Open-plan or closed kitchen?

Recommendation 50

Chapter (theme)
Architectural spaces (kitchens)

Because of
sensory issues, Central coherence

In order to
make an informed choice between an open and closed kitchen.

As explained in the theme ‘kitchens’, this space poses exceptionally high demands on many senses and also on bodily and cognitive functioning. People with autism who respond well to these challenges are richly rewarded, those who don’t will experience considerable disadvantages in daily life because of it. For these reasons it is crucial that optimal conditions are created through interior design, the choice and installation of machinery and appliances and its construction, which is at issue here.

Since the sixties of the last century people generally prefer open-plan kitchens, i.e. ones in open contact with dining- and/or living rooms. To the extent other family-members share this general preference it has to be balanced against objections related to autistic peculiarities and limitations. The most important ones are over-sensitivities to kitchen smells and noise. Also the need for structure and overview can be such that it’s too confusing to combine different functions in the same space. (See zoning and the related concept Central coherence.)
In case one or more of these factors are present, which will be true more often than not, it’s advisable to choose for a closed kitchen. (Or, in case the overview is the main problem, one might choose for an intermediate solution by dividing the open kitchen by pieces of furniture such as cupboards.)

In deciding for a closed kitchen in may help to take into consideration that their disadvantages are generally overstated.
In the event the aforementioned autistic requirements are not or hardly in play, some of the advantages of open kitchens can be enjoyed. These are mainly that the kitchen cum dining area will fulfill its function as a central meeting place so everyone can fully participate in a common social life. Another advantage is that autistic children can learn all about preparing meals through observation and helping. Planning, tracking stocks, buying groceries and collaboration are some of the skills involved.

Provided the kitchen is large enough, however, the latter advantages are equally present in closed kitchens. Moreover, concentration is easier in a closed kitchen; and one can decide to leave the cleaning-up to a later point in time.


general preference

Undoubtedly as a consequence of the democratization process: no kitchen staff anymore, nor housewives working invisibly in the background. Audrey Brashich mentions this aspect too in her article ‘I Hate the Open-Plan Kitchen—and Amazingly, I’m No Longer the Only One’, In:, June 3, 2015. Here.