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Closed-off kitchen: The comeback kid?


Picture this: you have friends or business acquaintances over for a formal dinner. Everyone has complimented you on the food, and the drinks and conversation are flowing. Then you get distracted and leave the tap running or you have a dessert disaster that needs clever “presentation” skills.  Would you rather face these kitchen challenges in full view of your guests or behind closed doors?

Embarrassing situations like these is one of the factors driving the resurgence of closed off kitchen designs according to a recent feature published by The New York Times.

Floor plans incorporating the kitchen into the dining and living area have been the popular design choice for some time now. But, according to the New York Times, the preference for a flexible space where the home owner can choose what to do with the space is increasing. Edward Yedid, partner of interior design and architecture firm Grade New York, believes that using sliding or pocket doors in the kitchen design is a workable alternative for those who are unsure of whether they want an open or closed kitchen.

Should you renovate?open plan living

Fran Segal, area specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Fresnaye and Bantry Bay, says that the trend does not seem to have reached South Africa’s up-market homes yet. “I have not had any requests for separate kitchens,” explains Segal. “I still find that most people will break through to create an open-plan dining/kitchen area when they buy older houses to renovate – done to maximise natural light and the wonderful views that many properties enjoy. She adds that most up-market homes do, however, have a separate scullery where prepping and washing up can be done out of sight of guests.

This is aligned to the design trend of large, up-market homes essentially having two kitchens: a “dirty” kitchen, and the open-plan kitchen where guests and family gather while the cooking takes place.

According to Charles Vining, managing director for Seeff Sandton, preference with regard to a closed kitchen in homes depends primarily on the age and type of buyer purchasing the high-end home.  He explains that older buyers generally prefer closed-off kitchens, while younger families are looking for an open plan kitchen that flows seamlessly into the dining and living areas.

Manny Testa, area specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Durban North and Umhlanga, believes that older high-end buyers are indifferent on whether a kitchen is open plan or separate.  To these home buyers, the chief consideration is the quality of the finishes used.

According to Testa, wealthy Millennials are, however, asking for separate kitchens, specifically looking for spaces that are big enough to fit a sizeable table for guests to gather with drinks while the meal is being prepped.

How to best plan your kitchen renovation

It seems that the decision of an open-plan or separate kitchen when building or renovating is entirely dependent on the lifestyle you envision and the demands you have for the kitchen space.

Resale value: the ever-present considerationKitchen with great view

If future resale value of your home is a concern, you should consider the demographic trends of the neighbourhood you live in. Justine Roux, area specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s Internation Realty in Atholl, Eltonhill, and Illovo, explains that, in her experience, the general trend is still for open-plan kitchens, with mature buyers sometimes preferring separate kitchens. “Younger families, however, almost exclusively prefer open plan,” she adds.

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Space is also a very important consideration before you renovate or build. David Brickhill, area specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Parktown North and Parkview, says that separate kitchens are popular, provided they have space for a large family table. With open-plan kitchens most up-market homes will have a separate scullery functioning as a “dirty” kitchen.

Monique Meszarich, of home staging firm Space Energy, says that open-plan living , dining, and kitchen areas are still very much on trend, with some high-end homes offering the functionality of a dining room that can be separated from the kitchen if required for formal dinners. According to Meszarich, when staging a home for potential buyers, kitchens are accentuated by using focal points and great natural and interior lighting.

In the end, a home is for you to enjoy and live in, comfortably. Natural light and the beautiful views South Africa has to offer may be two very important factors favouring open-plan living in this country at least.

Top photo: The closed-off kitchen of a high-end Sandhurst home, currently on the market for R19,5m


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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