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Kitchen Concepts: The Social Kitchen

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  by Kimberly Blackford

You have just put the finishing touches on a beautiful table centerpiece, the spread of hors d’oeuvres and the other delectable culinary treats for your gathering. The utmost attention to detail has been made to the great room, dining room and all the gathering places in your home. You want to make sure your guests feel pampered, comfortable yet at ease. But, no matter how inviting your living areas and dining spaces may be, why does it always seem everyone ends up gathering in the kitchen?

Kitchens seem to be magnets for all those who enter a home. Maybe it’s the flurry of activity always taking place there, or the scrumptious aromas that fill the air making us want to investigate what possibly could be cooking there. Whatever the case may be, kitchens are everyone’s favorite gathering spots in the home. So, instead of fighting it, give in and make your kitchen a socially inviting place that is comfortable, fun and also allows you to get everything done even if people are lingering about. There are many ways to create social spots that keep everyone in the kitchen while allowing him or her to feel welcome and comfortable in participating in the activities.

Modern kitchen with plenty of floor space, seating and lighting

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A home’s kitchen tends to be a place that quickly turns into a dumping ground. With the daily mail, homework projects, laundry, food storage and office work finding its way there, the kitchen can often have an identity crisis since there are so many different activities being carried out in the same space. Well, these habits will never change most likely, so instead of letting them aggravate you, embrace them and learn how to incorporate all of your family’s favorite activities into this one wonderful place within your home.

One way to create an inviting feeling with function within your kitchen is to create a chopping and chatting spot. Whether it’s a breakfast bar counter, an island, workbench or table, guests and family will need a spot that can function as a place for dining, prepping a meal or finishing the homework that’s due tomorrow. A decent space for gathering around will become a beacon and will keep everyone right where the action is.  An important thing to remember when creating this special gathering spot is that you don’t want to crowd your kitchen with too many tables or an island that is way oversized. It shouldn’t affect the natural traffic flow or act as a barrier at all. So, pick a piece of furniture or a space that offers function, storage and possibly workspace plus a spot where people feel they can just hang out and not be in the chef’s way.

luxury kitchen floor plan with plenty of seating

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Another important factor to include when creating a social kitchen is to make sure there is plenty of seating. Use stools, benches and other seating options to offer plenty of places for your guest to “pop a squat.” Of course, you may be thinking that your dining table has chairs and that should be enough, but think of other types of seating that can be tucked away (under a counter, for example) and can remain out of sight. That is also why the idea of a bench is great. It can provide a handy place to drop things the minute you come in the door, plus when company arrive, it’s an instant spot for chatting it up with the chef. Everyone enjoys gathering in the kitchen and enjoying chips and dip while watching the cook finish up their mealtime tasks. Having some comfortable stools, benches and other seating options will ensure your guests remain comfortable for their entire stay. Even better, stick with wood, plastic or other low maintenance options for this seating and if spills occur, clean up will be a breeze.

perfectly lit gourmet kitchen

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Adding a variety of lighting in your the kitchen is another way to make this space feel inviting, warm and comfortable for all those who enter it. Add lighting under the cabinets, recessed into the ceiling and over tables and work zones so that all the bases are covered. That way, when the family cozies up around the table playing games, you can just light the table and its nearby surroundings for a warmer feel. Plus, light sources can really play with the mood of the space. So, when entertaining, use soft, low lighting and when cooking or prepping, turn up the lighting so it’s safer for everyone involved with these tasks. Even soft candlelight on a countertop or table adds warmth and dimension to the space making it feel homier and less institutional. A great way to inexpensively allow you to change the amount of light in your kitchen is to install dimmer switches on many of the light sources. That way, the light above the sink can be bright enough for kitchen tasks at mealtime and then turned down much lower and used as a night light after everyone has gone off to bed. Dimmers allow great versatility and keep you from having an overabundance of lighting that may make your kitchen feel too busy and distracting.

luxury kitchen floor plan with glass front cabinets

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A kitchen filled entirely of glass cabinetry would be a little distressing don’t you think? With all those kitchen gadgets being seen by everyone who came into the space, all the clutter would make for a busy space that would be unnerving for most. But, strategically placing a couple of glass front cabinets in your kitchen can really become a focal point. If you have a great collection of brightly colored vases or old-fashioned pitchers, glass front cabinets give you the perfect opportunity to display away. Not only will they add some great character to your kitchen interior, but they will surely become conversation starters. Just remember that less is more. Select just a few key items to be seen in these cabinets and try to avoid the temptation of showing a huge collection. It will make your kitchen instantly cluttered and less interesting than just giving them a glimpse of your special collection.

Making some minor adjustments with the layout, seating options, lighting and cabinetry can add scores of points when family and guests gather in your kitchen. Instead of trying to find ways to keep everyone out while you cook away, invite them in and let the party begin!

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