The Social Kitchen

We’re beginning the season of many gatherings in the home. The holidays are coming (fast!) and of course, in many parts of the country, the weather brings us inside to spend our time (as well as to watch the football games!) We share our homes with friends and family in a casual, and sometimes, formal way. One common thread that goes through nearly all of the events we will host is the age old (and super modern) – “everyone ends up in the kitchen”.

Our guests (and family) want to be close to us, to lend a helping hand or to catch up on our life’s events. The kitchen, being a work place of sorts, is not always conducive to introducing social “living”, yet, like it or not, it’s a social magnet! Here are some ideas to create a better environment for family and friends to spend time in the kitchen…as you know they will!

Add Seating

Adding a few small stools in strategic areas will encourage people to sit (and stay) at a designated spot. Stools can be set up anywhere which makes sense and can create a mini work station or to have your guests be situated near snacks and hors d’oeuvres.


Thinking about remodeling? The best advice I can give any of my clients is to visualize as many lifestyle situations as you can! Visualize, visualize, visualize. Visualize the realities of how you would like to entertain including the number of people who often attend home gatherings and if you prefer a more formal or informal style of entertaining. Doing so will reveal answers about an open vs. a more closed floorplan as well as the size of an island that is right for your entertaining style.

A Built-In Banquette

I LOVE built-in banquettes. Banquette seating, especially if extra cushy, accommodates a changing number of people and is a great solution to the social kitchen. It’s a surprisingly good solution for kids, as more kids can fit on a banquette than individual chairs in the same space.

Designated Social Section

An island is the perfect social magnet which also functions well for the cook. The cook is on one side yet still able to interact with guests. Guests are subliminally encouraged to relax on the social side of the island. Islands are beginning to get bigger and bigger, as our lives become more informal and we want a more open (social) space to live in. With more space for multiple people to cook on a larger island, the cooking process combines the two functions – work and social interaction – the perfect solution!

Peninsulas and U shaped kitchens can also have a “social area” which could be an area with stools, or a beverage area, or other section which serves as the social center of the kitchen.

Work Stations

Of course, cooking for social gatherings means the right amount of counter space, appliance type and location, and storage, to enable your kitchen to “expand” or “contract” easily and in a well designed way, according to your lifestyle needs. It’s another reason to visualize not only your social needs, but the kitchen efficiencies required to make the cooking process easy, enjoyable, and streamlined to accommodate the variety of entertaining situations that will arise.

I hope you enjoy all of your in-home gatherings during the coming holidays and that you can make your kitchen a well thought out social hub!

For more kitcheny goodness, visit me at The Kitchen Designer blog, on Twitter and on Facebook!


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  1. I love flexible living! I wonder if it can go out of the way if it's ever an obstacle? Generally speaking, any additional work or counter space in a tiny kitchen (and I have one in my city apartment) is very valuable. And, true, if you take it with you, you can always use it somewhere!

  2. Loved your suggestions. I have a small city kitchen with no island and very minimal countertops. We purchased an island from IKEA. It makes a great work space when you really don't have much countertop. We added a couple of stools and the island even has drawers for more storage. A moveable island is a great solution for small kitchens and if you move you can even take it with you.

  3. Hi mosister! I love to hear how people gather in and around kitchens. I don't know what it is, but it seems to be universal, even global, that the kitchen is such a magnet for people. The small island, especially if movable, can really be a help to guide people where you want them to hang least sometimes :)

    Ilovemykitchen, I too have a city kitchen so I completely understand what you experience! I really don't think it matters how small the kitchen is...if it's there, guests will come!

  4. Thanks for the great kitchen is very social and also, very small. The dining area is just a few feet away and yet we still find ourselves standing in the kitchen talking, drinking.......or even sitting on the floor!!!! I have put a small 'island' in the kitchen with a few tall stools and we gather around that small area more then the large TV area in the next room. I would love to someday have a large kitchen/gathering area.

  5. hi, my kitchen is very social. It's a city kitchen and very small - certainly not an 'eat-in" but still I find my husband and I standing and talking there for long periods of time - when we could easily be in the other room and a lot more comfortable.

    When I am cooking whomever is home gravitates into this tiny space and stays! I love to cook and entertain and even though it is small it is a "comfort zone" in our apartment. My dream is to someday have a big enough kitchen so that the entire family can prepare food, talk, laugh and enjoy themselves all together and at one time - without using a shoe horn!


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