14 September 2016 - With limited living space in a concrete jungle like Hong Kong, homeowners are eager to utilize every square foot of their properties as efficiently as possible. One common method is to demolish the wall of the existing kitchen to turn it into an open one. An open kitchen is certainly a popular choice today, but before you knock down your walls, make sure you understand the pros and cons of an open kitchen, and that you are not violating the Building Department’s Code of Practice for Fire Safety by doing so.
For most properties in Hong Kong, enclosed kitchens are the norm due to Chinese cooking habits. The essence of Chinese dishes depends greatly on ‘wok hei’ (鑊氣) - the flavour and tastes imparted by a hot wok on food during stir-frying. Common cooking methods such as stir-frying and deep-frying unavoidably generate odors and smoke that quickly diffuse through the air. But we are now seeing more Western style open kitchens in new developments as the trend of integrating kitchens into the living space gathers steam (pun intended!). More people, especially young couples, are also asking interior designers to demolish the walls of their kitchen so they can benefit from a more spacious home.
Apart from the perspective of modern design, what are the benefits of having an open kitchen in your home?
When the walls come down, an open kitchen becomes an active part of the home with everything revolving around it. This open plan layout is ideal for multitasking, allowing the home cooking enthusiast to spend more time with the family and involve the little ones from a young age. You can cook while watching TV or keeping a watchful eye on the kids - sounds like a winning situation to us!
Open kitchens also benefit from maximized lighting and natural daylight along with a sense of airiness. With the walls taken down, light from the dining or living areas overflows into the kitchen, greatly illuminating the expanded workspace.
They can also be better for entertaining purposes, allowing the cook to interact with guests while preparing a sumptuous feast. Guests are invited into the hub of the home, facilitating conversations and feeling more welcomed by the host. Of course this isn’t for everyone, with no barrier between the cooking space and living/dining area, the smell and smoke from cooking and the full display of food waste and uncleaned utensils can also make for a less pleasant guest experience.
With fewer walls, there also tend to be fewer cabinets and less storage space for you to keep your spices and utensils. If you opt for open shelves, you will also need to keep your things nice and tidy at all times.
For those who prefer more privacy and not being critiqued while cooking, an enclosed kitchen might still be a better choice. It also offers a more formal dining experience and the ability to surprise your guests assuming they don’t know what will be served prior to the start of the meal.
If you really wish to convert your apartment’s kitchen, take note of the following before you kick-start the renovation process:
- Obtain approval and consent from the Building Department prior to any construction work, or the open kitchen may be treated as an unauthorized building structure, resulting in fines and charges to reinstate the kitchen to its original condition.
- Assess the feasibility of adding additional fire protection systems, such as water mist suppression or dry powder systems above the stoves.
- Use flameless electric induction cookers only. Gas cookers are not allowed in open kitchens.
- Consider installing a stronger range hood to remove the smoke and odors from cooking.
- Evaluate the possibility of creating a semi-open kitchen that attempts to combine the benefits of both worlds