Over the years the kitchen has evolved from a purely functional space to being the heart and soul of the home. At social gatherings, the kitchen has a tendency to draw guests in like a magnet. Everyone migrates to congregate in the kitchen. Depending on the layout of your kitchen, this could make it difficult to cook and entertain successfully. A growing trend in kitchen design is a concept called “the social kitchen.” With this concept, the kitchen is transformed into a dual-purpose space for both preparing food and entertaining guests.
To be effective, a social kitchen needs to offer comfortable space for guests while still providing enough space for you to be able to function. If you’re preparing to remodel your kitchen or if you’re building a new house, there are a number of design elements you can incorporate that will make your kitchen more of a socially-friendly space.
Perhaps the most effective way to create a social kitchen is by creating an open floor plan that blends the adjoining areas, such as the living room, with the kitchen to create a single area. If your kitchen is currently a separate room, this would involve taking down walls, if possible. By creating this open space, your guests can be in the comfort of your living room while you can be in the kitchen while preparing food and still be able to socialize easily. This same idea can be applied to your outdoor living space. Glass bifold doors can be used to create a see-through wall that can be retracted when needed to create one large indoor-outdoor space.
While the open concept enables socialization, you still want to have some sort of visual boundary between the kitchen and the living room to prevent guests from invading and overtaking your kitchen space while you’re trying to work. An island is a great solution. It provides a work area for the cook and, with the addition of some bar stools, creates a seating area for guests, allowing them to chat with the cook without getting underfoot. Placing your refrigerator on the perimeter of the kitchen will allow guests to get drinks without getting in the way of the cook. Another way to keep kitchen traffic to a minimum is to avoid placing access to other areas, like the garage or the backyard, at the other end of the kitchen from the living area.
Incorporate seating for guests beyond the dining table. Bar stools, again, are a great addition. They can be tucked under the bar and out of the way when they’re not being used. Benches are another great option and can serve the dual purpose of providing concealed storage inside. A comfy, padded window seat will let guests take advantage of your view while relaxing.
Reducing overhead cabinets and selecting integrated appliances that are concealed behind cabinetry help create a clean, uncluttered look that helps your kitchen blend in better with your living room and will make it feel larger.
Use a layered lighting approach with a variety of lighting styles, including overhead lighting, task lighting, under-cabinet lighting, accent lighting, and natural light. This approach will give you great flexibility in setting the right ambiance while still having sufficient light to work where needed. A dimmer can improve your flexibility even more. To bring in more natural light, enlarge the windows or add additional windows. This will make the kitchen feel more spacious and less confining.
Even if you don’t do a lot of entertaining, a social kitchen is also perfect for families, providing an area for meal preparation, homework, and family dinners together.