Designing kitchens for entertaining is something that first came about when open-plan layouts came into fashion. And while lockdown has resulted in many of us falling out of love with no-escape open-plan kitchen and living spaces, there's no doubt that the popularity of kitchen-diners will endure.
And that's where the skill of designing a so-called 'entertainment kitchen' becomes important. This type of kitchen is a space into which we can welcome guests as well as one we can enjoy ourselves day to day. In other words, the kitchen has become the venue for the special occasion meals we might normally go out for.
But what are the design tricks and kitchen ideas that will make it a space fit for entertaining as well as the everyday hub of the home? UK-based interior designer Benji Lewis of Zoom that Room shared with us the strategies that make a kitchen the perfect entertaining space.
Read on to find out how to get seating, lighting and the acoustics right for a room with a great ambience.
1. Think seating
When guests are going to be seated at the dining table for a long time, comfort is key. Upholstered chairs can provide the support that’s required for several courses and a coffee.
Your dining chairs should still have the correct ergonomics, though. ‘Upholstered seating doesn't mean “loungey” – look for chairs with a firm back and seat,’ says Benji.
You might want to include dining chairs that have arms in the mix. ‘If you have the space, dining in a chair with arms is so comfortable,’ advises Benji. Even if your table doesn’t have the dimensions to fit these along the sides, they’re still worth considering for each end of the table.
For space efficiency, you could also consider built-in seating for the dining table. A banquette can create the same balance of support and comfort as an upholstered dining chair and can be positioned along one wall or linked to kitchen cabinetry.
Like an upholstered dining chair, it offers the opportunity to bring in color and/or pattern to the scheme and enhance the decorative detail of the room.
2. Plan a lighting scheme
Well thought-out kitchen lighting ideas with ambient, task and accent or mood lighting is essential for a kitchen in which you can entertain. It will need to allow for a combination of effects and should be zoned according to the function of each area of the kitchen.
Benji recommends the following elements for a lighting scheme:
- Overhead lighting for practical purposes.
- Directional lighting for tasks. ‘Pendant lights over an island are effective because they look good and provide requisite light,’ says Benji.
- Lighting under wall units. It will cast a glow on worksurfaces.
- Don’t forget the need to light the cooker, Benji advises. ‘I sometimes put a light on a circuit of its own just for this purpose – an AGA set into a chimney breast or recess with its own wash of light is fabulous.’
3. Consider a table lamp
A kitchen that’s not just a preparation and cooking space can benefit from a table lamp as a decorative as well as practical feature. ‘I love a table lamp on a sideboard or on the kitchen island if you have space,’ says Benji.
4. Put the lighting on different circuits
Being able to create the right level of light for kitchen tasks and to evoke an atmosphere for entertaining is a must. To achieve this, Benji advises setting the lighting on different circuits. This way, ‘you can play around with your lighting and adapt things according to mood and time of day’, he explains.
5. Add a dimmer for overhead lighting
Ensuring you can adjust the level of the room’s ambient lighting is a must. ‘I always put overhead lighting on a dimmer,’ says Benji. ‘Whilst you might wish for full glare for practical purposes, when it comes to downtime you would wish to dim the light on your beautiful chandelier or on the spots.’
6. Take acoustics into account
Kitchens are necessarily full of hard surfaces, which will affect the acoustics of the room. ‘Whilst limestone floors can look lovely, in conjunction with granite worksurfaces and a glass-topped kitchen table, things will get very rattly,’ says Benji.
Bear in mind, too, that if you're entertaining, you're likely to have music on and lots of people talking.
The remedy? ‘Factor in some soft surfaces when you design your kitchen,’ he says. These might be in the form of upholstered chairs and banquettes, window treatments, and even rugs although these should be positioned away from cooking and preparation areas.
And when you're looking for kitchen flooring ideas, consider a timber floor rather than tile as well, suggests Benji. It has a further advantage. ‘Timber underfoot is softer to stand on for protracted periods of time than a tile,’ he says.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart,
decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in
furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.
Pantone reveals 'Core Classics' – 5 room colors that are timeless and seasonless
Want a room scheme that won't date? Pantone's Core Classics should be your first stop
By Megan Slack •
Beds for small rooms – how to find the perfect bed for a compact space
Top tips on finding the perfect fit for a bedroom that's short on space...
By Ruth Doherty •
5 design tips to steal from a Sussex kitchen brimming with rustic charm
This English countryside home dates back to the 17th century, but its kitchen has some very modern ideas
By Ailis Brennan •
Kitchen diner ideas – 11 ways to create a true social hub for family time
A kitchen-dining-living space offers great versatility for the way we live today
By Jennifer Ebert •
Kitchen ideas – 48 decor and decorating ideas for every kitchen
These kitchen ideas will help you create the kitchen of your dreams – and make the most of this vital space
By Jennifer Ebert •
5 design tips to steal from this shoe designer’s whimsical Venice kitchen
From a striking color scheme to unique personal details, Aquazurra founder Edgardo Osorio showed us round his new kitchen on the banks of the Grand Canal
By Ailis Brennan •
Black kitchen ideas – 10 tips for dramatically beautiful cooking spaces
Create an elegant but powerful space with black kitchen ideas, from marble islands to monochromatic schemes
By Ailis Brennan •
Kitchen sink ideas – 10 kitchen sink designs for your remodel
So much more than somewhere to rinse the dishes, these kitchen sink ideas are awash with good design to flatter your kitchen
By Jacky Parker •
5 design tips to steal from this modern country kitchen with a twist
This kitchen shows how to combine classic design with personal touches to achieve a dream entertaining space
By Busola Evans •
Kitchen countertop ideas – 14 worktops in marble, granite and composite materials
Beautiful kitchen countertop ideas that will not only suit the look and style of your scheme, they are a practical option too
By Yvette Murrell •