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How to freshen up the look of a kitchen pass-through

 <span class="cutline_leadin">PASS-THROUGH NO MORE: </span>Experts suggest expanding small, dated pass-throughs for delivering dishes. This overhang creates a bar instead.
PASS-THROUGH NO MORE: Experts suggest expanding small, dated pass-throughs for delivering dishes. This overhang creates a bar instead.
TREVOR TONDRO / The New York Times

The New York Times

Q: My kitchen has a pass-through that looks out of date. How can I improve it?

A: Although a small pass-through, or opening in the wall for handing dishes in and out of the kitchen, was once a popular feature, it is rarely coveted now.

“If it’s one of those hole-in-the-wall pass-throughs, it automatically looks dated,” said Barbara Kaufmann, an architect and real estate sales representative at Coldwell Banker Bellmarc in Manhattan. “And the smaller the pass-through, the more dated it looks.”

The best solution, she said, is to expand the hole as much as possible by cutting away the wall.

“The taller you can make the opening, the better,” Kaufman said. “If you can take it all the way up to the ceiling, that’s best, because then the two spaces will feel like one big room.”

And at the bottom of the pass-through, try to bring the opening down to the height of the kitchen counters. Doing so will probably require some messy construction, she said, but it will also likely increase your home’s value. And compared with the potential return on investment, she said, “it’s not actually that expensive to do, so it’s definitely worth it.”

Rebekah Zaveloff, director of design at the Chicago firm KitchenLab, offered the same advice. Make the opening as big as you can, “so it won’t feel as much like a drive-through window,” she said. “It’s pretty involved, obviously, and requires a contractor. But open it up as much as possible, top to bottom and side to side.”

If it’s structurally feasible, Zaveloff recommended removing the top part of the wall entirely.

“You can then transform the base cabinets into a real peninsula, and do an overhang on one side, with barstools,” she said.

You could also hang pendant lamps from the new ceiling. That way, you’re creating a look similar to an island, Zaveloff said. “By doing something like that, you’re really transforming the space.”

But if you’re not willing to take on the inconvenience or the expense of such a big project, there are smaller things you can do to improve the look, Zaveloff said.

First, add a stone countertop with a deep overhang. “I would try to get at least 12 inches,” she said, “which is enough to pull a stool up to.” Then consider using a decorative treatment like wallpaper, tile or antique mirrors around the opening.

“Most times, pass-throughs are open to dining spaces, so these kinds of finishes are appropriate,” she said. “You can create a feature wall out of a liability.”

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