Today’s homeowners, by and large, prefer an eat-in kitchen over a formal dining room. It’s not hard to understand why — the kitchen is the nexus of our homes.
More than just a food-making factory, it’s the place where we dine, socialize, help kids with homework, and entertain our friends and family. Eat-in kitchens are great, multi-functional spaces that serve all of these needs and more.
Luckily, anyone can craft an attractive, efficient eat-in kitchen, no matter how modest or grandiose the space. Here are our top tips for designing a hyper-functional (and beautiful) eat-in kitchen you’ll use every day.
Is there anything more welcoming than a breakfast nook? These cozy kitchen sanctuaries are the perfect spots for enjoying an early morning coffee or a casual, intimate dinner. There are lots of ways to design a breakfast nook, but generally speaking there are two main types: built-in and free-form.
When most of us envision a breakfast nook, it usually looks like a built-in — a permanent bench or banquette built into a picturesque bay window — or attached directly to a wall — sometimes accompanied by custom millwork. These types of breakfast nooks have a classic look, but they don’t offer much in the way of seating flexibility. Conversely, free-form nooks have no permanent table or seating arrangement. This is an ideal option for renters, small-space dwellers, or those who simply need more versatility from their eat-in kitchen.
Create a breakfast nook in any kitchen by combining a free-standing bench or banquette with chairs. If you plan to use your nook as your primary dining space, consider using an extending table to provide extra room during the holidays. If you have the luxury of a kitchen window, arrange your seating around the natural light source; this will keep your breakfast nook from feeling dark or cramped.
An excellent seating arrangement for those with an open-concept kitchen or a combination kitchen/dining area: rather than leave your dining table floating in the middle of the room, situate the table in line with your kitchen island. Not only will this maximize your serving space, but it will also keep the room’s “flow” uninterrupted. Here again, an expanding dining table is a great option for those who like to entertain. Dining tables with built-in leaves, like the Epsilon or the Celsius, allow for additional seating at the table in a snap. No more storing and lugging around those big, heavy table leaves!
If you have a tiny eat-in kitchen, you may want to consider a dining table that folds away altogether to create extra floor space when you need it. No, we’re not talking about those outdoor picnic tables — the folding dining table has come a long way from its plastic predecessors. Now, there are all manners and styles of folding tables, including ultra-contemporary options like the Icaro. This circular dining table has a woodgrain top and tubular metal frame for a modern, architectural look; but with one motion, the Icaro folds completely flat and stores at a slim 3’’ deep.
Pair a folding table with easy-to-move, slim-profile chairs to create a flexible dining space that can shift around your kitchen as needed.
No eat-in kitchen is complete without the proper seating. Use your kitchen seating as an opportunity to make a statement; there are an incredible variety of colors, styles and textures to choose from and seating options can even be mixed and matched to add depth and visual interest to your space. Consider adding pops of color with brightly upholstered dining chairs, or add interesting textural elements to the kitchen with leather-upholstered or metal bar stools.
Provide a variety of seating heights, if possible. A high top table or kitchen island with stool seating creates a casual sitting area for kids to eat and socialize, while adults can linger around the dining table and chat long after dessert.
Always remember the first rule of design: form follows function. Your eat-in kitchen is the hub of family life; so whatever dining arrangement you choose be mindful of activity-based design. Organize your kitchen into zones for food prep, entertaining, dining, cleanup, and appliance storage; this will help you maintain the flow.
If you’re designing a small eat-in kitchen, be especially careful to choose practical furnishings that won’t overwhelm the space. For instance, a slim-profile, low-back (or backless) stool — like the Bevel or the Five bar stool — will tuck neatly under your counter and it won’t block sight lines, keeping the space visually uncluttered.