An eat-in kitchen is a popular layout that combines the kitchen and dining space into one large, open area. This creates a casual, inviting atmosphere perfect for family meals and entertaining. The key to designing an eat-in kitchen is finding the right balance between the two functions. Follow these 9 strategies to create a beautiful and practical eat-in kitchen tailored to your unique style.

Choose Multi-Purpose Furniture

Invest in pieces that serve double duty as both dining and kitchen furniture. For example:

  • Bar stools that tuck under a raised counter or island can provide extra informal seating without taking up floor space. Look for stools with backs and footrests for comfort.
  • A banquette built into a corner nook creates a cozy dining spot. Store serving pieces and table linens in the benches.
  • An extendable dining table can contract to a small size for everyday meals and expand to accommodate guests.
  • A buffet or hutch can store dining ware on one side and kitchen items on the other. Opt for pieces with doors to conceal the clutter.
  • An island topped with cooktop or sink on one side provides a prep surface and breakfast bar on the other.

Multipurpose furniture maximizes the functionality of the available space.

Zone the Space

Visually divide the eat-in kitchen into separate areas using these techniques:

  • Use flooring like tile in the cooking zone and hardwood in the dining zone to delineate the spaces.
  • Add an area rug under the table to soften and define the dining area.
  • Change the ceiling height with a dropped soffit over the table to distinguish the dining space.
  • Vary cabinetry styles to transition from kitchen cabinets to built-in buffet in the dining area.
  • Install a half-wall, columns or archway to divide the spaces without totally isolating them.

Subtly distinguishing the two zones creates a feeling of separate rooms while maintaining an open floorplan.

Select the Right Table Size

Don’t overwhelm the space with an oversized table. Consider:

  • The dining table should have at least 36 inches of clearance on all sides for people to move around easily.
  • Allow a minimum 48-inch pathway through the kitchen for multiple cooks.
  • For a rectangular table, allow 60 inches clearance at each end for seated guests to get in and out.
  • For a round table, allow 48 inches all around for access.
  • In a narrow galley kitchen, a table that’s 36-42 inches wide or a pedestal table leaves room to pass.

Measure carefully and test table options with temporary cardboard layouts before purchasing.

Choose Table Dimensions Strategically

The proportions of the dining table impact the feel of the space. Consider these table dimensions:

  • Small square tables (36-42 inches) work well in tight spaces but limit seating capacity.
  • Compact rectangular tables (36 x 48 – 42 x 60 inches) are efficient yet conversational for 4-6 people.
  • Moderate rectangular tables (42 x 72 – 48 x 84 inches) comfortably seat 6-8 diners.
  • Large rectangular tables (60 x 96 – 72 x 108 inches) provide ample room for 8+ guests but dominate the area.
  • Round tables from 42-60 inches diameter seat 4-6 guests with intimate, egalitarian appeal.

Select table proportions that suit your typical guest numbers without overwhelming the room.

Choose Comfortable, Casual Chairs

Dining chairs should promote relaxed socializing and linger-worthy meals. Ideas:

  • Upholstered chairs offer plush comfort for lengthy dinners. Tufted, leather and slipcovered are great options.
  • Wood chairs with contoured seats and backs are versatile and durable. Oak, ash and beech have inviting natural grain.
  • Ladder-back chairs allow diners to see and converse with the rest of the room.
  • High-back chairs create a sense of privacy for cozy tête-à-tête.
  • Arm chairs provide a place to rest elbows during leisurely meals.

Prioritize comfort and casual styling to match the laidback vibe of an eat-in kitchen.

Use Multi-Purpose Lighting

Illuminate both the cooking and dining functions with flexible lighting:

  • Pendant lights over the table provide direct task lighting. Go for 3+ pendants for ample glow.
  • Recessed can lights in the ceiling deliver even ambient lighting for the whole space.
  • Undercabinet lighting illuminates the countertops for food prep and adds a cozy glow.
  • Dimmers allow adjusting the lighting levels for different activities.
  • Layered lighting from multiple sources prevents shadows and creates a bright, welcoming ambiance.

Combine lighting fixtures and controls to accommodate all the activities of an eat-in kitchen.

Incorporate Specialty Storage

Maximize every inch of space with storage customized for each zone:

In the kitchen area:

  • A pantry cabinet or freestanding pantry stores food items out of sight.
  • Deep drawers hold pots, pans and baking sheets vertically.
  • Pull-out spice racks keep seasonings organized.
  • A charging station keeps phones, tablets and laptops powered up.

In the dining area:

  • A buffet or built-in cabinet conceals tableware and serving pieces behind doors.
  • A wine rack displays bottles in a handy spot.
  • Bench seating with storage inside adds hidden storage.
  • A hutch provides display space for decorative items.

Targeted storage contains the clutter of daily living in a compact eat-in kitchen.

Allow Open Shelving Strategically

While closed cabinetry conceals mess, a few open shelves can make items accessible:

  • Display colorful dishes and everyday glassware on open shelves to add visual interest.
  • Store frequently-used small appliances like coffee maker and toaster where they are handy but out of the countertop workspace.
  • Show off ornamental cookware like copper pots as decorative features.
  • Keep cookbooks on open shelving for inspiration and convenience.

Limit open shelving to curated elements you want to show off. Avoid clutter by containing other items.

Useadjustable Achieve Designed Flow

Promote an easy circulation pattern tailored to your space with these ideas:

  • Place the refrigerator near the cooking zone for convenient access.
  • Position the trash and recycling bins near the food prep area but away from the dining table.
  • Locate the table and chairs away from high-traffic routes but allow clear entry/exit paths.
  • Include a beverage station and snack drawer so guests can self-serve.
  • Use an L-shaped configuration to separate kitchen and dining while keeping them connected.
  • Incorporate multiple access points so cooks and diners don’t get in each other’s way.

Analyze how you use the kitchen and dining areas to create a smooth flow.

Embrace the Messy Vitality

The blend of cooking and dining means more visible activity. Embrace the lively spirit:

  • Display fresh fruits, flowers or herbs on the dining table to bring life into the room.
  • Hang framed recipes, cookbooks or artful utensils for fun decorative accents.
  • Use placemats or tablecloths to protect the tabletop from spills and scratches.
  • Designate a junk drawer or catch-all tray to quickly stash mail and kids’ artwork.
  • Stock up on cleaning supplies like disinfectant and dish soap to keep everything pristine.

The mix of usages may mean more frequent cleaning, but focus on the rewarding bustle of family and guests.

With smart furniture arrangements, purposeful lighting and space planning, it’s possible to create a stylish, highly-functional eat-in kitchen tailored to your lifestyle. Embrace the spirit of coming together for meaningful meals and memories in this warm, casual space. Find what works best for your family’s dining style.

Frequently Asked Questions About Designing an Eat-In Kitchen

Eat-in kitchens are popular for their casual, communal vibe but raising the design and functionality can be challenging. Here are answers to some common questions about creating an eat-in kitchen.

How much space do you need for an eat-in kitchen?

As a general rule, plan on having at least 126 square feet of floor space for seating four people comfortably at a table. Allow additional space between 150-200 square feet if more seating is needed.

What is the best eat-in kitchen layout?

The most common layout is the L-shaped kitchen with the refrigerator at one end, stove and sink at the other, and the dining table situated between. This allows smooth traffic flow and separation between cooking and eating zones.

Where should the dining table go in an eat-in kitchen?

Ideally, place the dining table near a window or different sightline from the working kitchen area. Allow a clear point of entry/exit from the table. Keep it out of high-traffic routes but still connected to the kitchen.

How do you design an eat-in kitchen on a budget?

Prioritize multi-purpose furniture like a counter-height table that can double as extra counterspace or an island with seating. Repurpose furniture like using a buffet as a pantry. Focus on small upgrades like new lighting fixtures or a fresh coat of paint on existing cabinetry.

What size dining table fits in a 10 x 10 kitchen?

A 36-42 inch square table or 42 x 48 inch rectangular table can typically fit in a 10 x 10 foot kitchen. Ensure there is still adequate room all around the table and in cooking work zones.

How do you decorate an eat-in kitchen?

Use items like fruit bowls, trimmed plants and wine racks to soften the kitchen vibe. Incorporate artwork, chalkboards and personal photos to show off your style. Luxury fabrics like linen curtains and woven placemats can elevate the space.

What flooring is best for an eat-in kitchen?

For durability and easy cleaning, tile or engineered hardwoods are great options. To delineate an eating zone, change to softer plank flooring, add an area rug, or switch the direction of the tile pattern under the table.

How do you design seating for an eat-in kitchen?

Opt for 10-12 inches of counter overhang to accommodate stools on one side of an island or peninsula. Allow 36+ inches of clearance behind stools. Use banquettes, benches or booths against walls to save space. Movable parsons chairs maximize flexibility.

What small appliances should be in an eat-in kitchen?

At minimum, include refrigerator, dishwasher, stove/oven, microwave and coffee maker conveniently located for both prep and dining zones. For frequent entertainers, include extras like an InstantPot, air fryer or stand mixer.

What décor can I add to my eat-in kitchen?

Simple additions like fresh flowers, scented candles, tray vignettes, framed photos, colorful dishware, and decorative bottles make an inviting statement. Sculptural fruit bowls, drink dispensers and personalized linens also lovely décor options.

With smart spatial planning, multi-functional furnishings and personal design touches, an eat-in kitchen can be stylish, efficient and family-friendly. Tailor the layout and decor to match your unique lifestyle and taste.


An eat-in kitchen blends cooking and dining spaces for an intimate, casual setting perfect for modern lifestyles. By selecting the optimal table size, multi-purpose furnishings, targeted storage and adjustable lighting, you can maximize use of every square foot. Zone the areas with flooring, ceiling differences and furniture groupings but maintain an open flow. Embrace the spirited messiness of daily living and coming together for meals. With these strategies, your eat-in kitchen can become a beloved hub for family and friends. Find what dining style suits you best and create this versatile, inviting space your own.