Imagine opening your kitchen up to other social areas of your home - feels good, doesn't it? While you're knocking down walls in your mind, consider the placement of the major appliances and the sink carefully to make the most of the new space.
Oven/Stove Placement in an Open Plan Kitchen
A separate oven and stove top is a great idea in open plan kitchens and doesn't significantly increase your cost if well-planned. Think through how you use your kitchen most of the time to decide if a separate setup is right for you. If you're lucky enough to have a baker or a candy maker in the family, keeping the appliance near a large work area might be more important than keeping the oven and the stove top together in one unit.
Venting is another important consideration because this necessary extra equipment can break sight lines if it's not handled in a pleasing way. Vents can go through cabinets or a built in microwave/vent combo, or they can be finished to look like the cabinets. No matter how you finish the venting, make sure it's easy to clean and replace filters if necessary.
The stove or a separate oven should not be placed next to the refrigerator. The heat will cost you in energy and shorten the useful life of the fridge.
Refrigerator Placement in an Open Plan Kitchen
The refrigerator is by far the largest appliance in any kitchen and can take up a lot of visual real estate. With an open plan kitchen, you don't want this massive bulk to detract from the view. Try a custom refrigerator that looks like your cabinets instead.
If you build cabinets around your refrigerator, leave enough space to accommodate a larger unit in the future. Fridges need to be replaced occasionally and it seems they just keep getting bigger!
Dishwasher/Sink Placement in an Open Plan Kitchen
Traditionally, the sink is placed under the window with the dishwasher at its side. In an open plan kitchen, the sink does not need to be placed along a wall - it can be integrated into a breakfast bar or an island looking out over the space. This incredible flexibility allows you to see what's most important in the room - and to carry on a conversation while you clean up the dishes.
You'll still want to put your dishwasher next to the sink, but placing it in an island gives you the freedom to choose whether it's on the left or the right, rather than its position being dictated by cupboard spaces.
If it's not possible to reroute the plumbing or you prefer to put your stove in the island instead, a window placement for the sink may still not be your best option. You might be well-served placing your home office space by the window, or a fully equipped baking area if that's your passion. The window provides you with access to the outside world as you work, so determine what you spend the most time doing in the kitchen and give yourself a lovely view.
Maximum Distances Between Appliances
Just because you choose to open your kitchen up to the dining or living areas of your home does not mean you abandon the time-tested "work triangle" layout. The total length of all legs of the triangle should not be more than 22 feet or less than 12 feet. Your kitchen may have more than one work area in addition to the standard sink-stove-refrigerator setup.
The minimum distance between an island and wall cabinets should be four feet. Obviously if an oven is incorporated in the island the distance will need to be greater to accommodate an open oven door.
Draw up a plan and discuss it with your contractor. Don't be restricted by the current placement of work areas - plumbing and electric can be rerouted to make your dream kitchen come true. You spend a lot of time there - make it functional and beautiful.