The open plan, as a reaction to the warren of separated rooms commonly found in traditional homes, seems to currently be the norm and for a variety of reasons doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon no matter the size or manner of home; and the kitchen has evolved into the command module of these open spaces most commonly consisting of arenas for cooking, eating and living.
Historically, the kitchen was solely for food preparation that was considered an untidy process needing to be hidden from the dining and living areas whether it was for hired help in larger homes or those homeowners cooking for family or friends in more modest ones. Separate, smaller rooms were also the norm due to structural and mechanical limitations that made them easier to build and heat. Advances in the late 1800’s in these two areas allowed for the beginning of the open plan.
Architect Henry Hobson Richardson is generally credited with designing the first open plans, combining the living and dining rooms into one large flowing space in his homes in the 1880’s. Greene & Greene in southern California and Frank Lloyd Wright in the Midwest continued this evolution in the early 1900’s, opening this newly combined living/dining space to the great outdoors by dissolving the indoor/outdoor separation with exterior walls of windows and doors of glass, but the kitchens were still deemed service areas requiring distinctly separate rooms.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s in post war America that the kitchen joined the living/dining space to become the open plan that we are familiar with today. Square footage became a more valuable commodity after the war spawning a demand for smaller, more affordable homes that could sit on smaller, more affordable lots. Open plans allowed for a larger, more communal space whose arenas could share light and views as well as activities, and it worked similarly well in grander homes at a larger scale. And in most cases the kitchen took center stage in this new multifunctional space as cooking became more and more a shared experience.
As I looked back over the last decade of my work it became readily apparent that nearly all of my projects have open plans anchored by open kitchens inhabited morning, noon, and night by all combinations of occupants whether they be singles, couples, or families who may be micro-wavers or gourmet chefs. And the demand seems to reflect no particular housing type or style.To that end I have included a handful of a wide variety of new open kitchens that were built from the ground up, and I will follow this with a second blog focusing on a handful of open kitchens that were crafted from existing homes.