The open kitchen is more popular than ever, but with a twist. It’s now designed to accommodate meals, parties, work, studying, and multiple cooking. Here are some practical tips in creating a truly social kitchen.
Open up the space with care
Be judicious about how many barriers you eliminate. Too many pathways moving through the space will lead to chaos. Using half-walls or arched openings can create a sense of openness while maintaining traffic flow. It’s also important to visually integrate the kitchen with the rest of the home. The latest iteration of the open kitchen sees it as an ‘interior design’ feature within a larger living/dining space. Color can be a great connector. Repeat a hue from the living room in your choice of artwork on the kitchen walls, for example, or the color of your countertop appliances.
Create activity areas
Establishing zones will help organize the space, especially in multi-cook kitchens. The layout should steer children away from the main work triangle, formed by the refrigerator, range, dishwasher and sink. Put a beverage and snack station toward the public-facing edge of the kitchen. That helps keep kids and guests away from the hot stove and sharp knives. The station might take the shape of a wet bar with a wine chiller. Or the emphasis could be on coffee and snacks, with a coffeemaker, a cabinet for cups and mugs, and a refrigerator drawer for milk and juice boxes.
Contain the mess
Some homeowners resist an open kitchen because they don’t want guests staring at messy pots and pans. But there are ways around the dilemma. In the kitchen, a peripheral cleanup zone, with sink, dishwasher, and expansive landing area for dirty dishes, helps keep the mess off to the side during meals or parties; a second island prep sink serves the main work triangle. Another strategy is to add a raised bar to the “public” side of a kitchen island. That will give guests a place to perch during meal prep, and homeowners can hide the mess from view once dinner is under way. An island bar also provides seating during casual meals.
Add an island
A central counter will give people a place to sit while you’re preparing the meal. Just don’t let it clog traffic. There should be 42 to 48 inches of clearance on all sides.
Built-in charging stations
For many people the kitchen is where their electronic devices are located. Charging stations can be tucked into a cabinet or drawer that’s fitted with docks and electrical outlets. If you need to charge only a couple of devices, electrical manufacturers make electrical outlets with built-in USB ports that can be installed in a kitchen backsplash, letting you power your smart phone while running the blender or stand mixer.