$10,000 Buyer Incentive Offered With Select Recommended Lender & Closing Attorney.**See Terms & Conditions for Details
I Want More 

How to Plan an Open Concept Kitchen

March 15, 2017

How to Plan an Open Concept Kitchen

Open concept kitchen designs dominate home improvement shows, decorating magazines and new home floor plans. Many homeowners want that open look in their existing homes as well. The style creates a functional space perfect for entertaining, but it also requires careful planning to develop a cohesive design. If an open concept kitchen is part of your upcoming renovation plans, explore the factors that go into the design before you start your demo.

Benefits of Making Your Kitchen Open Concept

An open plan kitchen is aesthetically pleasing, but the floor plan offers benefits beyond looks. Some reasons people choose the design include:

  • Togetherness. The large open space promotes togetherness with your family. Kids and parents can bond while cooking dinner, doing homework or hanging out in the living room. Even when you’re in different areas, you feel like you’re in the same room rather than being separated by walls.
  • Entertaining. An open concept kitchen, dining room, and living room area is ideal for entertaining. Guests can spread out among the areas but still socialize and see everyone. If you’re stuck in the kitchen making dinner for your guests, you aren’t isolated, so you still get a chance to chat with everyone. One large space also feels less cramped when you have several people over at once.
  • Functional design. An open floor plan lets you easily move about the space. You can quickly move food from the stove to the dining room table. The open design allows for easy traffic flow between the spaces.
  • Larger appearance. When you create an open concept kitchen, you make your common areas feel larger without actually changing your home’s footprint. Removing a wall is a more affordable way to achieve that larger feel than creating an addition.
  • Increased natural light. Walls between the kitchen and living room limit the amount of sunlight flowing into both spaces. By taking down those walls, you get more natural light from all sides. Light from living room windows helps illuminate the kitchen to make the space seem brighter and larger.

What to Consider Before Creating an Open Concept Kitchen Design

When considering open concept kitchen ideas, several specific factors come into play. Things like your budget and the current layout of your home influence the design process.

Consider these factors when contemplating an open concept kitchen:


Budget. Any home renovation project starts with the budget. You need to know how much you have to spend before you can decide on the scope of the project. A good estimate for a total kitchen remodel is 6 to 10 percent of your home’s value, but the cost of the project largely depends on whether you keep existing kitchen components and what type of finishes and materials you choose.

The cost of removing the wall can vary depending on whether it’s load-bearing. Build a buffer into your budget in case you discover hidden issues that cost extra to fix.

Size. Knocking out kitchen walls makes the space feel bigger, but you still have the same square footage to work with when you design your new layout. Maximizing the space is essential to creating an efficient open floor plan. Consider how much space you have once the walls are gone for things like an island or additional cabinetry. If you’re limited on space, prioritize the features you really want.

Existing Layout. Consider how well your current kitchen layout will work once the walls come down. If you’re fine with the current layout, keep the cabinets and other elements on the exterior walls. If the flow isn’t quite right, consider repositioning appliances, cabinets and even windows and doors in the space, so it works better for your family.

You’re already removing walls. You might as well make all the layout changes you want at the same time.

Infrastructure. A solid infrastructure is essential to an efficient kitchen. Plumbing, electrical, lighting, and appliances are all part of that infrastructure. Identify upgrades that need to be made in those areas to ensure your finished kitchen is as functional as it is stylish.

Lifestyle and design preferences. Open concept kitchens are popular, but the space needs to work for you and your family. Consider the different ways you use your kitchen, such as preparing meals, entertaining or helping your kids with homework.

Look at your current layout to identify features you like and dislike, as well as problems you have. For example, an inefficient setup, lack of counter space or not enough storage may be a problem. Use those problems to help redesign your kitchen into a functional open space that fits your lifestyle.

Use these factors to prioritize the elements you include in your design. If you’re on a limited budget, you might keep the existing cabinets and appliances instead of gutting the entire kitchen. If you need more storage space, you might choose standard-size appliances instead of an oversized professional range and wide side-by-side refrigerator to allow for more cabinetry. If you need more space overall in your kitchen, you might expand the space into the living room or dining room area once you take down the wall for a better kitchen flow.

Design Considerations for Open Concept Kitchens

Figuring out how to create an open concept kitchen involves several different elements in the space. An open concept kitchen and living room space means the two rooms now share flooring, ceilings, and walls. The open view between the spaces requires more attention to things like color and storage options. Let’s break down the components individually to address specific design issues that sometimes occur with this type of floor plan.


When you eliminate the walls between your living room and kitchen, your flooring choices become more important. Using one type of flooring throughout the space is the best option, as it ties the rooms together to create a unified look. You can use two different types of flooring if you prefer the visual separation or simply want two different types of flooring to better suit the use for each area. Choose similar colors to help with the cohesive look.

Tile is a common flooring option for kitchens because it’s easy to clean and resists damage from spills and moisture. It’s not a common option in living spaces, however.

If you want to tile throughout, opt for a natural stone look to create warmth in the living room. Living rooms often feature carpet, hardwood or laminate. Carpet isn’t an option for the kitchen area, but laminate or hardwood flooring can be a suitable compromise if you want the same flooring throughout the main living space. It holds up well in kitchens, and it adds warmth to your living room.

You can also go with two separate flooring options, using transition pieces at the dividing line. For instance, you might tile the kitchen and carpet the living room area. This option gives some visual separation to define the two spaces while still keeping that open, airy feeling.

Another potential issue in older homes is a sagging or uneven floor. Variations in the floor can interfere with the placement of islands or other components in the kitchen. The uneven floor is more noticeable from all the rooms once you remove the walls. Fixing uneven floors adds to your renovation budget, but it’s an important step both for structural integrity and aesthetics.



When going from a closed kitchen to an open concept living room and kitchen, you’ll need to decide which walls come down. For a completely open design, all the walls separating the kitchen from the living room and dining room come down. You can also remove some of the walls for a partially open feel while still having some privacy and division between the spaces.

Before walls come down, you’ll need to know a little more about them. The first thing you need to know is whether the walls are load-bearing. If they are, it takes a lot more work to remove them. The support that currently comes from the wall needs to be replaced with another system.

Non-load-bearing walls are easier to remove because you don’t have to worry about the support issue, but there are other considerations. Walls often have wiring and HVAC ducts running through them. Depending on the location of various kitchen components, plumbing may also run through the walls you want to remove. Those lines, ducts, and pipes must be rerouted once the wall is removed.

Because there are so many unknowns and potential factors in removing walls, it’s often best to let a professional handle the work. A structural engineer or architect gets involved to remove a load-bearing wall in deciding what type of replacement support is needed. For walls that aren’t load-bearing, a contractor can typically handle all the work, from wall removal to rerouting anything hidden within the walls.


Look up to decide if any changes need to be made to the ceiling. You’ll need some patching where the existing walls are removed, but you may need additional work. Are the ceilings in the adjoining areas level and the same height? If not, you’ll need to work with your architect or contractor to find a solution for the mismatched ceiling heights.

Older homes sometimes have dropped ceilings that are lower than the original ceiling. Removing that drop ceiling gives you a few extra inches of height that can make your new open floor plan feel a little more open.

Creating a vaulted, coffered or tray ceiling in your new larger space adds a stunning architectural element to your open floor plan. Vaulting a ceiling adds a significant amount to your project costs, but it enhances the spacious feeling of the open floor plan and can have a major impact on the finished look.


Existing stairs in the space may seem to interfere with your open floor plans, but you have options to make the area feel as open as possible without affecting the structural integrity of the stairs. Simply removing the walls on either side of an enclosed staircase is a solution. You maintain the original stairs, so you save money on the project, but you get a more open feeling by exposing more of the stairs. Install open railings where the walls once stood.


The open floor plan eliminates walls that you currently use to hold your large pieces of furniture. Once those walls are gone, you may need to do some creative rearranging or select furniture that is a better fit for the new layout. Start by looking at your existing furniture pieces. Which items must go along a wall? Your sofa can sit out in the middle of the room, but a large hutch needs a wall placement. Will you have enough wall space left for the large furniture pieces? Are you willing to part with them if not?

The look of the furniture is also a deciding factor when creating your design. Your living room furniture, dining room furniture, and kitchen components need a similar style and feel to create a cohesive look in the space. Furniture size is also important. If the furniture in one space is large, tall or heavy when compared to the furniture in other spaces, your room looks out of balance.


A kitchen and living room open concept plan often cuts out much of your existing storage due to the loss of wall space and cabinetry. If storage is already limited, you’ll need to get creative to find a space for all your kitchen gear.

Some storage options include:

  • Extra tall kitchen cabinets with more shelves
  • Kitchen island with cabinetry or shelving
  • Pull-out cabinet shelves, built-in pan holders and other custom cabinetry features to maximize space
  • Wall hooks to hang items and pot racks
  • Floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet
  • Open shelves in areas without cabinets


Take inventory of your small kitchen appliance, cookware and other items in the kitchen to determine how much storage you need. Your contractor or designer can help you come up with custom solutions to ensure you have space for everything. Moving to an open concept design can also be a good motivator to thin your kitchen gear so you don’t need as much storage.

Kitchen Island

A kitchen island is a common way to create a visual separation between the kitchen and other rooms without using walls. You maintain the openness while containing cooking activities to the kitchen area. The island also makes up for some of the storage and workspace you lose when you remove the existing wall.

The shape, size, and positioning of the kitchen island play into the functionality of this component. An island that is too large for the space can seem out of place and create a crowded feeling. The island should fit well into the work triangle that lets you easily move between the sink, refrigerator, and stove. Consider the flow of traffic in the area, being careful not to cut off pathways that make it easy to move between the rooms.


Open floor plan kitchen ideas often center around cabinets and other design elements, but the color is also an important consideration. Without walls to minimize sight lines, you need colors in all the adjoining spaces that work well together.

In many cases, the living room, kitchen and dining room share a large wall without physical divisions for one paint color to stop and another to start. For this reason, choosing a single neutral color that works well with all rooms is often the easiest choice. If you want some variation, paint an accent wall in the space with a different color.

Your color selections also come into play with things like cabinetry, window coverings, and decorations. You don’t have to use the same colors in all the spaces, but choose colors that work well together. Pull colors from one space into another as accents. For example, you might choose a main color in the living room as a small accent color in the kitchen. This ties the spaces together while letting them each have unique design elements.



Open floor plan décor takes a bit of thought to ensure the elements work together. Just like color, the décor and general style of the spaces need to work well together. Use similar textures, colors, and materials in all the spaces when choosing décor. Don’t be afraid to give each space a unique look with distinct elements.

Creating an open concept kitchen provides you with a spacious, light-filled room perfect for entertaining and encouraging family togetherness.

If you’re in the Greenville, SC area and want to create an open-concept space, check out the remodeling options with SK Builders. Or if you are in the market for a new home, we offer multiple floorplans that include open concept kitchens and specialize in semi-custom builds - meaning that you'll be able to get your dream custom home at a fraction of the cost of fully custom home builds. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

The Latest from the
McAlister Realty/SK Builders Blog