The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where families and friends gather to cook, eat, talk, laugh, and spend quality time together. Kitchens designed specifically for gathering make entertaining easier and more enjoyable. Here’s an in-depth look at how to design a kitchen optimized for bringing people together.
Choosing the Right Layout
The layout of your kitchen dramatically impacts how conducive it is for entertaining guests. Here are some of the most popular kitchen layouts and considerations for each:
Open Concept Kitchen
An open concept kitchen connected to the living and dining rooms creates one large, continuous space perfect for gathering.
- Pros: Allows the cook to engage with guests while preparing food. Fosters a relaxed, inclusive environment.
- Cons: Cooking smells and noises spread throughout the home. Can feel too exposed for some cooks.
Galley kitchens feature two parallel countertops with cabinets or appliances in between.
- Pros: Allows multiple cooks to work side-by-side. Easy to add a kitchen island for additional prep space.
- Cons: Traffic jams can occur in the tight walkway. Not ideal for large gatherings.
With counters wrapping around three walls, a U-shaped kitchen offers abundant prep space.
- Pros: The multiple workstations allow multiple cooks to collaborate with ease. Provides ample serving area.
- Cons: requires a large, dedicated kitchen space. Not great for conversation flow.
An L-shaped kitchen has counters along two adjacent walls.
- Pros: Provides two work zones and allows traffic to flow around the L. Guests can gather at the end of the L.
- Cons: Access to the sink, stove and fridge may be awkward for one cook.
This layout revolves around a large center island with ample seating.
- Pros: Great for entertaining as guests can gather at the island. Adds significant prep space and storage.
- Cons: The island can impede traffic flow. Access to the sink may be far away.
Kitchen Work Triangle
The kitchen work triangle focuses on the optimal relationship between the sink, stove, and refrigerator. The three areas should form a triangle with each side ideally 4 to 9 feet long. This allows the cook to easily move between the three essential workstations. For entertaining, make sure there’s enough space around the triangle for multiple cooks and traffic flow.
Ample Countertop Space
When hosting, you’ll need expansive counters for food prep, serving dishes, and seating. At minimum, aim for:
- Main cooking area: 24 to 48 inches of horizontal space
- Secondary prep/serving area: 18 to 36 inches
- Islands and bars: Overhangs of 12+ inches for seating
Solid surface countertops like quartz hold up well to heavy use and won’t get scratched by plates and glasses.
Smart Kitchen Island Design
A kitchen island provides additional prep space, storage, and seating. When designing an island consider:
- Size: For seating, allow 15 inches per stool. Build the island as large as your space permits.
- Shape: Rectangular islands work well in galley kitchens. Curved and oval islands soften traditional kitchens.
- Seating: Opt for overhangs of 12+ inches. Match stool height to the island’s finished height.
- Storage: Incorporate drawers, cabinets, shelves, and rack storage for utensils and serving ware.
- Appliances: Include outlets to integrate appliances like refrigerators, sinks, or dishwashers.
- Style: Choose cabinetry, finishes, and hardware that matches your kitchen’s overall aesthetic.
Gathering Around the Kitchen Table
No kitchen designed for entertaining is complete without a spacious kitchen table.
- Size: Allow a minimum of 32 inches per person at the table. For parties, consider a banquet-style table.
- Shape: Round tables promote conversation. Rectangular tables work well in narrow kitchens.
- Comfort: Choose chairs with armrests and padded seats that can accommodate hours of lingering.
- Style: Select a table and chairs that coordinate with your kitchen’s look and feel.
- Placement: Position the table near enough to the kitchen action while still feeling like its own space.
Sufficient Food Prep Space
When hosting, you’ll need ample spaces to prepare, cook, and plate your culinary creations.
- Main sink area: At least 36 inches of countertop on one side and 24 inches on the other.
- Stovetop cooking zone: Provide a minimum of 15 to 18 inches of counter access on either side of the range.
- Baking station: Designate at least 24 inches of counter for baking tasks like rolling dough.
- Serving area: Allow 18 to 36 inches to arrange serving platters and desserts.
- Drink station: Make room for mixers, liqueurs, wine, and other beverages.
Storage for Entertaining Essentials
Maximize your kitchen’s storage to keep serving essentials at your fingertips.
- Pots and pans: Mount pans on the wall or install pull-out drawers to neatly organize cookware.
- Serving dishes: Dedicate pull-out cabinets or open shelving near the stove for easy access to platters.
- Baking sheets: Store flat baking sheets in wide, shallow drawers.
- Appliances: Keep your stand mixer, food processor, and other small appliances on the counter or in readily accessible cabinets.
- Barware: Use wall-mounted racks or cabinets close to the island to store glassware.
- Linens: Designate a drawer or cabinet for cloth napkins, dish towels, and potholders.
Ergonomic Zone for Food Prep
The kitchen should be designed to minimize fatigue and stress when prepping and serving food to guests.
- Counter height: Standard counter height is 36 inches. For prep work, a slightly lower 34-35 inch height reduces reaching and strain.
- Workstation size: Allow at least 24 inches of landing space on either side of appliances.
- Task lighting: Install fixtures above and under cabinets to brightly illuminate work areas.
- Flooring: Choose cushioned, supportive mats for areas where you’ll stand for long periods.
- Organizational tools: Keep frequently used gear in easy reach in drawers, shelves, and hanging racks.
Ambience and Aesthetics
Beyond function, optimize the kitchen’s ambience and visual appeal to create an inviting gathering spot.
Strategic lighting makes the kitchen shine.
- Natural light: Maximize windows, skylights, and glass doors. Supplement with shades and window treatments as needed.
- Task lighting: Use pendant lights above islands and counters, under cabinet lighting, and adjustable recessed can lights.
- Ambient lighting: Install dimmable ceiling fixtures and wall sconces for a soft glow during gatherings.
- Accent lighting: Use recessed or track lighting to spotlight architectural details.
The textures and finishes of kitchen surfaces help set the aesthetic tone.
- Countertops: Popular options like quartz, granite, butcher block, and concrete add visual interest.
- Backsplash: Use metal, glass, ceramic tile, or stone backsplashes to complement countertops.
- Floors: Hardwood, tile, and polished concrete stand up well to parties. Area rugs add softness.
- Cabinets: Opt for stained wood, painted, glass-front, or rustic cabinets to match your style.
- Islands: Incorporate reclaimed wood, curved edges, special finishes, or furniture-like detailing.
Appliances and Accessories
Appliances and accents provide the finishing touches.
- Sinks and faucets: Undermount sinks, industrial faucets, and high-end materials like copper or stone enhance the space.
- Range: Opt for pro-quality with a powerful ventilation hood as a focal point.
- Refrigerator: Choose built-in or furniture-look models that blend with cabinetry.
- Kitchenware: Display striking pots, pans, and ceramics. Use magnetic strips to mount knives.
- Artwork: Hang bold art, shelves of cookbooks, framed photos, or collections of vintage kitchenware.
Comfortable, Convenient Gathering Areas
Tucked into the kitchen design, create inviting vignettes for people to relax and linger.
Banquettes transform wasted space into cozy seating. Select cushioned benches and position against the wall or bay window with a table.
An elevated counter with comfortable bar stools gives people a place to eat, mingle or watch the kitchen action.
Define a separate yet connected seating zone with a fireplace and plush chairs or sofas.
Create a space for uncorking bottles and displaying glassware. Add bar stools for seating.
Carve out room for a small desk to prep recipes, use a laptop, or do creative projects.
Place bookshelves, a comfy chair or two, and floor lamp in an out-of-the-way kitchen corner.
Flexibility for Seamless Traffic Flow
When hosting parties, you’ll need to smoothly navigate through the kitchen’s workstations.
- Unobstructed walkways: Ensure at least 42-48 inches for primary paths; 36 inches for secondary routes.
- Multi-purpose islands: Use islands on casters that can be relocated as needed.
- Portable carts: Stow small sinking or drying stations on wheeled carts.
- Folding/lifting surfaces: Install counters that lift, lower, or fold down when not in use.
- Pocket doors: Use sliding doors between kitchen and dining to open or compartmentalize the spaces.
Proper ventilation keeps kitchen odors and heat from invading the rest of the home during cooking and entertaining.
- Hood style: Opt for a powerful range hood rather than under-cabinet models.
- Ducting: Vent directly outdoors and avoid duct runs longer than 100 feet.
- CFM rating: Select a unit with a CFM that’s about 50 times the burner BTU rating. Most require 600-1200 CFM.
- Noise level: Choose a quiet 1.0 to 1.5 sones rating so guests can converse comfortably.
- Supplemental fans: Install a ceiling exhaust fan on a separate switch near cooking areas.
Entertaining Extras and Luxuries
Elevate your gathering space with high-end extras.
- Beverage center: Incorporate temperature controlled wine storage and refrigeration.
- Instant hot water tap: Add instant access to steaming 200°F water for coffee and tea.
- Under cabinet LEDs: Line lower cabinets with color-changing LED lighting.
- Bluetooth speakers: Pipe music wirelessly throughout the kitchen zone.
- Smart appliances: Network appliances to control temperatures, modes, and notifications remotely.
- Voice controls: Use integrated voice assistants to activate kitchen features hands-free.
- Heated floors: Warm tile flooring adds comfort when entertaining barefoot.
FAQs About Kitchens for Entertaining
What size should a kitchen be for entertaining?
For hosting dinners and parties, experts recommend at least 200 square feet of space. This allows multiple cooks to collaborate and guests to gather comfortably.
How much counter space do you need in an entertaining kitchen?
Plan for at least 24 inches of landing area around appliances, 36+ inches of prep space near the sink, and 18-36 inches for serving appetizers and plating dishes.
What is the best flooring for an entertaining kitchen?
Durable and attractive options like hardwood, tile, polished concrete, and vinyl plank flooring stand up well to parties and provide an easy-to-clean surface.
What color cabinets are best for entertaining?
White or light cabinets keep the space feeling open and airy. Soft gray and blue-gray cabinetry also creates a calming, welcoming backdrop for gatherings.
What is the best lighting for a kitchen party?
Layer ambient, task, and accent lighting. Use dimmers to adjust the mood for cooking versus conversing. Position fixtures to brightly illuminate prep and dining areas.
What small appliances are must-haves for entertaining?
A powerful blender, food processor, stand mixer, coffeemaker, and electric kettle make prep work easier when hosting. Keep them on the counter or readily accessible.
Where should the garbage be kept in an entertaining kitchen?
Designate a discretely located waste and recycling station away from prep and gathering areas. Use cabinets, drawers, or pull-out garbage units to keep trash out of sight.
How do you decorate a kitchen for entertaining?
Use pieces like framed photos, fresh flowers, decorative bowls, candles, hand towels, and seating with personality to make the space feel homey yet festive.
What seating works best in an open kitchen?
Barstools lined up around a kitchen island allow guests to comfortably engage with the cook. Banquettes are space-efficient. High-top tables work well too.
How do you design a kitchen for multiple cooks?
Include ample counter space, multiple sinks, the kitchen work triangle, an island, and walkways at least 48 inches wide to allow smooth collaboration.
Designing an Optimal Kitchen for Gathering
The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially when designed to welcome family and friends. Use these tips to craft a kitchen tailored for memorable meals, parties, and quality time shared cooking, eating, and lingering together. Maximize open layouts, spacious islands, ample counters, optimized storage, superior ventilation, upscale accents, and intuitive organization. Follow the kitchen work triangle, layer lighting, and include areas for comfortable lingering. By incorporating smart, highly functional features in a kitchen, you can easily showcase your culinary skills while bringing people together with ease.