Design Tips to Help Make Your Kitchen the Heart of Your Home
Pick and mix from these smart ideas to ensure your new kitchen becomes a sociable hub
For this to work successfully requires careful planning, with designers taking the time to understand the wants and needs of each household, so they can create the ideal hub for each. If you’re planning a new, sociable kitchen, which of these design tips could help it to become the heart of your home?
The right layout is crucial for a sociable kitchen, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by going open-plan. Blending the kitchen with an adjoining living room or dining area will instantly boost the space and create far more design possibilities.
An open-plan space also means you can watch the kids, entertain friends or chat to your partner while you or they cook.
Designed well, an open-plan layout can also ensure the kitchen is easily – and safely – accessible to other household members, even when someone’s cooking in it. For example, in this L-shaped design, it’s possible for others to enter the kitchen and open the fridge or a cupboard without getting under the cook’s feet, making it far more sociable.
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If you have the space for one, a kitchen island can make for a very sociable structure, proving especially popular as a hangout zone for the whole family.
Another advantage is an island’s design can be tailored during the planning stage to reflect how you want to use it. For example, a unit with different-height worktops or an adjoining table is useful for growing families – a lower table can be used for breakfasts, dining, doing homework, or just having a cup of tea and a chat. Alternatively, you might decide to keep your island’s surface clear and use this extra worktop space for baking or serving food.
Another option is to include a sink or hob on an island, letting you face into the room as you cook. In tandem with a seating area on the far side, this can be useful for teaching kids about food, engaging with friends or family as you prepare a meal, or simply as an extra space where others can carry out their own pursuits, while still in the thick of family life.
Peninsulas offer many of the same benefits as an island, but they’re also suitable for much smaller spaces where an island wouldn’t fit. They’re great for adding visual definition to the room, as well as creating a distinction between different areas you intend for cooking, dining and/or relaxing. This can prove extremely useful if you want to keep your guests/family in close proximity, yet clear of the kitchen.
To this end, many homeowners include a breakfast bar on the far side of a peninsula, with casual bar stools underneath. This can become a great multi-purpose area and, much like the island, can be used as a casual dining space, somewhere to enjoy a glass of wine and a chat or work on a laptop, or as a surface on which to quickly and easily serve up food.
As already mentioned, peninsulas are great for creating additional worktop space in the kitchen, but having a casual breakfast bar or small adjoining table is also a good idea. Even if you have a separate dining area, it’s still useful to include a seating area in the kitchen as well.
This might only be one or two stools, but having these will instantly make a space more useful and sociable, as it will provide somewhere to do work or homework, a place you can sit and chat on the phone, or a spot where friends can perch while you cook.
How to curate ideas for your contemporary kitchen project
This may seem an obvious one, but no one wants to spend time in a dark and dreary kitchen. Planning a well-lit space can go a long way towards achieving a welcoming kitchen that encourages people to want to hang out in it.
Firstly, aim to allow in as much natural daylight as possible. This might mean taking down a wall – or part of a wall – introducing skylights or glazed bifold doors, or simply ensuring existing windows aren’t cluttered or blocked.
Choosing the right type and number of kitchen lights will help, and you can enhance this by fitting light and warm-coloured kitchen doors and worktops rather than darker tones.
Finally, well-placed mirrors to reflect the kitchen’s light can prove an effective but inexpensive contribution towards a bright and welcoming ambience.
One thing to think about when planning your kitchen is the orientation of your layout. The location of doorways and windows will help determine this, as will the fact the kitchen needs to be functional. But the layout and orientation will also influence your view, as well as that of any guests, so it can have a big impact on how sociable and enjoyable your kitchen is.
For example, if you have an attractive window view, this is often a good place for the sink, as you won’t have to stare at a plain kitchen wall when washing up. However, a sink (or hob) on an island or peninsula can ensure you face into the room while cooking, meaning you can carry on a conversation or even watch TV, especially in an open-plan space. If you can combine both – an island facing the garden and a sofa or living room area, for example – bingo.
In this open-plan room, the half-wall is perfect for ensuring everyone using the space can fully interact, regardless of whether they’re in the kitchen, dining or TV area. The location of a dining table is also an important thing to think about; this is usually positioned in the brightest or most open part of the kitchen space.
For the kitchen to become the heart of your home, it’s important it’s accessible. Generally, this means ‘clutter-free’, so that household members are able to use it comfortably. People shouldn’t be competing with microwaves, saucepans or last night’s washing-up if they want to sit down at the worktop to enjoy a glass of wine or something to eat.
A clutter-free kitchen is also simply more inviting and will make people want to spend time in there. To achieve this level of spatial serenity, sufficient and suitable storage options are key. They should also be convenient to use – so they get used.
Again, a good kitchen designer will ask the right questions during planning and be able to establish exactly what your space will need to remain effortlessly organised and, therefore, welcoming.
The location of storage and appliances can also help your kitchen to become the heart of your home. For example, if you have young children, you might want to store their plastic plates, bowls and cups in a base cupboard, so they can access it themselves, helping them to learn and feel grown-up.
Some parents also opt for a low-level microwave for the same reason, meaning that growing children can safely reach and learn how to use it.
You could also designate cupboards on the far side of an island or on the periphery of the kitchen for storing toys and playthings. Again, this would mean children could access these cupboards themselves without actually entering the cookspace. Locating a fridge on the outskirts of the kitchen works for the same reason.
If you intend your kitchen to be the busy, sociable hub of your home, it’s important to ensure it’s a safe environment for family and guests alike. Many accidents in the home happen in the kitchen, but you can reduce any risk through the planning and layout of the space.
For example, dishwashers are often located on the end of a run of units to prevent them becoming a trip hazard should the door be left open; sharp knives should always have a designated storage spot, in either a knife rack or drawer, and there should always be worktop space on either side (or opposite) an oven, so you have somewhere to rest hot food after taking it out.
For those with children, the inclusion of appliance safety features should also give you peace of mind and prevent injury. This might include boiling-water taps with a safety switch, or wine coolers, hobs and washing machines with integrated child locks.
Having planned your dream kitchen as the sociable hub of your home, the last thing you’d want is to find family members are being driven away by the sound of noisy appliances. This might be a washing machine or extractor that’s drowning out conversation or a TV in an adjoining room.
Avoid this by selecting appliances specifically designed to operate at low noise levels. Similarly, ensure it’s a quiet one, but do include an extractor, particularly in open-plan spaces; you don’t want grease and cooking smells dominating the room.
Which design features make your kitchen feel like the heart of your home? Tell us in the Comments below.