Kitchen/Dining/Family all one big room

kam76February 15, 2013

I have seen several folks have them and like them, and I like them too, but just wondering what the downside might be? The only thing I can think of is dinner guests looking at a messy kitchen, but really that doesn't bother me too much. Especially for those of you that live with this set up do you have anything you don't like about it or are you completely happy with it?

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We used to have a combined kitchen, kitchen dining area (sep. dining room) and family room and loved it....

Downsides - to me not many but if its a formal dining area it does make it look less formal.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:27PM
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My entire life I have lived in bungalows with specific rooms. We chose to build an open floor plan with living, dining and kitchen in a 19x46 area. I must admit it has taken ME about 5 months to get used to the openness. DH loves this house. I am still getting used to everything.

We are very informal, so the "dirty" kitchen does not both us. If it bothers our guests, they have not mentioned it. Of the people that have visited everyone walks in from the foyer and say they love the openness. To resolve my issue, we developed specific areas with furniture and area rugs. Next comes window treatments and decorating. We have been in the house 6 months and have not decorated. Life has been too busy!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:55PM
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Fire tends to spread much quicker in the open concept. There are no walls to slow it down.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:12PM
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The hot gasses from a home fire will quickly travel to adjoining rooms ahead of the flames and ignite whatever is most combustible. The only thing that would substantially slow the spread of fire would be walls with self-closing doors.

But there are many good reasons to separate spaces. The most important ones are: you might want privacy and separation of different activities; you might not want to watch your children's cartoons; you might want to set a different mood in different parts of the floor with different materials, colors and trim; you might want to focus the attention of your children and/or guests on the meal being served and those who are sharing it; you might want to better control heating and cooling; you might want to better light the space; and you might want walls on which to display artwork.

To put it differently; when most of the open living space is occupied, the occupants can distract each other and when they are congregated in one part of the open space the rest of the space can feel empty and, at night, cold. IMO these are characteristics more appropriate for a couple in an apartment rather than a family in their home.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 5:29PM
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We are doing this and my reasoning was that when I am in the kitchen, I want to be included in what everyone else is doing. Our kids are 1.5 and 3 so I have many years of small kids ahead of me. When our kids are teens- I want us to all be in the same area. I also do not like dining rooms- they feel too formal for me.

If we did not have a bonus room upstairs, I would be very worried about toys spreading from the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen where I would fall over them cooking. But because we have that separate space, I not not too worried about it.

Other cons I have heard is that people who entertain want to hide the kitchen mess after cooking a meal- that I understand but we don't entertain in a formal manner like that.

DH is a firefighter and he has never expressed too much concerned about the open space. Our house is pretty small though, so the open space is not massive- very cosy :)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:19PM
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The pluses and minuses include:

--A significant opportunity to create a major space in one's house;
--With southern orientation, the opportunity to maximize passive solar gain (assuming the site location is in the northern hemisphere);
--The opportunity to have natural and artificial light play a very major role in the design (again, assuming proper orientation)
--With proper design, may be very accomodating to large groups

--Zero, none, nada visual or acoustical privacy;
--Whatever impacts one part of the space (noise, smell, visual, etc) impacts the whole;
--Regardless of design, probably never "cozy" or "intimate" for a couple

A compromise may be to have large framed openings separating one of more of the spaces from others. Even better may be to have pocket or sliding doors that provide even greater seperation and privacy when desired. Better still may be to have an "away room" so that one may go there for activities that may not be compatible with what's going in in the large open space at any point in time.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:29PM
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We're doing this and as a couple with no children and absolutely no plans to have any, my only concern is the constant sound of appliances such as the fridge. Careful selection of appliances hopefully will make it a non-issue. we have a split level now that the fridge really isn't too far off from my office desk and our TV area and I dont notice it, but on the new home it will be closer and I do wonder!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:45PM
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At first, I guess I noticed it to be a little "echo-y" . We have 9 ft. ceilings but now that we have an area rug in the living room I don't notice it as much. When we have all of our family over , 8 adults and 6 kids it can get noisy but the pros far outweigh the cons!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:46PM
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We have this now (on a small scale) and I cannot wait to move into a home with a more closed-off, separate room floor plan.

I despise looking at a messy kitchen. Even when it isn't truly messy, a few things on the counter, sink, or dining room table look unkept. Any my kitchen usually is messy, so it's even worse for me.

The noise! I don't watch much tv myself, but if there is a show I want to watch I am better off dvr'ing it and watching the show when everyone is asleep in bed. Do you know how annoying it is to be engrossed in show and then be unable to hear the dialogue because your husband decides to get into a bag of potato chips, or make himself a drink??? I was about to kill my husband last week while i was watching downton abbey, kill! In fact, part of my plan to get my husband to accept a more closed off flooplan is to clean the kitchen while he's watching tv. So far it's working.

Back to the mess issue, I would much prefer to host a party and have the kitchen closed off so I contain the mess and not worry about its state. Right now everything is visible and it is impossible to do anything last minute and not have the dirty dishes seen by all.

I think it's tough to find a balance between a open vs closed kitchen and it's a subject I've been exploring myself. I do know that I need the kitchen to be closed off to some extent. However, open kitchens/great rooms are so popular and I'm sure there are people out there who wouldn't consider anything but.

This post was edited by olivesmom on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 0:12

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 12:08AM
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See I also find that people gather in the kitchen anyway... don't they? If you have closed off people feel cramped in the rooms?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 12:28AM
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Personally I like semi closed off spaces. I love columns in a room to break things up, or full height cabinets. But I hate completely open floor plans. My fiance's aunt's main floor is like that, and it just feels odd to me. There is no real separation of rooms and I hate seeing the dining room table just off to the side of the couch. When I'm eating dinner, I like to focus on my meal with no distractions. And having the tv in plain sight messes that up, especially if I'm eating and someone else is watching tv. So nope, I'm not a fan.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 12:58AM
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I was leaning toward an open concept, my wife said she doesn't want everyone watching her cleaning the kitchen or the noise transfer. We compromised and put a wall between the kitchen and great room, the dining is open to the great room and kitchen. Now that I've been walking the house (still being built but getting close) I completely agree w/her. The kitchen is still very accessible to the other rooms and it's only a few steps to look around the corner into the great room. We used the wall for the built in fridge, micro drawer, coffee station and a desk area so it freed up a lot of counter and added some storage we wouldn't have had the other way. Now I'm starting to feel that separate areas is really the way to go. Guests can still go into the kitchen and hang at the island, sit at the dining table or in the GR and the flow isn't really interrupted. I now may have an issue w/the open dining area, we'll see. Our house is rather large, I can see perhaps a more open concept where space is limited and living w/the 'issues'.

This post was edited by Mistman on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 2:01

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:58AM
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I've lived in both, and prefer a semi-open plan. Our current house is fairly open, as will be our new house. There will be framed openings between rooms to give the effect of different rooms, but it is essentially open.

We keep our television in a small bedroom, as it has a lower priority in our lives. That way, the television viewer has privacy, and the rest of the household doesn't have to listen to the TV.

With the beautiful, outrageously expensive kitchens in vogue right now, wouldn't you want everyone to see it?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:41AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

At the old house, our kitchen was open to the dining room and I hated it...I had only lighting to try and separate the spaces for entertaining and I had DH sit facing the kitchen so the guests didn't have to see the mess. And it wasn't just the mess, but the things like when I opened up the cabinet and a box of crackers fell out, hit me in the head and I had crackers flying everywhere...not exactly the "entertainment" I had planned.

Now I have the kitchen and family room as one space and the dining room/living room-library are open to each other but not visible from the kitchen. It works out beautifully. We have appetizers around the island while I'm prepping dinner, then I use the island as the buffet for people to serve themselves the hot food. We bring it into the dining room to eat in a formal setting and then move to the living room/library for our after dinner drinks and conversation. The mess is contained and out of sight.

The other thing I do notice though is the good and bad of having the kitchen family room together. The good is that we live there 90% of our time, the wood stove is there so it keeps that room nice and toasty and I can continue to watch a tv show while I'm cooking, which is nice. However, when clean-up time comes, it is very noisy and the tv volume has to go up.... It also means it's harder to nap in front of the tv if someone is banging around in the kitchen. But the benefits outweigh the costs IMO.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:39AM
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Our experience has pretty much been as Virgil described. We have a southern exposure with a lot of windows. I would definitely recommend a remote blower for the exhaust hood. That thing is loud!

Our family room does feel cozy. Maybe it's bc it has walls on 3 sides and isn't huge.

As far as the mess in the kitchen- everyone ends up there anyway. we don't entertain with formal sit down dinners. I'm trying to get DH to utilize the warming drawer and prepare food in advance so that we can clean up a bit.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:02AM
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Robin Goodrich

I have wondered about this as we are about to build an open concept home!

For those with an open concept- What are your ceilings like? Vaulted, coffered, trey, flat? Our home is a ranch so I don't want it to feel cramped with flat ceilings but then vaulted might make it feel like cold, echo-y space?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:26AM
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brooksms, ours is 10' throughout. we want to add salvage wood beams in the family room some day, but right now there's just a flat ceiling.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:56AM
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Well, we're informal people, and my current home the kitchen is closed off from the family room, and I dislike it. Our beach house is open and I find I love it, because I don't feel removed from the rest of the family when I'm cooking or cleaning (and to be honest, to join the family I leave the kitchen dirty, far more often than I should!)

That said, in our new house I'm putting in a den/office that is closed off for getting away to watch tv alone, nap, talk on the phone etc. Not having a formal dining space - in 12 years I've used mine 3 or 4 times.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 12:02PM
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Our last house had a semi-open plan. It was awkwardly designed, and I know semi-open plans can be better than what we had, but I found it constrained our use of the space in ways I didn't like, and people were in the kitchen all the time anyhow, since traffic went through it to get from the family room to the dining room.

We're going to have an open kitchen-dining-family room with a den that will be totally shut off and a hobby room off the family room that we can close off with sliding doors. We'll have a wood stove in the open space that we hope will provide most of our heat.

The main reason we're going with the open floor plan is that my husband strongly prefers it, and I don't mind. It will be handy for entertaining, because we can steal space from the family room if we're feeding a really large group. Generally we only turn on the tv in the evening, and then we're all watching, so I'm not worried about TV noise. We're planning on getting an high end dishwasher that runs quietly.

When we entertain, I typically make something that is mostly prepared before our guests arrive and do the major clean-up ahead of time, so there isn't too much mess for them to see, and on a typical evening, if we can see the mess, it means we can tell the kid in charge of cleaning to get back in there and finish. The noise of cooking and cleaning may be annoying, I guess we'll find out!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 2:01PM
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Our lower level walkout has the K/DR/FR in a row setup, with the TV/woodstove making an L-shaped configuration. My daughter & her young children have used this for over 4 years, and I can see where this setup is great with really young kids. It's also completely carpeted and has an insulated ceiling and no hard surfaces for noise to bounce off.

Our main floor kitchen has an island and a peninsula, with a large DR-sized eating area on the other side of the peninsula and a DR across the foyer. The large LR is between the EA & the DR, which all have walls but have an excellent traffic flow. I do not want anyone in the kitchen when I am cooking--I'm usually juggling the prep for several dishes and can't keep track of what I'm doing if someone is talking to me. If it's a family gathering, everyone knows to stay out of the kitchen until I tell them everything is ready, and then they help with the last minute things. If it's friends and they gravitate into the kitchen, I will ask them (and my husband who has a very loud voice) to go into the living room, since I need to concentrate if they would like for the food to turn out edible. :o) They don't seem to mind.

With the granite countertops and slate fireplace, large windows, and cabinets all around, this makes for noise bouncing all around to a certain extent. I thought maybe this was just an age thing, but when my daughter visited relatives with a new house with the open plan and high ceilings, she commented that she noticed and disliked the noise.

The kitchen is always a mess from prep & pots & all, but that's in the far corner and opposite counter & sink from the peninsula past the island, so only the person sitting at the end of the table would see this over 25' away. You can't see the messy area from the LR or DR, although you can see part of the kitchen.

So, how you position everything, and your own tolerance for noise and people should get a lot of thought as you plan your house.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:08PM
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These are all great insights, thank you everyone! If anyone has any photos of their set up I would love to see how you defined your spaces. I suspect decorating will be a challenge. I guess it is great there are all different floor plans for different tastes.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 5:58PM
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This is all personal opinion -- you're going to find people who like open floor plans and people who dislike them.

In my opinion, the big downside is the noise: Years ago we rented an open-floor plan house on the lake -- beautiful place. But we were amazed at how sound traveled. It had an L-shaped great room with a large living room /dining room in the long end of the L and a small kitchen tucked away in the smaller end. The whole thing was hardwood, stone and glass -- oh, and soaring ceilings. I'm convinced that all those hard surfaces made a difference in the noise factor.

Our own house at the time was semi-open floor plan: It was a typical starter ranch house, and we had a kind of U-shape: Large living room on one side, kitchen /dining room on the other. BUT the kitchen was blocked off by a laundry closet, and we had carpet and lower ceilings. No noise issues.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:00AM
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We built our open concept house a few years back and love it. The livingroom is vaulted up to 16ft. and the kitchen/dining area has 10ft ceilings and it feels very cozy to us. It helps that the rooms aren't that big.

If I had to find some negative aspects, I would say that their is a lack of wall space for art and furniture. I suppose this could be a positive for some. Also, the TV gets very loud. Not great when you're trying to do some baking and your son plops himself down to watch MMA!

It definitely is a life-style thing. Very casual and informal to say the least. Also, you need to be a pretty neat/clean person because it can look like a cluttered up mess easily.

I'm a clean-as-I-go kind of cook and we have two (super quiet) dishwashers so when dinner is served, there is no mess to look at in the kitchen. The dishwasher is running just a few feet from the dining table and it's totally silent. Guests are always astonished at our dishwashers! If I didn't cook like this, not sure if I would like having the kitchen open.

It's also the best for parties because we can use the center island in the kitchen as the buffet table and the openness makes for easy mingling.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 11:06AM
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A related question: for those who have or are planning to have their kitchen/dining/living areas in one open space, what are the measurements of that space? We have just been shaving square footage off our preliminary (very preliminary) plans and currently have a space 35 x 20 for all three functions not including the pantry and a screened porch off the kitchen. Just curious to know what others have done and how they've found the space.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:57PM
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A simple square doesn't exist for our space since the lot is oddly shaped, but our kitchen is 18' x7' which intersects at an angle to the living area which is apprx 12'x25' then the dining juts out past that... about 7x 17 maybe.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:24PM
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Thanks, nitshadepromises. I'm worried that 35 feet is a bit short, though we do have a 20 x 20 covered porch coming off the length of that space, which should open it up a bit.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:36AM
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Hi, Kam! I have not built yet, but when I do, I plan to have the kitchen/dining/family in an open room. Just fits the way I live from day-to-day. Some do consider it a drawback that kitchen mess might be visible to guests, but I came to the conclusion that the relatively few times this happens were far outweighed by my everyday enjoyment of this layout. I would suggest regular 10 ft. ceilings, NOT vaulted ceilings, they simply carry noises too much. BUT I think you should have one other room that gives you another option for living space that is more closed off, another living room or den of a decent size. A room where groups could split off, be it men vs women, adults vs children, noisy vs quiet.

I have attached a link to an example of what I mean. What is labelled as the study on the plan is too small to serve as a 2nd living area and would need to be enlarged, but you will get the idea from looking at the floorplan.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chesnee plan by Donald Gardner

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:33PM
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Our previous house had an open kitchen, breakfast nook and family room. I loved. At the time we had 4 kids, 2 teens and it was nice having an open area. I also noticed that the teens spent more time in the family room/kitchen with friends rather than their rooms.

We did have a formal livingroom and formal dining room that was separate so when guests were over, all of us adults had somewhere to go without kids which was nice.

Our current house has a combined dining/living room, separate kitchen and I miss my open family room. I feel much more isolated in the kitchen. It isn't the hub like it was in the previous house. Just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 1:46PM
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I think the best thing you could do if you're worried about it Cay is get a program or even graph paper and play with furniture arrangements if you havn't yet. I've pointed some ppl to Sweet Home 3d on this site, because its free. I splurged and got Home decorator suite, but started out with sweet home. If you know the furniture you plan to use, or rough approximations you can set it up then check all your clearances in between..don't forget that! A path that looks completely manageable on paper might turn out to be only 2 feet and you certainly don't want that.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 8:01PM
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Would some of you that are on this post look at my post To View this House . There is a link another member made for me :) I could not get it to work. There is a video of a house called the Portsmouth . Can you all look at it and see if you think the great room is to small and kitchen? I just do not know if I should move or not I have a house I like very much already but this area is closer to hubby's work and a newer community that is very nice with walking paths , nature paths , club house, pools all that stuff very well done. So there will be some trade offs from this house to that one but I just do not want to get in and be like what did I do . Thanks

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:37PM
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Would some of you that are on this post look at my post To View this House . There is a link another member made for me :) I could not get it to work. There is a video of a house called the Portsmouth . Can you all look at it and see if you think the great room is to small and kitchen? I just do not know if I should move or not I have a house I like very much already but this area is closer to hubby's work and a newer community that is very nice with walking paths , nature paths , club house, pools all that stuff very well done. So there will be some trade offs from this house to that one but I just do not want to get in and be like what did I do . Thanks

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:38PM
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