Are Kitchen Pass-Through Windows Worthwhile? We Asked Designers for Their Honest Thoughts

Seamlessly connecting your indoor spaces with the outside, are kitchen pass-through windows actually the dream or a dated design gimmick?

(Image credit: Karyn Millet; David Tsay. Design: RailiCA Design)

Having grown up in a climate where it’s generally always warm outside, kitchen pass-through windows have always seemed like a really good idea to me. They blur the lines between rooms that may have formerly been seen as separate and can often improve the flow and function of your home.

‘In states like California, where outdoor living is year-round, a kitchen pass-through window marries the indoors with outside effortlessly,’ explains interior designer Raili Clasen from RailiCA Design. ‘Connecting the two spaces via a pass-through can create an entirely new room outside.’

But they don’t always. In fact, Sydney-based architect Georgina Wilson, founder and principal of Georgina Wilson Associates, doesn't think kitchen pass-through windows are worth it. ‘You’ll use it a lot less than you think and you’ll sacrifice a more important form of functionality elsewhere,’ she says. So we’ve done a deep-dive to help you determine whether this kitchen window idea will actually work in your home. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a kitchen pass-through window?

Just like it sounds, a kitchen pass-through window is a large opening that allows you to pass through things from your kitchen to an adjacent room like a living or dining room, but now more often than not, an outdoor kitchen or alfresco entertaining area.

Also referred to as a servery window, serving hatch or concession window, the design feature was originally popular in mid-century homes, but began to fall out of fashion as we embraced a more open-concept style of living.

modern kitchen design with internal pass-through window

(Image credit: Sean Litchfield. Design: Crystal Sinclair Designs)

You do still occasionally find internal pass-through windows, though. Crystal Sinclair, interior designer and founder of full-service firm Crystal Sinclair Designs, included one in a recent project — seen above — in Morningside Heights, New York City.

'The client was very persistent about having the pass-through,' she says of the bi-folding window that connects the kitchen to the adjoining dining room. 'It took some work to draw something that didn't look too chunky — we wanted something a bit more delicate than the usual, and I think we found a good balance.'

What are the different styles of kitchen pass-through windows?

There are plenty of different styles of kitchen pass-through windows on the market. 'We love both the cafe-style that flips up, and the accordion style that allows the entire opening to be pass-through space,' says RailiCA Design's Raili Clasen.

There are also bi-fold options, as well as windows that fold, pocket and slide. 'Folding pass through windows fold like an accordion and stack to create a vast, unobstructed opening, and are perfect for larger pass-through areas,' says Brian Quick, product manager at Anderson Windows & Doors.

'Andersen also offers Liftslide pass-through windows which provide near effortless operation with custom hardware that lifts the panels and allow the window to roll smoothly along the flush track,' he adds.

According to Georgina Wilson, the easiest and neatest pass-through mechanism is a sliding window. 'You need to remember these are closed the majority of the time, so you want something that seamlessly blends into your home,’ she adds.

exterior of house with kitchen pass-through window and bench stools and bi-fold windows

(Image credit: Karyn Millet. Design: RailiCA Design)

What window treatments work with kitchen pass-through windows?

'This is the problem — none do!' says Georgina, who tends to advise clients away from installing kitchen window treatments all together as they can collect dust, and you don't want that near your food.

For pass-through windows opening out onto a alfresco area, you could include some kind of outdoor shade like an awning or pergola. Otherwise it really depends on the style of window you select as to what window treatment will work.

'Retractable blinds or shades work well with pass-through windows because they can be easily opened and closed, offering light control and privacy,' says Brian. 'But in some cases, especially when the window faces a private outdoor area, leaving the window untreated can enhance the open, seamless connection between spaces.'

garden bar in the hatch of an out building

(Image credit: Sadolin and Sandtex)

Are kitchen pass-through windows dated?

Perhaps not necessarily dated, but the purpose of kitchen-pass through windows has certainly evolved, and as such it's definitely worth having a think about how appropriate one would be with your specific floor plan and kitchen layout.

'I think they only work well when it's not located in the primary passage to the outside,' explains architect Georgina Wilson. 'The only time I've seen it work was when it was located on the wall as a passage to the side of the house.'

Livingetc's editor Hugh Metcalf has other thoughts. 'In my own small kitchen, choosing large patio doors to my outdoor space would have meant losing so much cabinet and countertop space that it was never an option,' he says. 'By opting for a bi-folding pass-through window, I've been able to keep that connection with the garden that makes it so much more sociable when friends coming over.'

'Yes, pass-through windows from kitchens to dining rooms may have become outdated by the switch to open plan living, but when it comes to interior to exterior pass-through windows, it can really be a gamechanger for your layout,' he adds.

kitchen pass-through window to outdoors on house with black exterior

(Image credit: Karyn Millet. Design: RailiCA Design)

So, are kitchen pass-through windows worth it?

As with anything when it comes to our homes, it's completely up to you. But if you need help to make the decision, I'd recommend taking a considered look at the specific layout of your kitchen and take note of what a pass-through window could add to the space, but also what you may have to compromise on or give up in order to have one.

Is it wall space that would be better suited to a door? Or cabinetry? Would it make your outdoor area more functional, as it would be easier to distribute food and drinks out there? Where do you live and what is the climate like? How often would you realistically want to have the window open? How much will it cost and can your budget allow for that?

Emma Breislin
Interiors Editor

Emma is Livingetc's Interiors Editor. She formerly worked on Homes To Love, one of Australia's leading interiors websites, where she wrote for some of the country's top titles including Australian House & Garden and Belle magazine. Before that she was the Content Producer for luxury linen brand, CULTIVER, where she nurtured a true appreciation for filling your home with high-quality and beautiful things. Outside of work hours, Emma can often be found elbow-deep at an antique store, moving her sofa for the 70th time or mentally renovating every room she walks into. Having just moved to London, she's currently starting from scratch when it comes to styling her home, which, while to many may sound daunting, to her, is invigorating.