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How to Work Around a Structural Pillar in Your Kitchen Extension

Don’t let a load-bearing column thwart your kitchen design – be inspired by these ideas for your vertical supports

Houzz UK Contributor. LWK Kitchens are a design-led German Kitchen specialist based… More

With open-plan living so popular, many of us will find that our enlarged kitchen-diner, or kitchen/living space, contains a design feature we might not know quite what to do with – a steel support or structural column. Whether it’s sticking out from the inside of an exterior wall or standing right in the middle of your room, this is a very tricky – or expensive – structure to dispense with in a new design, or to have removed from an existing space (although it’s always worth consulting a structural engineer).

Instead, many homeowners find a way to successfully incorporate a structural pillar or post into their kitchen design, whatever its position. Need some inspiration? Here are some smart ideas for how to work with – not against – yours.

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Embrace it!
If you have a load-bearing pillar – whether to the middle, side or back of the room – that can’t be removed, right from the planning stage you’ll need to find a way to include it, so it works for the kitchen and not against it.

Because it will take up physical, often valuable space, you might find your dream kitchen layout or original plans aren’t possible. It will also provide a creative challenge for any designer as he or she works to ensure a post or pillar doesn’t impede the functional workflow of the space.

Of course, at the same time, it has to have aesthetic appeal, but there are many creative ways of making a pillar work within a kitchen design. The key is not to ignore it! Instead, keep it at the forefront of your mind from the start of your planning.

In this space, for example, a pillar has allowed two slim, vertical bookcases to be created using discreet shelving stacks – perfect for cookbooks you want to have close at hand.

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The bookshelves as seen from the front.

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Make it practical
A really effective way of incorporating a pillar within a kitchen space is to make it functional. For example, within some pillars it may be possible to include an integrated fireplace. Alternatively, you could add sockets and switches or, on a square pillar, include shelves – or, as seen here, storage niches and an excuse for an interesting wine rack.

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Turn it into a striking design feature
In this kitchen, rather than shy away from showing off a vertical structural support, the designer has made it the most prominent feature in the space.

By cladding this oversized column in contrasting stainless-steel and deliberately positioning furniture around it, the designer has created a pleasant seating arrangement for guests, as well as a focal point.

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Allow it to enhance your kitchen’s theme
Create the impression that your pillar was always meant to be there by incorporating it into your kitchen theme. For example, in this country design, the pillars have been chosen to be the perfect colour complement for the kitchen’s open shelves, island worktop, and fireplace mantel. Their textured, wood-grained surface also adds a sense of rusticity, perfect for the country setting.

Similarly, exposed steel columns would be ideal for an industrial or loft kitchen, or you might choose to add period-appropriate pilasters to your pillars in an old home that has original mouldings elsewhere.

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Use colour to blend it in…
Choosing a largely uniform colour palette for your kitchen furniture and structural pillar can go a long way to minimising the column’s visual impact.

In this kitchen, white has been chosen as the overall colour – and it shows that pairing a white pillar and kitchen furniture with matching white walls and ceiling, plus a pale floor, will make it less noticeable still.

However, you don’t need to opt for a single colour palette for this to be effective if you’re concerned your space could look washed out or flat in a single shade. You can still blend your pillar into your scheme in this way while using one or two colour tones and subtle contrasts of texture or even a flash of one strong accent colour.

Here, a bold blue splashback is effective, but you could equally add a large, vibrant artwork, or a shelf of bright ceramics. An injection of colour will also, as you can see, cleverly divert the eye away from the pillar to another area of the room.

See more ways to add colour to your white kitchen

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…or to make it stand out
Alternatively, rather than using colour to conceal your kitchen pillar, you could use it to make it stand out! In this monochrome kitchen, the supporting column has been finished in an inky dark paint. This ensures it won’t go unnoticed, but equally it’s become integral to the success of the overall colour scheme. The tall and wide black pillar complements the dark kitchen furniture and adds drama to the room’s overall effect.

A broad pillar like this can be functional, too. In this open-plan space, wall lights have been installed on its nearside – well located for an enjoyable evening ambience.

Browse 10 beautiful black kitchens

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Mix materials to make it the focal point
Again, rather than trying to hide it, give your pillar a different finish to give it status as a focal point. In this sleek, modern kitchen, exposed brick has been used for the support, adding warmth and texture to the space.

You could also consider using mosaic tiles, slate or stone – and they don’t have to be real! There now many convincing replica cladding materials available that are suitable for interior use. These create the same stunning effect, are easy to introduce, and also include the added benefit of costing less to buy and install.

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Bury it
Structural supports, such as H-beams, may work well when exposed in some contexts (see the first image, for example), but they won’t be to everyone’s taste and often a better style solution is to box them in, typically with ply or plasterboard.

While this may help a pillar to blend in to the décor, this additional boxing can also bulk out its dimensions. A large column can make a striking statement, but if you have an existing support that’s larger than you’d like it to be, it’s worth investigating whether it’s been boxed in and, if so, how large the original structure is underneath. You may be able to reduce the size.

Depending on its position, it might also be possible to partially bury a pillar into a wall. In this kitchen, the structural pillar to the left of the extractor fan has been deliberately partially hidden in the party wall (a wall shared with a neighbour) to reduce its visual impact. There are regulations about what you can and can’t do with party walls, so do consult an expert before banking on this route.

These partially buried pillars can also be effective in hiding electrics, cabling or kitchen pipework.

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Line it up with an island…
In this kitchen, the intended design space housed a prominent and immovable pillar of H2540mm x W1100mm x D486mm, which was proving a real headache for the owners. This extra-wide pillar somewhat dominated the kitchen space, so an effective solution for making it less conspicuous – without impinging on the kitchen workflow – was to create an island that matched the column’s width.

Technically, the island forms a peninsula against the pillar and, in doing so, makes effective use of the kitchen’s footprint, as there’s a clear walkway all around both the column and the kitchen island.

A single row of 600mm-deep base units permitted a radiator through the island’s centre, as well as a bespoke radiator cover on the seating side; this was measured so as to fill the remaining void and complete the kitchen’s look.

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…or build your island around it
Another way to reduce the visual and spatial impact of a pillar is to incorporate it into a kitchen island. Reduced-depth drawers are one option for ensuring an island with a pillar is still practical and usable.

Incorporating a pillar within the unit means it won’t impact negatively on your kitchen’s footprint. However, during planning, you will need to consider carefully how you want to use the island to ensure a column running through it won’t cause an obstruction. You also need to consider that, as your pillar is immovable, your worktop will have to have a visible join, as the furniture and work surface will be constructed around it.

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Mirror it
Cladding your pillar in mirror, as seen here, is a smart design move. The mirror’s reflection proves a clever way of making the pillar ‘disappear’, leaving a stylish feature in its place.

Have you made a structural pillar work in your open-plan space? Tell us how in the Comments below.

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