Room In Focus: Open Kitchens

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Knotty-cherry-kitchen-3Open kitchens are a natural fixture in log homes — they reinforce log homes' informal quality by letting you treat company calls like neighborly visits over the backyard fence. Working in an open kitchen is like discovering another dimension: It changes not just the way you see the space but how you work in it, where you put things, and how you move to and from them. They turn the traditional work triangle into a quadrilateral.

Despite their name, some open kitchens actually feature or at least suggest the fence part of the neighborliness by clearly but subtly distinguishing working and visiting zones.

The same approach works to signal which is the kitchen and which are the rooms around it. Common cues involve varying ceilings and floors, or putting up log posts on the perimeter of the kitchen area — for looks, not support — instead of a wall. But there are additional measures you can take to both distinguish the space and create an efficient design for you and your guests in a log home kitchen. We show you how.

Breakfast bar

An effective and popular space-gainer for open kitchens is a breakfast bar. Besides being a handy place to eat, it serves the secondary purpose of semi-enclosing the kitchen space. The bar, a lower cabinet with a diner-wide counter, uses room outside the kitchen for stools so people can eat from the kitchen without being in the kitchen. It's ideal for those who don't want a walled-off or bump-out breakfast nook. More than a cost-saving feature, these breakfast bars provide a great opportunity to go all out choosing distinctive bar stools.Obviously a breakfast bar, especially one with more rustic than Formica styling, can pitch in at parties as a beverage and dip station, actually encouraging people to stop and chat a spell with the cook — while again sending the signal to steer clear of the work zone. The kitchen bar lets cooks converse with several people at once.


Another strategic way to define space is the island. Islands define the "missing" corner of an open kitchen and create plenty of counter and storage space. Some have sinks and ranges. Any kind of counter works so long as it remains low enough to keep the kitchen visually open, even if technically, the missing walls are there, at least in the sense that they block movement.The ceiling equivalent of islands is overhead pot racks attached in the same imaginary corner where the island would be. Other hanging things work, too.

Take in the views

Another advantage of open kitchens has already been hinted at. In walled kitchens, cooks typically face away from the rest of the house toward the work areas, drawn also perhaps by a window with a view. An open kitchen leaves your back exposed. The solution is obvious: Turn around. By thinking of an open kitchen as a theater-in-the-square, you discover you can see through much of the rest of the house without leaving the kitchen, even when you don't have company. It's almost a command-post type of feeling.Working inside an open kitchen in a log home lets you enjoy the view of your logs. Living rooms are usually the loggiest in log homes, so you can design your kitchen to take in your living room logs, maybe the fireplace and some of the same outside views you'd get in the living room. Even if you still do most of your work facing away, toward the back walls, at least when you look over your shoulder you're catching a glimpse of your beautiful home, not a calendar reminding you of your dentist appointment Thursday.

Prep area

The fourth point can be one of the traditional stages of the work triangle: food prep, because that requires the most time, attention and activity. It can be a staging area or a serving area or a short-term storage spot. That's where an island with a second sink comes in handy, but even a compact butcher-block island serves the purpose. You could cook there instead, but that might require a range hood that can visually and physically diminish the openness you intended when you designed the space.Range hoods are just one of many temptations you face in your efforts to keep your open kitchen actually open. People accustomed to closed kitchens invariably find themselves trying to create something more familiar, rationalizing that they're wasting all this potential wall space just to be able to see what's going on in the next room. Remind yourself throughout the process of designing and outfitting your kitchen why you wanted an open kitchen in the first place and commit to keeping it open.

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