Kitchens have evolved from closed-off utilitarian spaces to open, integrated areas that connect with adjacent rooms and outside views. This creates a greater sense of space and light while allowing the cook to remain engaged with family and guests. Designers employ various techniques to open up kitchens and capitalize on views of the outdoors.

Blurring Boundaries Between Kitchen and Living Areas

One of the most popular kitchen design trends is removing walls between the kitchen and living room or family room. This creates one large open concept space for entertaining and family living.

  • Knocking down walls between the kitchen and adjacent rooms provides sightlines between different areas. The cook can participate in conversations and activities while preparing meals.
  • Peninsula, island or bar countertops allow the kitchen to visually and physically open to adjacent spaces. People can comfortably sit at the counter while the cook works.
  • Using uniform floor materials, cabinets and fixtures maintains an open flow. There are fewer distinct kitchen boundaries.
  • Strategic placement of lighting illuminates the entire open area, not just task lighting over countertops.
  • Minimal upper cabinets and shelving keep sightlines open. Tall storage cabinets are grouped at periphery.

Connecting the Kitchen and Dining Room

Many homes combine kitchens and dining rooms into one spacious area for cooking, eating and entertaining.

  • A row of lower cabinets with countertops can help differentiate the kitchen work zone from the dining area.
  • An island with seating can supplement or take the place of a dining table. Add pendant lighting above.
  • Keep the space visually united with consistent materials and lighting. Use open shelving rather than upper cabinets.
  • Make traffic flow smooth between zones. Allow at least 42 inches between all cabinets and islands.

Incorporating Sightlines to Outdoor Views

Linking indoor kitchens with views of outdoor patios, gardens and landscaping is a popular trend.

  • Use glass doors, windows or skylights above the sink or stove to connect with patios or decks.
  • Knock down walls between indoor kitchens and covered outdoor kitchens for seamless entertaining.
  • Position the sink to face large windows with inspiring views. Add a spacious window bench.
  • Open shelving provides sightlines through the kitchen to patios or yards beyond.
  • Strategically place lighting to illuminate indoor and outdoor areas for evening use. Consider LED rope lights.

Kitchen Layouts that Maximize Light and Views

Thoughtful kitchen layouts take advantage of natural light and cross-ventilation.

  • Locate the kitchen at the back of the house with plentiful south-facing windows. This provides ample natural light.
  • Use glass-front cabinet doors and open shelving for an airy, uncluttered look.
  • Situate the kitchen near the front of the house for views of the street or front garden through large windows.
  • Use a galley layout with windows at either end to create cross-ventilation.
  • Glass doors that open to patios blur boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Best Practices for Opening Up Kitchens

When executing an open concept kitchen design, keep these tips in mind:

  • Carefully consider how removing walls will impact cabinet and appliance layouts. Will ceiling beams, plumbing or electric lines be obstructed?
  • Evaluate how open designs affect noise levels and cooking aromas spreading throughout adjacent rooms. Strategically place exhaust fans.
  • Ensure sightlines from the kitchen sink or stove don’t directly face seating areas in open concept designs.
  • Use curated open shelving rather than top cabinets to limit clutter on display.
  • Position pantries, refrigerator units and other bulky elements to visually separate kitchen zones from living zones.
  • Use sliding doors, pocket doors or linen curtains to provide privacy if needed between kitchens and living rooms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of opening up kitchens?

Opening kitchens provides sightlines to living areas and outdoor views. This creates a greater sense of spaciousness and connectivity. Open kitchens also allow cooks to engage with family and guests.

How can you delineate kitchen and living zones in open designs?

Using islands, peninsulas, changes in flooring and ceiling details can help define kitchen and living areas within a completely open concept. Strategic furniture arrangements also separate the spaces while maintaining an open feel.

What are good windows for opening up kitchens?

Large windows, glass doors, skylights and glass-front cabinetry allow natural light and sightlines. Casement, awning or sliding windows above counters facilitate cross-ventilation.

Should you avoid overhead cabinets in open kitchens?

Limiting top cabinets can help keep open sightlines. However, strategic use of glass-front upper cabinets, shelving and tall pantries around the periphery can still provide needed storage.

How wide should doorways be for open kitchen and living room spaces?

Doorways between open concept kitchens and living zones should be at least 42 inches wide. Wider doorways up to 72 inches enhance the open flow.


The trend toward open concept kitchen designs shows no signs of slowing down. Homeowners increasingly prefer kitchens that visually and physically connect with living areas and incorporate views of outdoor spaces. Careful planning is needed to execute this look successfully. When opening up kitchens, be strategic about layouts, storage, delineating zones and facilitating traffic flow. With thoughtful design choices, your open kitchen can become the heart of a spacious, welcoming home.