Top Reasons to Revisit the Traditional Home Floor Plan

Picture a Thanksgiving dinner of your youthEveryone is sitting around the table in the dining room, in hopeful anticipation of the delicious meal to come.  You’re surrounded by an array of beautiful side dishes, glistening cranberry sauce, white china gravy boat, a green bean casserole with crunchy French fried onion topping.  But the real deal has yet to arrive.  All of a sudden the door to the kitchen swings open, and there stands the cook, beaming proudly with a faint line of sweat around her brow and a giant golden brown roast turkey on a platter, as if out of nowhere.  It’s beautiful and inviting, and best of all no one can imagine the work behind this lovely meal, the mess of pots and pans and the flour-dusted counter tops that lie beyond in the kitchen.  Why?  Because no one can see the kitchen!

'Vintage or Retro Kitchen' photo (c) 2013, Lori L. Stalteri - license:

There is something to be said for the mystery of the kitchens that used to be, and the glorious meals that appeared out of them.  Or even the not-so glorious meals.  My first apartment, a tiny 300 square foot studio with a postage stamp size kitchen off to the side of it, enabled me to serve bowls of ramen and grilled cheese sandwiches with a grand flourish to my hungry friends who sat at a card table in the middle of my living room/bedroom.  With separate cooking and eating areas, there is something special about every meal, whether it is spaghetti or an elaborate feast.  Everyone gathers together and enjoys the food, away from the clatter and business of the kitchen.

These days, though, most folks crave an open concept floor plan.  And in fact, many new homes are built with an open concept or a great room, to meet that desire.   All you have to do is turn on your TV, where home search show after show displays anxious home buyers debating the merits of the various houses they are considering.  This new house with the open floor plan would be great, but it’s too expensive for their budget.  “How about this older home in a great neighborhood?” asks their realtor.  See the home buyers’ shoulders slump as they enter a kitchen that is separate from the rest of the home in a house that would otherwise be “perfect.”  “Well, maybe we could knock down that wall to open it up,” they say halfheartedly.

I say, why bother?  First of all, “knocking down a wall” is not as easy as it looks in those shows, where they make the professional couples put on their working clothes and take first crack at the poor wall that will be there no longer.  There are structural factors to consider, and wiring and plumbing.  For example, you absolutely cannot knock down a load bearing wall, without putting in additional supports. If you do it yourself, you are going to have to live with that mess while you remodel.  And chances are, you won’t be doing it yourself, so it’s going to cost you a bundle.

'Aga In Chalon Kitchen' photo (c) 2009, Chalon Handmade - license:, there are a number of advantages to NOT opening up the kitchen. As an avid cook, I can speak for myself and all my foodie friends out there in saying that I LIKE being able to cook without all my family and friends watching the entire process from the center island or worse yet, the living room!  I’m not a television chef, after all.  I really don’t want people to see my mess or my mistakes.  What if I burn the Brussels sprouts and have to substitute cabbage at the last minute?  If people do want to venture into the kitchen, they do so at the risk of being asked to chop carrots or pour me a glass of wine.  I don’t mind visiting while I cook if they don’t mind lending a hand.

Another reason people say they prefer an open floor plan is the ability to watch their children while they are in the kitchen, or watch TV while they’re cooking.  Let me address the latter first.  Have a separate kitchen, and maybe you can install your own little TV somewhere in it, just for yourself to watch while you’re cooking.  And as for watching your kids?  Well, I have 2 of them, and I can see how when they were younger, it would have been handy to keep an eye on them while I was cooking.  But really, that phase lasts such a short time where you have to track their whereabouts all the time to keep them from getting into trouble.  It isn’t worth opening up the kitchen for that, I promise.  You will begin to see the kitchen as a refuge from your children as they get older.  Unless you have a budding young chef in the family, they will stay as far away from the kitchen as they can for as long as they can, as long as you’re willing to cook for them.

All that said, there are a number of ways to make a smaller, less open kitchen FEEL more spacious, and I’m going to share with you what I have learned in my many years of living in homes with separate kitchens.

-Make sure you have enough light and modern elements in the room to keep it from seeming too old and dark.  Even if you happen to have dark wood cabinets (as I do), this can be accomplished by incorporating white marble or wood butcher block counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and lighter-colored walls and backsplashes.

-Invest in the best quality floors you can afford.  Chances are, there won’t be that much space to cover, so the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive.  Slate tile is my favorite for its water-absorbency, beautiful appearance and ease of cleaning.  Bamboo or hardwood are always popular options, and are a great way to warm up the space.  Also, the new high-quality vinyl floors might be worth a look as well.

-Think work space, work space, work space.  Ask any cook you know what they would like more of in their kitchen, and it’s going to be counter space.  I know that I feel that way.  No matter how much space you have, it’s never enough.  Especially if there are going to be two or more of you cooking in there at the same time.  In order to get more work space, you sometimes need more storage space as well to get small appliances off the counters.  Here is a handy little solution that you can make yourself, the amazing rolling kitchen island.  It looks great, has drawers for storage and a beautiful butcher block top that will blend in well with most kitchen decors.  And it rolls around so you can put it where you need it.

-This last one is from a strictly personal perspective.  Make sure the kitchen has stuff in it that makes you happy.  It could be anything.  If you’re an avid baker or pasta maker, there is nothing like a great marble slab for rolling out dough.  Or maybe you like to watch TV while you work.  For me, I’m lucky enough to have a picture window in my kitchen with a beautiful view out into the backyard.  So I have a strategically placed stool by the rolling kitchen island, where I can sit and drink my coffee in the morning and look out the window while I plan my day.

'Butler's Pantry, Oli Oli Kai' photo (c) 2013, Jinx McCombs - license: the traditional kitchen floorplan.  I can tell you in all honesty that if I were to have my dream house built for me tomorrow, I would NOT get an open concept, because I love my kitchen!  Maybe you will too.

P.S.  This isn’t my kitchen, but I wish it were!

by Karen DeVenaro, See Jane Drill

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