Brownstone Boys: Closed Kitchen Comeback or, Is an Open Kitchen Right for You?

Almost ready to decorate our new open kitchen!

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 48th installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary. We’re excited to publish their tale of buying and renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

When we set off on our renovation journey one of the things on the top of our list was an open kitchen. We love having a showstopper kitchen being seen from the living area and we really wanted the easy flow and entertainment facility of having an open space. Most of the people we speak with who are in the middle of or about to start a renovation are looking for the same. But there are a growing number of people who are looking for a more traditional closed kitchen.

For quite a while now, many designers, architects, and homeowners have been touting the benefits of open kitchens. But all that openness isn’t new, and for some the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The traditional feel and private space of a closed kitchen is again becoming more popular among renovators and house hunters.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both.

interior design ideas

We’re so happy with our decision to open the kitchen on the parlor floor. We have views on both sides of the kitchen

Open Kitchen
It’s safe to say that by far most people prefer the open kitchen. Whether that is from countless home renovation shows that create open living plans or just the way folks want to live, it’s the more popular option, at least for now. If you’re renovating with resale in mind it might be the way to appeal to the most buyers.

The Pros
It allows anyone in the kitchen to be part of the activities that are happening in the living area.
It creates a great entertainment space with easy flow to and from the “heart of the house.”
Makes the space appear larger by creating longer sight lines.
It allows more natural light to flow through the space since walls are eliminated.

The Cons
If you’re a messy cook, your mess can be seen by all guests in the rest of the living area.
Opening up walls and creating open plans are some of the more expensive renovation items.
It’s a departure from a traditional living plan if you have a historic home.

interior design ideas

A beautiful closed kitchen we were considering. Photo via The Corcoran Group

Closed Kitchen

Traditionally, not only was the kitchen separated from the living area by walls, it was often on a different floor. Many of the brownstones in Brooklyn had the kitchen on the garden level while the main living areas were one floor up on the parlor level. “Closed” doesn’t mean claustrophobic or small. It just means that kitchen access is separated by walls and doors. And food prep and cleanup is hidden from view. A closed kitchen can still be large and beautiful.

The Pros
Food prep messes and cooking odors are confined to the kitchen.
Closed kitchens can have more storage and countertop space since there are more walls.
If you are renovating and keeping existing walls intact, it can be less expensive than removing them and creating alternative structural supports.
It’s a more traditional layout and the dining and entertainment experience is more formal.

The Cons
The cook is separated from the fun in the living area.
The space can feel more closed off with less natural light (depending on your layout).

interior design ideas

Prepping for our first soiree utilizing the kitchen island counters

What’s the right answer?

If you are renovating, then the world is your oyster. It’s completely up to you what works best for your family and whether or not resale is important. You may even feel that a closed kitchen is better all around and for resale for your home. That is beauty of renovating. You have the ability to create a space that works for you.

There are even ways to have the best of both worlds. You can have a pass through, pocket doors, a peninsula, or any other partial separation.

We are loving our open kitchen and have already had the chance to enjoy the space and flow while entertaining friends. Whatever you choose, just make sure to enjoy your space.

[Photos via Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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