Introducing Messy Kitchen Design


I am obsessed with messy kitchen design! Messy kitchen floor plans solve so many kitchen design problems. If this is the first time you've heard of it, a messy kitchen (or dirty kitchen design) is similar in purpose as a scullery.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to the flow and layout of these types of kitchens. Lucky for you, its about all I think about (besides pantries!). Come along with me as I delve into the benefits and downsides of incorporating a messy kitchen into a remodel or new home plan.

I have provided a load of messy kitchen design ideas at the end of this article. If you can't wait, jump to it right now!

What is "messy kitchen" design?

The description of a messy kitchen is frustrating because the same words are used to describe a kitchen that needs cleaning 😞. Personally, I would like the whole world to shift to "working kitchen" because "scullery" just hasn't caught on. Regardless, the idea of a second kitchen or a back kitchen appeals to many.

"Messy kitchen" design or "dirty kitchen" design is a kitchen layout that separates the dish clean up area from the main kitchen. Similar to a scullery, the purpose is to keep the open kitchen neat and tidy by removing the task of washing dishes to another area.

If you want to see an example, check out my article Dirty Kitchen Design for Cooking Show. I was excited to see this kitchen first-hand on a modular home tour. I hope to get to tour other examples and share them with you - they are such a smart idea!

Messy kitchen design is the ultimate in working pantry rooms or side support room for the kitchen. You're probably wondering, "Why add a messy kitchen design? What was wrong with having the sink in the kitchen, like before?"

I can give you so many good reasons:

  • keep your "trophy" kitchen looking spic and span
  • contend with open concept living
  • improve traffic flow in kitchen

Seriously, folks - you don't have to "qualify" for an extra second kitchen - it's not just a luxury kitchen feature. More and more income levels are enjoying gorgeous kitchens. Thanks to the inspiration of home improvement shows and readily available online DIY videos, people can achieve a luxury kitchen on a shoestring budget.

example of messy kitchen design

Example of messy kitchen design, a separate place to wash dishes, hidden from or off the main kitchen.

Messy kitchen design trend

With that said, any kitchen is hard to keep clean. It becomes a whole new level of pain in the tush with open concept design. I don't know anyone who likes to socialize with company in their living room with a pile of dirty dishes behind them.

Queue up the messy kitchen design concept. The messy design trend is a direct response to the "over sharing" of having living, dining, and kitchen space in the same room. Home owners are finding "trophy kitchens" impossible to keep constantly clean!

By stepping to the side, and adding a spot to set dirty dishes, the pretty kitchen scape is preserved. Dishes don't have to done immediately, and you can visit with your company in a peaceful setting.

My own farmhouse kitchen is far from a trophy kitchen. The reason I dream about a separate kitchen sink area is traffic flow. There is an odd little corner in my kitchen where the sink, refrigerator, stove, and island all combine for a constant traffic jam. It is enemy #1.

Second, in addition to the constant traffic jam, are constant dirty dishes. This is a home cookin' house, with frequent family and friends over... stressing the frequent. I think my dishwasher would run around the clock if I let it.

Having a dirty kitchen is demoralizing. I remember that all my mother wanted for Christmas was a clean house. I so get that now! My siblings and I made it happen, and then we would stand back in awe to admire the brief and magical moment... until the next holiday.

Designing a messy kitchen

Obviously, you can really only add a messy kitchen space to a floor plan that has room for it. Tiny kitchens are already compact as it it. Don't fear, though. I've been pushing the pencil around on a possible home remodel. I've mapped out multiple scenarios where I can make it work.

If you're working with a designer, show them design plans that feature side messy/dirty kitchen clean up spaces. The concept is still taking a long time to catch on. A shout out to Schumacher Homes - they've been promoting messy kitchens as a standard feature in their home designs for a long time. Good job!

You may have to educate your builder. It is true that it can be challenging to add a side room to a kitchen. There may be plumbing limitations that impact where you want to put a sink center outside of the main kitchen.

Closets, pantries, laundry rooms, and mudrooms are often seen as the compromise space in house plans. It's these rooms that pull double-duty if they have to. A dirty kitchen with laundry area design is one such strategy that may be a workable solution for you.

Before jumping into house plans with dirty kitchen spaces, let's take a moment to review the pros and cons of messy kitchen design.

Example of dirty kitchen design

Dirty or messy kitchen layout can function as a mini second kitchen. Size varies according to owner's needs and space. It can be a small room, or just a step in space.

Pros & Cons of messy kitchen design

PROS of separate messy/dirty kitchen design

  • improve traffic flow
  • can be combined with pantry space or other functions
  • space can have its own design finishes, budget cabinets, or second-hand appliances to save money

CONS of separate messy/dirty kitchen design

  • can be too small for more than one person to work
  • can be too isolated from family
  • can be too claustrophobic to work in
  • can take up extra space in floor plan

Knowing these points will guide you to design a functional messy kitchen layout that fits your needs.

Messy kitchen design ideas

You can bet your petunias that messy kitchens are not just for the ultimate kitchen sink center. As many kitchen users there are, there will be just as many design versions of a messy kitchen.

Throw in each person's unique floor plan challenges and problem-solving skills, and new variants of the concept are born every day! There are no hard and fast rules, just your rules.

This means that pantry space can live within a messy kitchen space. Maybe recycling is squeezed in, or that separate baking center you've dreamed about. Many homeowners park an extra refrigerator for the overflow from the main kitchen fridge. See? No rules.

Dirty kitchen design ideas

Here is my collection of kitchen layouts that would work for a messy kitchen design. Just a couple of things to point out. First off, I find Australian designs to be pantry-inspiring. Many U.S. house plans are weak on the idea of an additional second kitchen space. 

Note that most of the designs flow from the kitchen into the messy/dirty kitchen space. If you wanted to incorporate a door to guarantee shielding from guests, go ahead. Remember, it can get lonely in there washing the dishes!

Scullery areas are strangely enough a luxury. Ignore references to "butler's pantry" or "pantry" or any other labeling in the photos below. Look beyond that to layouts alone and imagine in your mind putting those dirty dishes temporarily out of view.

If you have creative ideas how to rename this hardworking flex space, please leave a comment below. The term butler's pantry drives me nuts when people call it this. I just feel the term had a name for a very specific purpose - what it has been "re-labeled" to is inaccurate.

One last thing. This is not a new home game. With a little imagination, a push here and a push there, you can carve out a little messy kitchen/scullery space just about anywhere. Enjoy!

dirty kitchen ideas

Original source: Pindan Homes, Australia. Jarrahdale model. Current status: offline

dirty kitchen design ideas

Original source: Pindan Homes, Australia. Woodbridge model. Current status: offline

Ready to design a messy kitchen?

I love the possibilities of a messy kitchen design. I love nooks and crannies and unexpected surprises that these types of spaces can be. I am not a purist. The melding of tasks into the owner's perfect design space is for the ultimate purpose of bringing happiness and satisfaction.

Have fun making your kitchen special and unique!

signature, Renee editor EverythingPantry

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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