Photos: Dave Burk/Hedrich Blessing Photographers

The kitchen’s being the nerve center of the home is not a new idea. Neither is open plan living. The formal dining room is gone. The kitchen island reigns. And the great room is the place where most of a family’s life is lived. To help your plans more fully embrace modern living’s reality, Dominick Tringali, principal of Dominick Tringali Architects, wants you to think of the great room and the kitchen as one. He calls this approach The Living Triangle.

To that end, he offered attendees at this year’s International Builders’ Show several ways to make the most of the all-important living space.

Custom Touches. Because most home design begins with the kitchen, the Living Triangle becomes the center of the home and the driver of the design. It’s a chance to build features into the plan that make a production home feel more like a custom home.  Architectural details, like a cathedral ceiling with beam detail or an entryway defined by a stone arch, can be planned ahead and then integrated into the initial design. Cabinets can be built right into drywall, offering a custom look.

Save Face. Cut back spending on cabinet facings, and instead put the money toward designing good spaces and space-efficient cabinetry.

Take It Outside. Work an outdoor space into the plan, even if it’s just a small courtyard, letting the architectural spaces create the outside space. Don’t assume that your product is too small for an outside space. Even a 12-foot side yard can make for a courtyard that opens from the kitchen and into a flex room.
 
Raid the Pantry. If there’s extra space, consider a butler’s pantry that can function as a prep space and staging area. We’re not talking Downton Abbey–scale, but behind a sliding door or floating wall, a “dirty kitchen” can hide cooking chaos.   

Light in Layers. Designing lighting for an open space is best done with several different sources: Task lighting on dimmers, pendants, and under-cabinet lights. Cabinets themselves can be a source of soft and pleasant ambient light, provided facings are translucent or transparent.

Get Wired. Incorporate appliances such as espresso machines and steam ovens into your kitchen designs. These add a custom, luxurious touch, as do warming drawers and fridge drawers—which are also both kid-friendly and wheelchair accessible. 

Modernize. The open plan is a modern idea, and with it comes a chance to go for sleek lines and a spacious end result. Think floating vent hoods, big windows instead of overhead cabinets, running cabinetry clear up to the ceiling soffits. Take the same approach with the backsplash, using one great-looking material, whether it’s artisan tile or stainless steel. 

Take It to the Banquette. Banquettes are back, and they’re a great way to use a niche, nook, corner, or window space to make a built-in seating area. 

Amy Albert is a senior editor at Builder.