Home Improvement

How to create a sociable kitchen

  • Hannah Brown/Houzz

     (Hannah Brown/Houzz)

  • Fine House Studio/Houzz

     (Fine House Studio/Houzz)

  • Higham Furniture/Houzz

     (Higham Furniture/Houzz)

Do you want your kitchen to be the heart of your home and more than just a place to cook and eat? Here are the key ingredients for creating a welcoming space where family, friends and guests will love to spend time.        

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Keep it cozy. On the whole, people aren’t keen on hanging out in stark rooms. If your kitchen feels comfortable, it will draw people to it and make everyone in it feel at ease.

For example, generous seating, an array of comfy cushions and a rustic wooden table with a big bowl of fruit help to give the room an inviting, lived-in feel.

Include a casual seating area. Once people flop down on a comfy sofa in your kitchen, they won’t be in a hurry to leave. Whether it’s in your main living space or part of an extra seating area, a sofa creates a welcoming atmosphere, and you don’t need a huge kitchen to fit one in.

For example, putting the sofa perpendicular to the peninsula subtly divides the cooking, eating and chill-out zones.

Combine kitchen and dining areas. If the kitchen includes your dining area, it’s more likely to feel like the hub of your home, especially when you’re entertaining. You may be surprised at how many people you can accommodate even in a relatively small space.

Build in a breakfast bar. If you don’t have space for a dining table in your kitchen, you can still create a spot where family and guests can perch and chat to you while you prepare a meal.

A breakfast bar at the end of an island or a peninsula is the ideal solution. The overhanging lip of this counter provides a comfortable place for people to tuck in their knees as they sit, and the bar stools can be neatly pushed under and out of the way when not in use.

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Make it a room with a view. When you’re planning your kitchen, think carefully about the view you’ll have when working and eating in it. An attractive one will make it much more inviting.

Try to avoid having to do the dishes while facing a brick wall, and don’t position the dining table so that it looks directly at your washing machine. If your kitchen has windows or glazed doors that look out on your garden, terrace or balcony, try to ensure that this is, for the most part, what everyone will see.

Go for an island combo. If you have young children who are out of highchairs but not yet tall enough to climb and sit safely on a bar stool, consider lowering one end of your island to create an informal seating area that little ones and their friends can sit around comfortably.

Different levels identify the different functions of this island, and the standard-height table area is perfect for children to eat supper and do their homework.

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Open onto the garden. If your kitchen opens directly to your outdoor living space, it will feel like the center of your home. For example, bifold doors can open the entire room to the terrace, blurring the distinction between the outdoors and inside.

Brighten it up. No one wants to spend time in a dark and dingy room, so make your kitchen feel as light and bright as possible — you want people to feel uplifted as soon as they enter.

Painting the space white or in a pale shade is one way to do this, but think about your window treatments too.

Also consider whether you can open the space by removing walls, and include a mirror or two, as these can be useful in reflecting light around a room.

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Focus on the TV. You may not want to admit it, but the TV is probably a big draw when it comes to your home’s social spaces. If you don’t want the TV to be a distraction all the time, conceal it behind the doors of a purpose-built unit.