When older homes were built, designers obviously didn't predict current lifestyles. Most modern homeowners want a kitchen space that opens into other family gathering spaces in the home. Those cooks who like to entertain won't be happy in a 'hidden' kitchen layout that doesn't allow them to interact with guests while they prepare food.
Older kitchen designs can be not only isolated from family living areas, they often don't allow anywhere to eat. One way to revamp up a hemmed-in kitchen space is through a U-shaped kitchen layout that opens on both sides to the rest of the house. It may not be big enough to house an island, but with careful planning and cabinet placement it can still be a productive, fun place to cook. On one side of the U, stools or an eat-in area can be installed.
Depending on the home layout, a cut-out can be formed above the work space and sink that opens to a great room and allows natural light from an entrance as well as a nice view of the backyard. Posts and upper cabinets can give the kitchen its own space without cutting it off in a dark area. If you choose this type of kitchen renovation, you may want to consider what type of design elements and decorative items might present a nice flow from the new U-shaped kitchen to other rooms. Keeping a 'decor flow' in these situations is almost as important as keeping a work/lifestyle flow.