The trend for multi-tasking kitchen diners is not waning – families want rooms where they can cook, eat, work and socialise together. But how can one room serve many different purposes?

Robin Steer, Director of Compass Kitchens in Kingsbridge, has teamed up with Rhiannon Pitten, Design Architect at PS4 Ltd in Dartmouth, to offer their expert advice and to show that incorporating hard-working pieces can achieve a streamlined space.

When planning a new kitchen diner, Robin suggests thinking about classic layouts – single and double galley kitchens with one or two runs of cabinets, L-shaped built into corners, and U-shaped kitchens with three sides so that everything is within easy reach.

David Glover, from David Glover Furniture in Barnstaple, suggests an island unit for dividing the space and providing extra storage. "They provide a more informal dining space for breakfast and quick meals. They needn't just be a solid block either. There are some fantastic island designs out there now – we've made a few ourselves!"

Rhiannon explains how the design and layout must reflect the way many of us are choosing to live in a multi-use space. "Be clever with the area and include sociable as well as functional layouts, she says. "Installing an induction hob within the island means you can prepare meals and chat at the same time without looking over your shoulder."

The appliances required in a kitchen need to be appropriate to an open-plan scheme, and it's important to think about noise reduction and odour extraction. "While washing machines and dishwashers have had quiet noise facilities for a while, new advances in extractor fans means that they can become practically invisible in our kitchens. Integrated into units, and with a low-noise output, they become an essential non-invasive product, ideal for open-plan layouts," says Robin.

David recommends downdraft extractors if budget allows, which are placed next to or behind hobs and extract steam downwards: "They're great if you want a hob in your island units because they eliminate the need for anything overhead. However, bear in mind that extraction works best when vented outside, so you may need space under the floor to route the vents."

Robin suggests the Novy range of appliances, which offer an amazing array of cooker hoods to zip away smells, floating cloud-effect extractor fans attached to the ceiling or integrated pop-up technology at the press of a button.

Another consideration for the kitchen diner is keeping clutter to a minimum. "Larder cupboards hide gadgets, hot water taps replace the electric kettle, while utensils drawers and pots and pans stored next to the hob are all ways to hide everyday clutter," advises Robin. "Bread drawers, vegetable air drawers and tea towel rods (attached to the internals of the sink unit) are good solutions to everyday items that need to be stored correctly, while still being accessible."

"Sight lines from key viewpoints and entrances should be kept clear so the room feels open and spacious," adds Rhiannon.

The colours and materials used can either flow between the kitchen and dining areas to bring cohesion to the scheme, or be used to differentiate. David suggests using colour as an easy way to distinguish spaces and it needn't be a bold contrast. "Even subtle colour changes can create different zones in large spaces."

"Have a central hero piece in the dining area to focus on – candles on the table, a gallery picture wall to make the space intimate, or introduce a large feature light over the dining table," recommends Rhiannon.

Another consideration is flooring. David believes smaller spaces benefit from the same flooring throughout, otherwise you risk the space becoming too visually disjointed.

"Make the spaces individual by introducing soft furnishings and rugs. On trend at the moment are faux giant plants – palms and cactus are good in urns and planters to softly divide the space," suggests Rhiannon.

Clever lighting plays a key role in separating the different zones. Automated lighting and systems can dramatically change the mood in different areas, such as task lighting in the kitchen space that can be dimmed when you want the dining area to become the main focus. "Look at feature lights over an island and glow lighting above wall units," suggests Rhiannon. David agrees on functional, hidden task lighting for the kitchen and more decorative pendant lighting for dining spaces to create a relaxed, cosy atmosphere. "Make sure you have them on different switches so you can dim or turn off the lights in the kitchen while you eat," he says.

"Finally, your choice of furniture and upholstery can add warmth and softness to your dining space, in comparison to the typically harder lines and surfaces in a kitchen," says David.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need an enormous room to create an open-plan kitchen diner. Robin believes it can be achieved in most spaces, regardless of size. "We recently used clever design in a property where space was at a premium. We incorporated secret double drawers, hidden rubbish bins and a hide board in the same material as the counter-top specialist resin – the board simply pops over the sink and can double up as a chopping board," he explains.

Island unit with integrated wine fridge and an eating area, by Compass Kitchens
Island unit with integrated wine fridge and an eating area, by Compass Kitchens
Peninsular bar with integrated sink and feature light, by Compass Kitchens
Peninsular bar with integrated sink and feature light, by Compass Kitchens
Lucy Baker-Kind

Published 29 October 2018

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