Sorry, living room. The kitchen can be king when it comes to places in a home for family and friends to gather – at mealtime, or any time, if that’s how you choose to use your kitchen. This even applies to eat-in kitchens.
But chew on this: If you have an eat-in kitchen and no separate dining room, there are ways to make the most of the space you have – instead of lamenting over your lack of a lavish dining area.
Before you change how you use your kitchen space, first change your mindset on the topic. Think of the advantages of having an eat-in kitchen. Consider the cozy, charming, even chic and casual atmosphere you can create with a well-thought out floor plan and some stylish furnishings. It’s where form, function, design, and style come together to give you that “Wow!” you didn’t know your kitchen could have when doing double-duty as a food prep site and a dining area.
Eat-in kitchens offer the opportunity for more interaction among those preparing meals and those eating meals. It might even encourage your diners (family members or friends) to help with the cooking or clean-up! Well, one can hope.
So … how do you maximize the minimal space of your eat-in kitchen? Again, that depends on your kitchen and how you are currently using that space. But I’ve got a few ideas for you to consider as you search for the best ways to make the most of your eat-in kitchen.
If you have room to add a small dining table and a couple of chairs, select ones with small silhouettes. Avoid big, bulky chairs and go for ones with slender frames. When it comes to tables, look for ones with a single, slender (but sturdy) pedestal supporting it in the center. Bar-top-style tables, the tall ones similar to those you see in pubs and restaurants, are another good-looking option because they use more vertical space than horizontal space. There are so many styles and colors from which to choose. There’s bound to be something that matches your taste and the current décor of your kitchen.
No space for that small, bistro-style table and chairs? No problem. Consider a kitchen island instead, with slim-framed chairs or slim barstools. Islands offer an attractive and functional anchor to the kitchen. Finding an island with style should not be a problem, given the variety available. Some kitchen islands have wheels that easily lock into place. When not in use, the movable island can be rolled away and tucked in a corner of the room.
If more tabletop space is needed, some islands comes with a table extension, commonly known as a “peninsula.” As a space-saving option, some peninsulas can be retracted under the island when not in use.
What do you do if one or two of your guests for your small dinner party decide to bring their “plus ones” and your kitchen island doesn’t have a peninsula? Simple. Just create a peninsula by putting a narrow table at the edge of the island. If the table doesn’t exactly match the island but is the right size, place a nice tablecloth on the table and add an elegant but small centerpiece to detract from what would otherwise be a hodgepodge setup. Even if the island and table heights aren’t an exact match, don’t worry about it. As long as the heights are reasonably close in measurement, it’ll be fine. Just be sure to make certain that the chairs or stools for the slightly shorter table allow enough room for your guest to scoot themselves under the added table. Test this out before your guests arrive so there are no surprises.
If you want to have a dining area of your kitchen that is a bit out of the way and yet has charm, opt for a breakfast nook. Reminiscent of restaurants with a home-style feel, nooks are generally L-shaped with banquette (built-in bench) seating and are often set near bay windows. The windows bring natural light into the kitchen and can make the room feel more spacious. A nook can also be set within a cozy, walled corner.
Put some nicely-patterned or solid-color pillows and cushions on the banquette seating area to add accent and flair to the décor – a modern twist on a vintage dining motif. Another benefit of banquettes is that they are usually built with storage space beneath the seating. Not sold on banquettes? You use place nicely crafted benches (with or without cushions) on either side of a small picnic-type of table in your nook area.
Even if none of these ideas for aesthetically beefing up your eat-in kitchen appeal, one thing should somewhat satisfy your hunger to have more from your small space: the idea that there’s hope for making the most of your eat-in kitchen.
Give it some thought. Be resourceful. Be creative. Talk to friends. Talk to interior designers and/or decorators. Do some research – check out some floor plans with eat-in kitchens, such as this one from The Plan Collection, a top-notch New York-based firm whose website features floor plans from leading designers and architects, many of which include eat-in kitchens.
Otherwise, family and friends will flock to the living room to eat and meet. Go ahead and try to get that cozy, charming feel with family and friends sharing a meal as each of them is seated in front of an individual TV tray table in the living room. Instead, just c’mon back to your eat-in kitchen.