Kitchen Pass-Throughs Make Outdoor Dining a Breeze
he kitchen pass-through window historically was used to hide kitchen clutter from guests and to help maids and chefs deliver food efficiently to formal dining rooms, says architect Rebecca Naughtin. Recently the feature has made a comeback — with a difference. Today it’s often used to ease the transition between indoors and out. What are the benefits of a kitchen pass-through, and how easy is it to install? We talked with two experts.
“With the popularization of open-plan and alfresco dining, we now look to the [pass-through] as a means of improving the connection between the kitchen and outside world,” Naughtin says. “The formal dining room is no longer a must-have. Both genders cook; we want to spend more time with our families and want to be efficient in how we do that.”
Naughtin advises ensuring that the window is wide enough to accommodate the number of stools you need with room to spare. Allow 28 to 30 inches of space per person (including the stool or chair) to prevent elbow clashes and to make it easy to get in and out of the seats.
Pass-throughs are becoming particularly popular in new builds, according to Dan Kitchens Australia designer Graeme Metcalf. He calls the outdoor kitchen the next step in the evolution of the outdoor entertaining area.
The traditional kitchen-to-dining-room pass-through was just an opening in the wall between the kitchen and dining room. It’s a trend that has fallen out of favor now that the kitchen has become the heart of the home rather than a room to be hidden.
“Nowadays people tend to remove the whole wall between the kitchen and dining room, creating wider, open spaces,” Metcalf says.
So what are the benefits of having a kitchen pass-through to the outside? On a purely functional level, it allows food and drinks to be quickly brought from the kitchen to the outdoor entertaining area, without dirty feet trudging in and out all the time.
Adding a pass-through to the outdoors opens up a kitchen and connects people to the outside, providing a wider view than ordinary windows. “Bifold windows are the best to use and tend to be the most common, because they open up fully for an unobstructed view,” Metcalf says.
Awning windows that fold out and up to create shelter over seating are inexpensive but cannot be closed from the inside. “Whichever way you go, specify a window that provides a good seal from the elements,” Metcalf advises. “The smallest gap can let in dust.”
Pass-throughs are easiest and cheapest to put in as part of a new build or an extension. Adding a pass-through to an existing exterior wall involves alterations to the interior and exterior walls, and means potentially replacing windows and the kitchen countertop.
If you have a sink inside in front of the pass-through window, specify a wider countertop, Metcalf says. She says faucets can get in the way.
If there is no existing window where you’d like to put the pass-through, the wall will need to be checked to see if it is load bearing. If it is found to be load bearing, there will be extra work and expense involved in hiring a structural engineer to provide drawings and a builder to install a structural beam.
Be sure to select materials for the countertop and cabinetry that are waterproof and fade resistant, Metcalf says, adding: “Luckily, engineered stone and Corian manufacturers have picked up on the trend of outdoor entertaining and have tested their products for this situation, giving each a rating — information can be found on the manufacturers’ websites.”
Several trades are involved in putting in a pass-through, including builders, window suppliers and stonemasons. “In instances like this, it is best to work with tradespeople that have worked together as a team,” Metcalf says.