actually see it. :)

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desiree April 2, 2014 at 10:53 pm

It’s certainly gratifying to hear there are varying preferences. Based on watching HGTV, one would assume everybody wants to same features, options and styles. Ideally, I think the best kitchen designs, if possible, would be one that could be open or closed, via regular and/or pocket doors (pockets are my absolute fave). My current kitchen has two doors; one to the dining room, one to the common hallway. So I can completely close it off if I want to. I wouldn’t mind the kitchen-dining room opening was a little wider for various reasons. However, usually less kitchen wall space equates to less storage space, doesn’t it? I prefer maximum possible storage.

Don’t kitchen doors also serve a practical purpose? They can be closed to prevent smells and/or heat from warming up the house during hot days. If there are free running little ones, kids or pets, closed doors can prevent them from getting underfoot and possibly gettting injured from grease splatters, failing knives or hot things.

Bottom line is I don’t think of closed kitchens as making a comeback as much as the mainstream media is getting better acknowledging one kitchen style does not please all.

It might seem unbelievable if you go by HGTV shows, but many people I know (ones who use their kitchens on a regular/full-time basis) have confessed, they don’t care for stainless steel appliances because they require more cleaning to look nice. They’re not crazy for fine carrara marble countertops because it’s expensive yet sensitive to acids and stains easily. They’re not enthralled with black as the dominant color scheme in their kitchen. The lack of a wine cooler, self closing drawers, cherry cabinets, or travertine floors are not deal breakers.

We kitchen “dwellers” can be an unpredictably wild and crazy bunch! :)

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Catherine April 3, 2014 at 12:04 am

What an interesting conversation! I grew up in a house with a closed off kitchen and never really thought about it. I have lived in homes with both and, I guess, looking back on it, there is always that pressure to have the kitchen spotless so unexpected guests don’t see a pile of dirty dishes and the discomfort I have felt at trying to finish up food prep with people looking on. I distinctly remember seeing a kitchen in a magazine years ago that was in an older house and it had two doors going into it on either side (like having a circular drive I always thought) and transoms all along the top of the wall separating it from the dining area. That kitchen was so lovely. Hmmm, we are hoping to build our own home in the next couple of years. Definitely given me a lot of food for thought here! (ha ha, pun intended)

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Alkhaleejion Saudi Kitchens April 3, 2014 at 4:40 am

I am not convinced or may be people are not trying it on much larger scale. I can sense some change but whatever samples I have gone through so far they are a mixture of open and closed and lying somewhere in between anyways, good post on the change.

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Shalonda April 3, 2014 at 5:30 am

It is interesting to see how many people don’t really care for the “open concept”, granite, stainless steel get up. For a while I thought I was weird for not wanting it. I don’t own a home yet but have been happily investigating. My stainless steel fridge is constantly fingerprinted by the little ones, granite is not my style and like some of you, I too need my own space in the kitchen. Cooking isn’t always fun to me so I have my moments when I want to get it over with and be alone. Resale is important but if I spend my life savings to buy a home it will be what I want.

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Debbie :-) April 3, 2014 at 8:21 am

Bravo Shalonda! I was very happy to see that the kitchen in my house did NOT have granite or stainless steel when we were looking for houses eight years ago. I’ve heard that both are high maintenance. Stainless steel can get fingerprints and dents very easily, and granite gives off radon and radiation, although in VERY small amounts. (Everything nowadays releases something unhealthy, doesn’t it? Carpet, paint, on and on.) :-) I have to admit I think that granite and stainless steel are beautiful, but just not something I would want to maintain.

I love old houses, but my husband refused to buy a 100 year old house and settled on our 1970′s house because it had a new roof and siding, and it passed inspection with flying colors. The previous owners covered the original kitchen and master bath countertops with tile, and I love the fact that if you bend way down and look you can still get a glimpse of the original bright orange Formica in the kitchen, and fluorescent green Formica in the master bath. I just couldn’t rip all that out to put in the latest trend. Even though our house isn’t historic, I still love keeping as much original to the house as possible. And it shows what crazy trends they had in the 70′s. Who knows, 50 years from now they’ll look back at us and think we were crazy for what we put in our houses! :-)

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

Yeah, who knows what trends we’re following now that they’ll be blaming us for down the road! I have a feeling a lot of the now-ubiquitous granite countertops, for one thing…

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Anniebird April 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

We are currently designing a closed kitchen – an addition to our 1955 Colonial. I lived with a semi-open kitchen and disliked it; I didn’t like “eating with the dishes”, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of socializing in the kitchen – I love to cook, but I would much rather have most of the meal done before guests arrive so I can sip and nosh with them before we sit down to eat. Fun to see that we’re “trendy” this way :)

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Sherri April 3, 2014 at 8:03 am

Wow, this is a hot topic. We remodeled our kitcen 10 years ago. At the time, we did have a basic open concept in the kitchen/family room. I did like it, but it was looking outdated with a half railing, and of course, no wall space. So we decided to build small walls flanking a 5 foot arch. Gorgeous. The small walls enabled us to put up cabinetry and shallow lower cabinets,thereby visually enlarging the kitchen, as well as creatingthis architectually interesting arch with molding. Still kind of open, but a good look.

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Kelly April 3, 2014 at 8:03 am

Couldn’t wait to move into our open kitchen house when my girls were 4 and 6. I had had enough of constantly stopping my work to go and check on them in our old house. I quickly found I preferred checking on them to having no privacy in our new open concept house. I remember going to my in-laws’ tiny four room house and relishing the quiet in each little room. Twenty years later, my kids are grown and out of the house, and I still don’t like seeing and hearing that kitchen!

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Nica April 3, 2014 at 8:14 am

When we bought our mid-century split-level, we too knocked down most walls on the main floor. My architect husband (who doesn’t cook) wanted an open kitchen and I wanted more separation. We compromised but now we are both rethinking the decision to open everything up. I personally don’t like socializing when cooking. In fact, I think it’s rather odd. I prefer a nice glass of merlot to keep time with while preparing the evening meal. The family knows to stay away, because eventhough I’m cooking for the family, it’s “my time” in the kitchen.

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Connie Nikiforoff Designs April 3, 2014 at 8:17 am

OK…here’s my story. From when I was born to age 11, I lived in an old circa 1914 home. It was smallllll! And it had separate rooms. It wasn’t grand by any means. In 1966 my family built a new house. Mom was way ahead of the pack and told the builder to keep the entire front part of the house open. (Open concept homes weren’t really the “in” thing yet.) You came in the front door and could see the living room on the right, the dining area was right in front of you, the kitchen to the left. The only separation was the kitchen peninsula. It worked for our ranch family because there were 8 of us in the house. Mom could keep in touch with us while she cooked, we did homework at the dining room table and dad watched TV in the living room.

Fast forward to my first real house with my hubby. It was a beautiful little 1955 home with all its original features…including the fact that neither of the two prior owners had removed any walls. I LOVED the small eat-in kitchen that was a separate room. No one had to bother me while I tried to cook (I hate being “helped” in the kitchen by my guests. They’re GUESTS not skullery maids!) But because there was an open doorway to the living room, I could hear, see and visit with my guests and still have my necessary kitchen privacy. (Ha ha! You all thought privacy was only necessary in the bathroom.) By the time the meal was ready my guests could come to a beautiful sit down dinner in my cozy kitchen.

One last fast forward to our current home. It’s a rather unusual multi-level (3 actually) with what was probably a rather new concept in 1961 when it was built. It’s open from the front door (living room) up to the second level where you can see the dining area and kitchen as well as the hallway leading to the bedrooms and bath. There is a visual division of a railing on the upper level……but no separate rooms for living room, kitchen and dining area.

Do we like it? Yes and no. We chose this house because we want to do more entertaining and with this open concept it’s very easy. The kitchen is open to the main area but it’s sorta tucked back towards the back wall so there’s some privacy. And thankfully it’s only what we call a “two butt kitchen” so really any more than two people and it gets crowded. The dining area is separate so there’s plenty of room there :-)

As one of our friends stated “I liked your other smaller house better. There were separate rooms. Well this railing (by the dining area) does sorta make it into its own ‘room’ but it still feels too open to me.”

I’ve seen countless homes from early 1900′s to 1960′s “opened up” to make bigger rooms/open floor plans. It doesn’t always work! Yes, there was a reason there were separate rooms. :-)

If I had to vote for only one, I would vote for separate rooms over the open concept rooms we’ve seen builders do in the last decade or so. Several of my clients have expressed similar views. “How do I get this house to feel cozy?” Well honey, when it’s all one big room with soaring ceilings, it’s a challenge!, I tell them ;-)

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 8:54 am

Really enjoying all the kitchen stories you guys are sharing. And good point about the challenge we face when we try to make these big open spaces with high ceilings feel cozy, Connie!

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Missoula MT April 3, 2014 at 8:39 am

Funny, when I was a young wife, I said to myself that i wanted a closed off kitchen and a dining room. We moved in 09 to our “last house” and it has a closed off kitchen and a dining room. The kitchen has tons of windows inwhich I can see right into the back yard. however, the back of the brick fireplace is in the kitchen–the front, in the living room. Yep, its a corner brick fireplace. I was trying to talk my husband into painting it white. and then one of my good friends pointed out that this is just a fad. hmmmm…..i thought paint the back of the brick white?? Do you think that would look ok? and then after reading everyone’s comments, i thought this would be a good topic too. To paint or not paint a fireplace.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 8:47 am

The trend seems to be to paint all brick, period, these days, doesn’t it? I have a red brick wall in my sunroom (the original exterior of my house) and everyone always tells me I should paint it. But I actually like it the way it is, so I’m not doin’ it. I think it gives the room some color and texture and warms it up a bit (since the other walls are white beadboard and windows).

I do think painting brick that wasn’t working in a room is fine, though. If I had brown brick out there, for instance, I wouldn’t have any trouble painting over it.

I wonder if painted brick IS just a trend? Will we someday regret all the brick fireplaces and walls we painted over?

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Laurie April 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

My current house is my first with an open kitchen (7 previous houses) and I hate it! Try watching the news or talking against the racket of somebody getting ice into a glass or when I’m clattering pans around. Kitchen clutter is visible from half the house. Cooking smells waft everywhere. I will never have one again — have no objection to asking a guest to come talk to me while I cook IF I wish. One huge space for the whole family dates from earliest medieval times or even caves — separate rooms came with the growth of prosperity & civilization, and I like it that way.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

Interesting point about how separate rooms came about as civilization evolved, Laurie.

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Linzy April 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Well, actually in some regions there was a period of time where you wouldn’t dream of even having your kitchen in the same building as the rest of your house, for fear of fire. There is also the “summer kitchen”- the convention of a separate kitchenette in an outbuilding for canning and cooking so that you don’t heat the house in the hot months, that usually also included a root cellar (I think this is mostly an American New England thing, but I might be wrong). And then of course there is the plain fact that in affluent houses, small, cold kitchens tucked away in the quiet back of the house were because that section of the home was for servants only. So, that means that popular opinion at the time meant that having a kitchen that shared space with the rest of your house was a shabby thing, indeed. Kitchens used to mean sweat, smells, pests, and dirt. The meaning of the kitchen has changed, as has our relationship with food and our inclusion of family members. A long way of saying that I think that we evolve with our needs, for the most part, and I think that is what people should assess when they look to remodel or buy. So, yes, it’s a bummer when suddenly something becomes THE THING to do, and there is little else to find. For me, I love open kitchens in the right house, but I really don’t like brown/black/tan granite counters and stainless appliances. That doesn’t mean they don’t work fabulously for someone else, I just don’t think they should be considered the standard.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Well said, Linzy! It’s interesting to look back at the way our kitchens have evolved over the generations.

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Carmen April 3, 2014 at 9:24 am

For the amount of money we spent on cabinetry, counter tops, tile, flooring and appliances, there’s no way in heck I’d close off my kitchen. It’s beautiful! Why hide it?

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 9:59 am

That’s a good point. Another reader mentioned that we started opening our kitchens when they became “showplaces” where we were spending many thousands of dollars on higher-end finishes and appliances. Makes sense that people would want to show them off!

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Carmen April 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I also agree that needs vary from family to family and the particular stage of life that they are in. I also don’t like to be closed off from everyone when we entertain. I want to socialize too. I don’t mind people watching me and I also don’t mind people seeing that we actually live in our house. I keep a very tidy house, but I won’t faint if someone stops by and I have a sink full of dishes. Chances are, they do too:)

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Carolyn April 3, 2014 at 9:37 am

This has been such an interesting thread. Another thought I had on the subject – if the house is small, say less than 1500 square feet – a closed off kitchen (no eat-in area) doesn’t work quite as well. It would feel pokey and adding extra windows would only eliminate storage space. It’s an old trick to visually ‘borrow space’ from adjoining areas, and in small homes they compensate for the lack of floor space by extending sight lines. A small kitchen in a small house can feel really cramped if it’s enclosed, and if there’s more than one person at a time will feel crowded. However, there are clever ways to segregate it without totally walling it in if thought is given to the floor plan. But for the cook who likes to be alone in her/his domain, she/he may only be satisfied with walls and a door.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

I think you’re right, Carolyn. A lot has to do with the size and scale of the house. If you have a truly tiny kitchen in a small house, opening it up can make it a lot easier to work and eat in.

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Linda @ a design snack April 3, 2014 at 9:42 am

I’m new to your blog. And I’m so glad to read about the great kitchen debate. I think much depends on architecture but my personal preference is a more closed off kitchen. Our first house had a tiny but very efficient galley style kitchen. It was great, only room for two so guests were content to stay in the living room.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 10:01 am

Welcome, Linda! Nice to hear a new reader’s thoughts on the Great Kitchen Debate. :-)

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Laura April 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

I live in a 100+ year old house which still has its original floor plan. We wouldn’t dream of taking out walls and making it “open concept” – it would ruin the character of the house. The kitchen is closed, and I like it – it’s got a fireplace and back steps and tons of character. I just wish it was bigger so if I wanted some company when I’m cooking it would be an option! So I definitely vote for the traditional closed kitchen, as long as it’s also a nice sized eat-in kitchen.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 10:31 am

Ooh, I’ve always wanted a kitchen with a fireplace and back staircase!

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Alie B April 3, 2014 at 10:26 am

Wow, Julia…..101 comments! Is this a record? :-)

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 10:32 am

Ha. Not quite, but it’s getting up there! :-)

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Elizabeth April 3, 2014 at 11:23 am

When we were looking at houses I told my realtor I wanted a “French” kitchen. A small efficient room in the back of the house that opened to the outside, a good place for a garden. I did not get one, maybe next time. I hate having people in my kitchen. I feel like even adults (and always children!) just constantly ask for things like you are just standing behind the counter taking orders! Of course then they always say “oh just tell me where it is and I will get it myself” no! You are a guest, have a drink, go relax by the fire, I will be out when I am done which will be a lot sooner if you get the heck out of my kitchen!
Can you tell I hate open kitchens? Don’t even get me started on counter seating…

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Erin April 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

I guess people feel strongly about the subject. I have lived with both and I much prefer an open kitchen; however, I don’t want it open to the entire house, just to the family room/dining area. My kitchen/great room are on the back of the house and can’t be seen from the front door- I picked this plan with that in mind. We are a casual family. I have a formal dining room/living room that we do use for holidays or when we are entertaining big groups, but day-to-day, I DO like being able to watch TV while I prep dinner, or have the kids at the kitchen table doing homework while I’m prepping snacks. Even most of our parties are casual and everyone tends to stand around the island to visit. PS- This is our second open-plan kitchen. I ordered the silent dishwasher….so worth it!

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Screendoorgirl 3 April 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

So funny! Cost is keeping me from knocking down walls, so maybe I’ll save myself a few bucks and keep my kitchen a bit closed off. I do agree that the clutter would bother me, and I am a bit nervous cooking for company. I try not to tell them to talk amongst themselves, though. Thanks for sharing all!

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Hilary April 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Wow I had no idea that so many people felt like me and didn’t like/want the great room concept. I actually just wrote a blogpost about it just a bit ago but I think I am the only person that reads my blog so it didn’t get much traction. ???? it describes in detail why I like a kitchen separate and has pictures of my kitchen. Please feel free to check it out because of the relevance to this topic (bonus it has cute kitchen pictures too. ) The address is http://lotsofcalls.blogspot.com/2014/01/lets-talk-kitchens.html?m=1. Btw love your blog…thank you.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I love your kitchen, Hilary! Wish I’d seen your post when I was researching this one. I enjoyed reading it — thanks! :-)

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Jeanne April 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

My kitchen is closed with two doorways, one to the family room and one to the dining room. I wished it were open to the family room when the kids were little, but somehow they grew up fine without me watching every minute. Now I am glad I cannot hear the Nintendo too much, nor the Star Trek marathon coming from the living room – which we use as another, slightly better furnished family room. If I ever design my own house, it will have a cozy, mostly closed off kitchen with a sitting area and fireplace at one end. However, I also love the small house designs and most are open kitchens. Notice how the more houses open up the rooms, the higher the divorce rate:) “I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker, Spock!” – I can only take so much of that.

In one of the Parade Homes last year I saw a beautiful,high end, large kitchen in a very open floor plan. It had a lovely huge island – could easily sit six on one end. There was a door next to the fridge which I thought went to a pantry – it did, sort of. The pantry turned into a long room that ran behind the main kitchen wall. It had shelves and a counter and 16 outlets. It might have had a sink too. The builder said it was for the small appliances – so they would not take up counter space (and ruin the look?) of the outer kitchen. So, I said that the “pantry” was the real working kitchen so as not to mess up the beautiful show kitchen – and the builder laughed and agreed! Like anyone would want to cook in a huge closet.

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hookedonhouses April 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Too funny, Jeanne. That will probably be the next big trend — a kitchen for show and an extra-big pantry where we go to do the real (messy) work. Also, I can totally relate with you on the Star Trek marathons thing. Ha.

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Lili April 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I instantly want a work pantry now. Darn you!! Lol.

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Lori W. April 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I’ve lived in my house for 25 years, and it had an ugly little kitchen with a poor set-up. About 5 years ago we removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and we love it. Our house is quite small, so this gives us more room, especially when the family visits. Plus, in our family, we all seem to end up in the kitchen, so my new open kitchen is great. It’s also a great motivator to get the dishes washed!

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Kristi@Chatfield Court April 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is so interesting. I have always wanted an open kitchen and I have always had closed off kitchens. I think it would be nice to sit on the sofa and talk to my husband while he cooks. Now, because it’s just the two of us and because the kitchen is small, he cooks in the kitchen by himself and I am usually in the living room. It’s not ideal. I never thought about seeing the mess or the noise with having an open kitchen. I always just thought that it was the “thing” to have. Thanks for the good read Julia.
Kristi

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Lili April 3, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I am a big fan of older homes, and because of that, I’m a proponent of every room being individual and having its own purpose. I like a big kitchen, but I do NOT like an open kitchen. In fact, I don’t even like eat in kitchens, where there is a designated blank rectangle at the end of your room for a table…. even if there is a dining room somewhere else. So… build walls!

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Meg April 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Love this post! Thanks for bringing to light the topic.

My husband and I looked for a house for 2 years, and finally purchased one year ago (the cost of living is high, and we were trying to ensure we were fully financially ready, could get the square footage we wanted, in our ideal neighborhood). He didn’t like open floorplans, and I thought I did. Now we are renovating one.

I read somewhere that having an open floorplan is distracting, and now I agree. You have to ensure that every room flows from one to the next so well. Your line of site is so open that you can see when one room is a mess (even if you’ve cleaned another). While redoing our living room and dining room currently, I’m finding that our kitchen now looks out of place.

Interesting topic in this very pro open kitchen and floorplan era.

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Marie April 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Smaller kitchens are certainly more cozy.

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desiree April 3, 2014 at 6:50 pm

This great discussion has me wondering about the design evolution of the kitchen space. I presume things started with the one room house model that was common back in the early pioneer days (pure open concept). Then came a design that separated the sleeping area(s) from the main family/dining/cooking area. Possibly that was the first “open kitchen concept”? :) Then, perhaps, over time house designs evolved into more divisions, separating rooms by very specific functions (parlor, family, dining, kitchen, pantry, library, den, guest rooms, lots of closets, etc.). The pendulum swung from one extreme (one room) to the other (tons of rooms).

Now, it seems, the pendulum has begun to reverse its swing?

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Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) April 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Julia, I got a giggle out of what Durf said…she basically said what I’m thinking but am too chicken to say, “Leave me alone so I can’t finish up!” lol I can’t even watch TV and cook sometimes…I end up mixing up the wrong thing or adding in the wrong ingredient, etc… What I do love are kitchens that are open to a small “keeping room” or hearth room. I love that because it’s like having a small den or seating area in your kitchen. That’s a great place for little ones to hang out if you have small children and it’s a good place for a TV so you can watch while your washing dishes or doing something boring. But I do prefer the living room/family room be separate because I’d much rather sit and enjoy my guests in a comfy family room than stand in a kitchen half the night. Okay, stepping off my soapbox. ;)
This was a great topic…loved reading the discussion!

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Laura April 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I’ll weigh in on the “prefer it closed” end of the spectrum. Love a big eat-in kitchen with an actual table, thank you. I’m not five and don’t want my feet dangling while I eat a meal. And it’s a kitchen, not a diner counter, so I want to look my family in the eye while we eat! To chime in about how houses have changed throughout history, here’s a link I thought I’d share about the evolution of the modern floorplan and how the rooms came to be. It’s written by the woman who is the chief curator of the historic royal palaces in the UK. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/history_of_home.shtml#five
The author also talked about this at length as a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air and it was available as a podcast at one point, but I can’t find the link now.

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Paul Mooney April 3, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Hi Julia

Very interesting reading everyone’s kitchen stories and experiences. In Australia, every project home you visit have open plan kitchens/dining/family living rooms. It is also rare to see formal lounges and dining rooms in most new home plans. Most Australian homes are designed around informal entertaining that incorporates outside areas as well. This trend started in the 80′s and continues and in fact you just don’t see closed kitchens in new homes. What you do see however is the ‘Butler’s Pantry’ in more and more new homes. Originally these were really just a large walk in pantry, that maybe also had a fridge in there as well. In some new home plans, these have evolved to include a sink and maybe dishwasher, as well as even hotplates, built-in coffee machine, and microwave and also an oven – setup much like a small kitchen!. In fact you now often see the main kitchen as sort of a ‘show’ kitchen with the stone benches, up-market cooking appliances, etc, and then the butlers pantry set up as another kitchen. The idea that you do all the food prep and cooking in the butlers pantry where the mess is hidden. So I think we may see the concept of the closed kitchen plus an informal eating area take off again; with a separate larger dining area with the living area for when you have guests.

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BT April 3, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I love having a closed kitchen. I don’t like people looking over me while I cook. But mainly I just love old houses. I love all the nooks and crannies and different rooms. I don’t want to feel like I’m in some huge loft, that’s just not my style.

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Maddie April 4, 2014 at 2:05 am

This is an interesting and timely topic for me. I just bought a small flat near the beach in a community that was developed in the 1960s. It was hard to find one that had not been remodeled with a kitchen that you could see as soon as you opened the front door. Yuck! I am not that neat and my cooking skills do not warrant being put on display. I plan to renovate in a few years when I move there full time, and I do not want a kitchen island in my living space!

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Not so Plain Jane April 4, 2014 at 6:38 am

Great topic and very timely for me. We recently put our home on the market, though our home is only 13 years old, it is not an open floor plan. When we bought the home, I wanted the kid paraphernalia to remain in their bedrooms – on a different floor of the house! It worked great for us. The other reason the closed off kitchen worked for us was, when you are done cooking, people don’t have to see your mess! Now since having put the house on the market, the comments are, “It’s lovely, decorated nicely, but….we really want an open floor plan.” I just want to scream when I hear it for the hundredth time! Think outside the box or should I say “open floor plan” people. Seriously, I am thinking about making copies of this informative article and leaving it on the counter next time we show our home.
Thank you for sharing this with the world!

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Jennifer April 4, 2014 at 7:48 am

I agree! I wish my kitchen was more closed off because it gets so loud in our great room, especially when we have parties. It is almost impossible to watch tv or even have a conversation in the family room. I don’t think I would like it completely closed off with a door, but a wall to minimize the noise would be great. Not to mention to hide the kitchen mess!

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Johanna April 4, 2014 at 8:22 am

I loathe open concept kitchens and the open concept design in general. To me it’s just another manifestation of our modern culture of oversharing. Complete transparency in ALL THE THINGS! No, thanks. I like boundaries. I’m a private person and cooking is a form of meditation for me.

We have a pair of French doors with plenty of glass that separate the kitchen from the living area. I can still see what’s going on in the other rooms and open up the space so it flows when I want. I designed it myself and that’s how I like it. Plus, the high vaulted ceiling and skylight lend a lot of breathing room. There’s a long peninsula ‘breakfast bar’ if people really want to hang out and I feel like letting them.

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Dawn April 4, 2014 at 9:36 am

I’ve always preferred older houses with separate, distinct rooms. That doesn’t feel “chopped up” to me, to use a phrase heard often on HGTV. It creates a private oasis out of each living area, and also makes decorating more fun, as there is no worry about whether or not the rooms blend perfectly with each other.

I have a semi open kitchen – the dining room is adjacent, but you can’t see the cooking area from the table. Since we didn’t need two tables within six feet of each other, we have seating in the eat-in portion of the kitchen, so a small den of sorts. I love it – that gives me the flexibility of having guests hang out in the kitchen if I want or doing more formal entertaining in the living room with the kitchen mostly out of sight. Best of both worlds!

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jep April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

I too have a semi-open kitchen much like what Dawn described and we have very separate rooms in our ten year old house with pocket doors, so we can close off the dining room from the den/living room when we have guest and I can wait to clear the table if I want to do it that way. We love our house plan and are so grateful not to have an open plan.

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hookedonhouses April 4, 2014 at 10:50 am

Ooh, I love the idea of pocket doors that can close the rooms off when need be!

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Erin April 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

Both my mother and mother-in-law have open kitchens. Despite the fact that this is advertised as a way to be social with guests, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you say to them when they are in the kitchen must be repeated because the water’s running, the dishwasher’s going, the oven’s beeping, etc. And all that noise filters into the living room (neither has a separate living and family room situation) and makes it impossible to enjoy music or conversation. I personally have a closed kitchen and I love it. I can hide a mess, my guests can chat with the husband, I can keep people OUT while I’m prepping food. And when they are all at the dinner table, I can still hear if I’m bringing dirty dishes back to the kitchen after the meal. We’re moving in the next few years and any house with an open kitchen will get automatic CON points from us. Also, anything with vaulted ceilings. No thanks.

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Alexandra April 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

My husband absolutely hates open kitchens and we don’t have one – or ever will have, if he can do something about it. He’s a bit traumatized because, when growing up, whenever he was watching tv in the family room, he’s mother would feel this urge to go to the kitchen and start picking up pans and plastic bags and generally making noise. I’m European and only in recent years has this open kitchen thing become popular.

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Sharrieboberry April 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

I think of the kitchen as the messiest room in my house. And I’m constantly cleaning it but I’m glad it’s not open to the living room. I like my kitchen separate. It’s not visible to the other family areas, my view is of the backyard and garden, and when cooking messier food items, I like to think it doesn’t migrate as much to other rooms as it would with an open concept.

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Marie April 4, 2014 at 11:50 am

I have had all kinds of kitchens since I am now in my seventh house. A kitchen that is open to the family room and has eating space in a house that has formal dining and living rooms can work out for all different types of entertaining. Lately, though, I saw a house with a kitchen behind the open kitchen, so that the smelly or messy food prep and cleanup can take place out of sight. I’ve never had that arrangement. I would also think a kitchen that can be closed off with some kind of moving walls (more for a modern house) would be interesting.

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lynn April 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

I grew up in a house that was built in 1964 and it had a open kitchen to the living area. My mother loved it because she never felt like the chief cook and bottle washer. I have had open concept kitchens since 1996 and have loved every single one of them. I like that I don’t feel so isolated from everyone. It also makes me keep a very tidy kitchen and living area. I love everyone being together!

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MariaTheresa April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Oh, thank the heavens! I thought I was the only person in the world who likes SEPARATE rooms! We did our kitchen 14 years ago and had the option of making a large family room to adjoin it. We opted not to do it. We do have a very large kitchen and it is the room everyone gathers in for parties and such, and I’m fine with that. I just didn’t want cavernous space. Now we are building a new home and the builder/designer came up with our floor plan and while it’s not closed off, there is a distinct separation between kitchen and great room (which I now want!). And no vaulted ceilings, please! Of course, the downside is, as we try to sell our current house, is that some people have crossed us off their list because of the lack of a family room adjoining the kitchen.

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JoLynn April 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I love your website Julia~ It’s the treat I give myself every Friday- so thank you!
I live in a stone cape code with arched doorways.,so our rooms are separate but allow for visual openess. I keep resale in mind, but you should LIVE in your house. Create a home environment that you and your family enjoy. Make memories. Create a growth chart on the wall, etc. Make it a home, not a house.
Granite, stainless and open shelving are all trends. I’m a big fan of being true to your homes architecture, classic design that functions and lots of storage.
In a modern home, I might do an open kitchen, but in my 1930′s stone cottage it wouldn’t work.

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hookedonhouses April 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I agree — “Make it a home, not a house.” Thanks, JoLynn!

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Peggy April 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I love my 1946 closed kitchen…I thought I was alone.

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theresa lynes April 5, 2014 at 3:18 am

In England closed off kitchens are in most houses. I always thought I would love an open kitchen, to open up on my living room, very open plan. However, when we thought about it, we realised how much people would see through the house. We also thought about heating, and how much easier it is to heat up closed off rooms. So we are going to stick with our closed kitchen and love it as it is.
Also, how easy is it to close off the kitchen when you have guests and don’t want to tidy up straight away!

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stefania April 5, 2014 at 3:47 am

It is very interesting to read all the different opinions about open/closed kitchens!
Here in Italy we have closed kitchen in the 99% of the houses, I could say. In fact, an open kitchen is called “American kitchen”.
We all love you big, open kitchens with a separated dining room and a separated living room.
We don’t have enough space to have a dining room, a kitchen with a table and a living room.
Usually we have a kitchen with a small table, and a living room which is used also to entertain guests. So, basically, if you have guests you dine in the living room, the same room with the sofa and TV etc…
And there are a lot of smaller houses which don’t have enough room for a table in the kitchen.
About open/closed kitchen, I prefer the closed ones. An open kitchen is beautiful in a magazine or in a TV show, but when you actually live it it is more complicated.
I had an open kitchen in my very small apartment, years ago, but it is true that when you cook you make noises and disturb the people on the other side of the room. Also, when the kitchen is a mess, you cannot close the door. And when you cook, the smell goes around.
In this apartment I have a closed kitchen and I like it better.
However, when I go on vacation I am more attracted by houses with an open kitchen, but maybe that is because I know that I won’t be cooking and cleaning a lot, so I am more inclined to like them.
:-)

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hookedonhouses April 5, 2014 at 7:13 am

Interesting that they’re called “American Kitchens” there! I guess it makes sense that they’d be more common here. Thanks, Stefania.

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Andrea April 5, 2014 at 7:45 am

When we had our house built, the plan called for an eating counter open to the family room. The kitchen had plenty of room for a cozy family table and the formal dinning room was in the other direction, so I felt no need to have the stools and counter set-up. Instead I had the builder forget the counter and raise that wall by two feet.

This meant I could see into the family room but the small wall made all my kitchen mess invisible from the family room and kept the noise down. I can see my guests and add a few words to the conversation but mainly I tune them out and concentrate on my cooking.

This makes the family room much prettier, without the sight of a sink and appliances and it adds wall space for more seating or a piano, etc.

I really don’t want my guests talking to me while I’m cooking, so I let my husband do the pre-dinner entertaining. I tell them it’s all so if I drop a steak on the floor I can pick it up and put it back on the platter.

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Trent April 5, 2014 at 1:11 pm

House hunting was a nightmare for me My Family and Realtor both beleived I needed a newer open concept house (no doubt a product of constant media brainwashing) But I had to say more than once “I love walls” If i’m not cooking I don’t want to be in the kitchen etc. etc. In the end I got a 1918 bungalow with the original layout and love it ! I think its a matter of taste and depends on the house too but for me its all about the individual rooms !

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maryrose April 5, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Thank you, Julia! I applaud the return of common sense to the “closed” kitchen trend! A few years back, Midwest Living Magazine used to feature an Idea Home of the Year. In 2004, they showcased a lovely Tudor in Naperville, Illinois. This is what they had to say about the kitchen:
This quote from a writer of Midwest Living (Sept./Oct.2004) says it all:
“Regardless of an English home’s scale, the kitchen is usually one of its largest rooms. Big enough to handle family meals and entertaining, it’s also cozy enough for two friends to share a cup of tea. We replicated an older home layout by separating the kitchen and family room. Keeping noise, odors and views of dirty dishes out of the family’s main living space is a part of stress-free comfort.”

Yes to stress-free comfort! I lived with an open concept floor plan for five years and could not wait to leave. I jumped at the chance to move to our fifty year old colonial with traditional floor plan. Our kitchen is tucked away in the back of the house, just where I want it. I no longer have the problem of trying to escape from noises and smells travelling everywhere. Thick plaster walls provide sound barrier and make it so much easier to place furniture, decorate and hang artwork. Hopefully, HGTV enthusiasts will get smart to this new trend!

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Becky April 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Dang, now I want to put walls up in my kitchen. I do see the points being made. And I am CONSTANTLY missing places to hang things, or put pot racks … there simply are NO walls. A kitchen is much more useful when you can have everything you need within easy reach, and all that battery de cuisine is not really attractive.

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NikNak April 5, 2014 at 10:19 pm

I don’t like the open kitchen concept. I love a large kitchen, with room for a kitchen table (in place of that annoying kitchen island that every seems to love so much), but I want my cooking mess that I leave to rest for a few hours to be out of my sight.

And, I think HGTV has totally ruined open concept for me. It seems so “common” now, that along with granite countertops. Only way I can get down with it is if its a small home and it would make the whole place feel less cramped.

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Anjanette April 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm

My sister is an architect and she told me that the whole open kitchen concept was driven by contractors who were looking for ways to find more profit in each house. Fewer walls, doors, and cabinets equal greater profit. She helped us design a home with a closed kitchen that we love.

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hookedonhouses April 6, 2014 at 7:14 am

Interesting!

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nancy April 6, 2014 at 6:09 am

Some of the bloggers mentioned that don’t like the open concept are people who don’t cook. I love not being closed off from everyone else while I cook and clean. I felt as if I was being banished off to do the kitchen chores while everyone else was enjoying the conversation with company.

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Emily April 6, 2014 at 9:19 am

I wonder if making kitchens so central to family and home life has made a small contribution to people gaining weight. We’ve read about how portion sizes are much larger now than they were a generation ago…serving bowls are bigger and so on. But hanging out in the kitchen or having the kitchen constantly in your peripheral vision while you’re watching TV, reading, surfing the net and so on might be a part of it, too. All that food is never far from sight or mind, and perhaps it also increases eating just to be sociable.
(I personally hate open-plan kitchens, although for me it’s because it’s hard to enjoy a meal while looking at the mess I’m going to have to clean up afterward.)

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hookedonhouses April 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

What an intriguing theory! I wish someone would do a study or research on that for us. I think you might be onto something, Emily!

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laura Madalene April 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I love how you have decorated that wall of your kitchen. The tea towel idea is really sweet. I have used these strips on our new cabinets too and they work great. I recently added one to the backside of the valence over the kitchen window/sink area to hang an old wire egg basket. Thanks for sharing your decorating ideas. I hope you have a beautiful day.

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Jonia April 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Wow! A whole lot of opinions on this one! This should be fun :)

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Jennifer Hungerford April 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

When we built our house, I knew that I needed a (fairly) separate rooms for my own sanity. I like things neat and tidy, but the reality is that my roomy kitchen is the hub of the home and is used constantly, everyday, by all members of my family (my husband works from home and I homeschool our two children), and it rarely is spic and span. Dirty dishes accumulate in the sink, the toaster sits out beside the panini grill, school work is piled on the island along with craft projects, and the mail is mingling with the fruit bowl. Although the dining room is immediately accessed through a wide opening, the kitchen still maintains it’s own identity. I also enjoy knowing that my living room is in a calmer, quieter part of my house, and I do not have to look at my kitchen when I am ready to sit down and take a break from life.

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Cina1006 April 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I have not viewed this website in several months, but today I was looking at ideas for my kitchen and I am so glad this topic came up!

My house is 9 years old and our kitchen is “closed off” from the great room/dining room area. I was thinking that this may be a hinderance if we try to sell our home, but now I am glad to see that the tide is turning a little.

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Donna April 7, 2014 at 12:11 am

This post certainly got people talking (well typing).

I have a closed kitchen. I loved it pre children when I had actual sit down dinner parties.

Now, two children later it doesn’t suit my family.

Our much planned/dreamed renovation will be open plan but with the kitchen in the nook of the L shape. The best of both worlds. The dining room will be separate for special occasions.

Donna from Australia.

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Luciane at HomeBunch.com April 7, 2014 at 8:41 am

Hi Julia!

It’s wonderful to be back here! We lost power for a more than three days where we live and it took me some time to get everything back to normal.

This is one interesting post! I really enjoyed reading it and its comments. You all made so many great points here.

I have a very open house and I hate it! LOL That’s the main reason I want to sell our current home. It’s nice and beautiful, but I want a cozy home…. something you can’t really get with open-concept.

Have a Blessed week, my friend!

xo

Luciane at HomeBunch.com

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hookedonhouses April 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

Oh, no! Three days without power? I get the “shakes” when ours goes out for more than two hours. Ha. Glad you’re back online, Luciane! :)

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sarah April 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

5 years ago when we were looking at houses i was very specific about not wanting an open kitchen. i wanted a kitchen that was separate from the dining room and living room. i want to be able to sit down to my meal or relax in my living room and not see the mess in the kitchen. our realtor had quite a time finding us a home that didn’t have an open kitchen. we have a large kitchen in the middle of the house so i can hear everything going on but can leave the kitchen (and the mess) when i want to. we entertain a lot and i have never found a separate kitchen to be an issue.

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Ken - the OldHouseGuy April 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

The open kitchen is just a fad and a way to get the economy moving by getting the homeowner to pay for more construction. Please do not do this in an older or historic house. The style conflicts. There are 11 reasons against the open kitchen plan.

Click on my name and see my argument.

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hookedonhouses April 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Interesting points, Ken — thanks!

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mary April 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

We built our house in 2007 and I knew I wanted walls, halls, and doors which our contractor didn’t quite understand at the time. Everything he was building was open floor plans. We don’t have formal rooms, only the basic rooms, but they are large. So our kitchen is an eat-in kitchen and we and all those that visit enjoy that room. We actually live in our kitchen most of the time. We have a T.V. that is in a cabinet that can be closed up when not in use. There will be days on end that the family room is never even stepped into. I am still very happy with a kitchen with walls and doors.

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Michelle April 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Almost two years ago my husband and I bought our house which was built in 1935. The kitchen is it’s own room (with a little breakfast nook). I thought I would hate it, but I have grown to love creating meals without the distraction of TV. It’s kind of become a place of meditation!

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hookedonhouses April 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I like that, Michelle — “A place of meditation!” Sounds good to me. :)

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tammyCA April 8, 2014 at 1:38 am

I don’t like the contemporary open concept kitchens/living area that feel like a warehouse. I like walls & division and rooms that flow into one another. My house is small and has a pretty good circular flow from galley kitchen to dining area to living area and back around the fireplace wall and hall. I’m the person who does not like having people in the kitchen while I’m cooking..please get outta my way and god forbid I should have an audience! I can still hear and participate in conversation if I choose, while they are in the family room or dining area. I really love this layout but there are times I wish I had pocket doors at both ends to keep out the dogs!

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Kristin April 8, 2014 at 1:47 am

Lots of great comments on this topical/timely article. Good thinking for posting this.

Factors that promote the closed kitchen:

Noise

Odors

Heating/cooling expense. Anyone who’s gone from closed to the despicable “open concept” will find all too soon how high their A/C and heating bills skyrocket trying to control a very large and temperature fluctuating area.

Formality: the open concept thing is just too familiar and vulgar to me. Every couple on those home buying reality shows all say the same, boring refrain “um, we want an Open Concept” Booooorrrring!

Expense: knocking down a supporting wall ? You need to add a support beam that can handle your entire roof almost. What a huge, huge waste- all that work, all that tearing down and clean up, how is this in any way “green”?

If Julia Child could pop out gourmet meals from her tiny closed French kitchen, we ALL can. And who are all of these people that “entertain” all the time that need their guests to see their dishes and pots steaming on the stove? Sorry, my guests don’t need to watch me stir the spaghetti.

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Wendy April 8, 2014 at 10:35 am

I’m a closed-kitchen girl. We had 3 open concept houses before we built this house. I purposely built a house with rooms. Our kitchen has a breakfast area, butler’s pantry and powder room area, it also connects to my domestic office. We have French doors that connect to the family room that I can shut. When I was the cook (now it’s my hubby) I hated the tv/family noise while I cooked. It was distracting and gave me headaches. Now I can hear what’s happening in there or close those doors!!! (Goes for being in the family room while hubby is cooking and watching sports too ;-)

I also opted for rooms because I always noticed how much darned wasted space there was in my other houses. Yes, lots of square footage, but probably 500 square feet were wasted. I called them dance floors. It’s that no man’s land between the living room and dining room. Or in our case we had an area where the entry way met the hall from the garage that met the breakfast area/kitchen/family room. I counted our 12″ square tiles one time–about 20 were in an area that was used for NOTHING but space.

My mother has made an interesting note about open concepts: they’re cheaper for builders. Less walls, less money. Also this no upper cabinet stuff in open kitchens? Again, less money. Maybe we were sold on “open” because it was cheaper for them. LOL

I love my closed kitchen and my house that has actual rooms. :-D

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Jeff W. April 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I have always been on the fence about open kitchens. The reality is that no matter how good your exhaust hood is, you still have to contend with grease-laden vapors. Believe me, they are there. Do you really want that on your upholstered furniture?

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Beverly May 8, 2014 at 11:46 am

Fires are more contained in closed off rooms that open ones! My furniture are not showpieces! They have been well “USED”! Gee, I wonder how my grandparents dealt with it??! Seeing how I inherited some of those pieces and none have any grease vapor residue on them!!

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Darlene April 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Closed please! I rent so no option for me but thankfully there is a wall between my kitchen and living room. A friend downsized to a tiny townhouse when you sit on the sofa watching tv you can see the kitchen and the FRIDGE ! Staring at a fridge would make me hungry! The ideal would be Mary Tyler Moore shows kitchen it can be open or closed.

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hookedonhouses April 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I always loved her little kitchen on that show!

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Dee April 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm

I love my closed kitchen in our 1946 house. When we remodeled the kitchen last year(down to the studs), the one thing that I said must stay was the swinging door to the formal dining room!

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hookedonhouses April 8, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I always thought it would be fun to have a swinging door like that in the kitchen! :)

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desiree April 9, 2014 at 12:24 am

I just heard something in the news that clearly indicates walls are good. The fire department rep stated fire easily spread through one house because of its open floor plan.

Since one the of the most likely rooms in a house that could be a source of fire is the kitchen, having a kitchen that can be closed-off would be a good safety feature.

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hookedonhouses April 9, 2014 at 6:18 am

I never even thought about the safety aspect of it, but it makes sense now that you mention it!

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Ken - the OldHouseGuy April 9, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Excellent point!
Safety is one way to maintain the integrity of a old or historic home. Homeowners may not be concerned about preservation but they are concerned about safety.

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Jamie April 14, 2014 at 1:52 am

I have been saying this for years! I want my rooms to have walls, esp my kitchen. We are searching for a home right now near Merritt Island Florida and every house has the kitchen in the middle of the house with no windows and open to all rooms with a bar. Just no! It needs to be its own room.

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Maggie April 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm

The first thing I did when we moved into our home was take down the swinging doors dividing the kitchen and family room. This last year we removed half the wall as well and put in a breakfast bar. I absolutely love it! My teenagers sit and talk with me while I’m cooking, I can watch TV in the family room and I don’t feel like I’m stuck by myself in the back of the house while everyone else is interacting without me. I was very resentful about being the only in the kitchen when that wall was still up.

Of course we don’t entertain formally. Our friends are like family and help with meals or just sit at the breakfast bar with a drink and chat while I’m cooking. I don’t understand the mess statement. Cooking does make a mess, but so what?!? Life is messy and if my guests are going to get the “vapors” from seeing a few dirty dishes they probably aren’t the right fit for our family anyway. But it’s possible I feel this way because I live now and grew up in a very informal part of the country. Formal meals with formal dishes and formal rooms are very far removed from most homes in our area, even the wealthier ones.

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Jill April 18, 2014 at 9:40 am

My husband and I bought our dream house at the beach which has a open concept kitchen/dining room/living room. Terrific for entertaining… till our guests leave and we can’t hear the television over the dishwasher (no matter how ‘quiet’ it’s advertised!) And we won’t go into having to clean the kitchen before guests arrive….

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Helen Bryant April 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I so agree with the comments about how open concept is right for some homes. Also age of the occupants can be a consideration. We live in the home that I grew up in. My parents raised the 4 of us in a typical New England home built in 1873. The first floor has a living room, kitchen and dining room. Each one a separate room. My dad cut the veranda in half and enclosed it to create a full bathroom and a sunroom. As my parents aged I saw how useful those separate rooms became. They were able to easily live on one floor. We moved in after my dad died and we were able to create separate living space for my family while being available to my mom. My mom lived to be 93 and we saw how helpful it was to be on a first floor with separate rooms to have privacy. After she passed away I briefly considered opening the walls but quickly realized that at some point we would most likely be able to age in place because of the separate rooms. Our living room can become our bedroom, with the sunroom becoming our closet. We will have a combo living/dining room and yes the kitchen will remain closed off. Even considering putting a swinging French door in the door between the kitchen and dining room.

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hookedonhouses April 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

That’s a really interesting point that I hadn’t considered, Helen. Thanks!

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Karen May 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I agree with many of the comments, especially that they work in some houses and not others. I live in a smaller, older home and didn’t feel that design would work well and that suits me just fine as well. With that said I eventually reconfigured the space. I closed off one door that lead to the garage and replaced that in a mud/pantry room and I also opened up one wall to the adjoining dining room. It is called a pass through and with those changes I gained much needed cabinet and also counter space. The re-design made it function much better, but I gave the design a lot of thought before implementing it. It also made the space feel larger and brighter, but there are some down sides to that as well. I didn’t want an island and most people have those.

I know that the open kitchen plan seems more popular. I’ve noticed that many remodeling older homes are completely knocking down all the walls and opening it all into one huge space to achieve that look. I really don’t like it. I don’t want to see my kitchen in my living room. Perhaps I’m just an odd ball, but I’m happier as it is and I tend to like spaces that are cozier and more defined. It suits me just fine as it is with the changes that we’ve made. I also still live in my “starter home” too–I always felt it was insulting when realtors would make such comments or anyone else for what it implies.

One of my neighbors who was 87, who recently died, still lived in her ‘starter home’. I think she was also the original owner. I will miss her as she was a lovely woman.

Obviously people can do what they want, however I have to wonder why those people who are compelled to have the latest trend–why don’t they just go with a newer tract home instead of destroying the character of older homes and communities.

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Ken - the OldHouseGuy May 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I think more people need to respect history if they choose to live in an older home. Why buy an old home and make it into something different?

“. . . Old buildings are not ours. They belong, partly to those who built them, and partly to the generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead still have their right in them: That which they labored for . . . we have no right to obliterate.” “What we ourselves have built, we are at liberty to throw down. But what other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over it does not pass away with their death . . .”
by John Ruskin 1849, “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” chapter 6

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Beverly May 8, 2014 at 11:28 am

Totally agree with you

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Ashley May 8, 2014 at 11:36 am

Well said Ken!

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Ashley May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I love this article! I’ve always thought I was alone in wanting more separation between kitchen and living room. I’m a home builder now and our current show home has a large kitchen that is separate from the living space, more and more people are coming in and saying they like it better than open concept. I think its making a comeback!

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hookedonhouses May 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Interesting! I’d love to see more show homes and model houses designed with different types of kitchen options like that.

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Beverly May 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

I am 57… I grew up in houses that had closed kitchens! That is what I am use to, and what I feel comfortable cooking in! My children are grown..my family is very small.. And I don’t need a kitchen that is exposed (and decorated like the master bedroom) in order to watch people, or show off “my cooking skills” (that I don’t have much of anyways!) I like sometimes also like to listen to music and just concentrate on what I’m making! I adore older houses with their closed off kitchens!!

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Tina May 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I’m very happy with my closed kitchen. I have to listen to music when I’m cooking, so an open kitchen dining room thing wouldn’t be the right thing for me. Our dining room’s just across the hall, so it’s really close.

Friends of ours have an open kitchen-dining room-living room with about 600 sqft and when we spent the night there once, we had bacon and eggs for breakfast and the entire place (inclusing our clothes and hair) smelled like bacon.

Here in Germany, open kitchen-dining room-living room areas are called ‘American’, and according to real estate TV shows are the best thing to have. I never wanted one, and haven’t even thought about background noise like dishwashers. My washing machine is in the kitchen (not that unusual around here) and I imagine that would be really annoying. A closed door is worth a lot IMO.

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hookedonhouses May 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Interesting that they call them “American” kitchens! Thanks for your perspective, Tina.

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sunnygirl July 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I agree! It’s SO overdone on HGTV, but then again, a lot of things are on there. They all turn out looking like cookie cutter homes instead of homes with individual styles and tastes. They all use the same floors, faucets, etc. And yes, the open floor concept… I don’t think all those people really even thought about it, they just follow the crowd…hahaha!

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fatima August 11, 2014 at 2:03 am

i recently moved from a 5 bedroom house (2 gardens ) to a 2 bed flat . iam still trying to get used to the huge change , i have not given up my endless collection of clothes , shoes , handbags , photo albums , endless CDs , Books .. there is no storage here , someone forgot about the storage and i must share one single wardrobe with husband (when i used to have 3 of my own ) .. nightmare time . to cut the story short , when i saw the open plan photos in my email , i loved the look , especially the beautiful black granite and hardwood floors , but now that i live in the flat i regrett my closed kitchen so bad .. i cook daily and the other day i had to apologize for blending my sauce while husband was watching tv . then my husband was talking on the phone , i had to shut the hob fan . i cook a lot of ethnic and indian food but i can not open a window or close a door because my kitchen corner has none , which means my sofas and blinds are already smelling of spices . bad move . i i dont think this works for me , i wants my closed kitchen back .. ASAP .

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Peggy August 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

My house was built in 1991 and has a closed kitchen. I would never dream of knocking out a wall to open it up. When someone walks into my house, they enter the living room, which is separated by a staircase from the kitchen, that’s the way I like it. The kitchen may not always be perfectly spotless, so it’s easier to keep guests in the living room and not have the kitchen so visible. Guess I’m old-fashioned, but I prefer separated rooms in my house. I also took the quiz to see if I’m hooked on houses….,I’m definitely hooked! I love keeping my plantation shutters open during twilight hours and having pretty lights on, makes the house sparkle and looks so homey! I love a welcoming home, my safe haven and love having guests enjoy my home too!

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