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A grey kitchen with a wooden dining table and chairs

Open-plan kitchen designs are still in high demand, but the new take keeps it separate to living areas with some simple design tricks.

Kitchen plan

An open-plan layout has become the defining feature of a modern kitchen, but it has its drawbacks: with no walls, any cooking mess is in full view, and kitchen noise can have an impact on adjacent areas, especially if there is only one living area in the home.

The ‘broken-plan’ kitchen concept uses smart design and a variety of screening and zoning devices to partially disconnect the kitchen from the living area which helps with these issues. While it’s still important to think of the open-plan room as a whole, retaining the positive aspects such as light and space, a ‘broken plan’ kitchen allows for more versatility.

Design ideas

Clever architectural solutions can deliver both separation and connection.

The butler’s pantry - a separate workspace connected to the main kitchen - splits the kitchen into two spaces, public and private, creating a divide between the working and cooking areas. It allows an area to prepare food and clean up out of sight, while keeping the kitchen space clear of visual clutter.

Simple visual tricks are another way to separate the kitchen from adjacent spaces. Positioning the kitchen area under a bulkhead can be effective, with the lowered ceiling setting the space apart. A similar result can be achieved with a change of levels between the dining and kitchen spaces, clearly defining the function of each zone.

Visual divides

Screening the kitchen is effective at hiding work areas. See-through dividers (vertical timber slats or open shelving, for example) – can help break up the line of sight while still allowing light in.

Half walls are good for allowing conversation to flow between spaces while hiding clutter from those at seat height, and an upstand – a 10-20cm divider across part of the island bench – can block a loaded sink from view while creating separation between the work zone and social space.  

Another option to consider is partially removing the walls, generating wide openings that still allow for connection between the spaces but provide the cook with privacy when on the kitchen tools. Internal glazed doors that can be closed against kitchen or living room noise while retaining light flow is another solution. 

Consider the appliances

Appliances need to be chosen carefully in an open plan design, both for the noise impact as well as the noise aesthetic. For those with a bigger budget, creating a butler’s pantry as a separate zone will muffle the noise and allow more choices.

An economical option is an appliance cabinet to conceal the toaster, kettle, or other everyday appliances.

Using integrated models – where appliances have the same fronts as the cabinetry – for the dishwasher and rangehood will give a kitchen a clean, streamlined look. Sinks can be disguised by selecting an under-mounted version, and colour choices can also help the kitchen ‘disappear’ – opting for a black sink with a dark benchtop, for example. Simple tap lines are best for maximum discretion. 

Inside of a lounge room looking into the backyard

Whole-space design

There's usually a visual disconnect between the kitchen area and living space in an open zone – kitchens have hard, hygienic surfaces and living spaces utilise warm and soft textures. The solution here can be ‘hiding’ the kitchen in plain sight by using the same cabinetry fronts in joinery in the dining and living zones for a seamless flow. 

Using a softer, more tactile surface for the cabinetry is highly effective, such as something more textured and matt rather than gloss. Minimising the number of knobs and pulls in the kitchen section helps, too. Choosing discreet grip handles or push catches reduces visual clutter.

Black kitchen with a marble benchtop and a wooden table with black chairs

Renovating a kitchen?

Take a look through our design inspiration for a helping hand in planning.


Photo Credit: Kaboodle Kitchen and GAP Interiors

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