Published on August 7, 2020

Around the 1950s, people started taking sledgehammers to their kitchen walls in full embrace of a new concept: open-plan living. But before cramped closed quarters became a true thing of the past, another trend briefly saw the light of day: the pass-through window. Popular in mid-century homes, these serving hubs made it easier to get hot dishes from the counter to the dining table without putting your messy prep space on display. Then sprawling islands took their place…until now.

“Working from home has changed the dynamics of living together,” says Jean Brownhill, founder of online renovation platform Sweeten. “Partial walls help temper the sound of foot traffic while providing an open view to other spaces. It’s the best of both worlds.” Since the pandemic began, she’s seen a rise in pass-through window requests, especially in smaller NYC apartments. Brownhill isn’t the only one who has a newfound crush on this forgotten renovation feature—these rooms are making it feel fresh again:

Round It Out

Curved pass-through kitchen windowPin It
Photography by Bri Ussery

An easy way to lend a serving spot a 21st-century feel? Give it some curves, like in Bri Ussery’s Austin home. “We wanted to feel connected to the rest of the house,” she explains. Ussery softened the edges of her kitchen cutout to mimic the arched doorways that were original to the house.

Double It Up

Double pass-through kitchen windowPin It
Photography by Kate Berry

In Denise Portmans and Sara Marlowe Hall’s California home, organic shapes extend to the architecture, where arched windows and doorways live alongside rectangular ones. So in the kitchen, the mother-daughter duo kept both. With pass-through windows leading to both the dining area and the sunroom, mingling with (socially distanced) guests while they mince and sauté is an effortless affair.

Hide It Away

Pass-through kitchen window with curtainsPin It
Photography by Allyson Lubow; Design by Merve Kahraman

Designer Merve Kahraman lined the windows of this Manhattan apartment in ombré cafe curtains to mimic the sweeping sunset views. So instead of opening up the galley kitchen’s existing cutout, she gave it a similar treatment. Hiding dishes or letting light in is as easy as pulling back the fabric.

Extend It Outside

Outdoor pass-through kitchen windowPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICK BUTLER-MADDEN; DESIGN BY LAURA BUTLER-MADDEN

It’s not just indoors that Brownhill is noticing an uptick in pass-through windows: The trend extends to the backyard, too. “It makes any space where meals are served convenient,” she says of openings from the kitchen to a deck or garden. All it takes is an accordion window, a counter, and a couple of stools to turn it into a happy hour destination. 

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