Entertaining In The Kitchen
THE ENTERTAINING KITCHEN
Due to the popularity of today’s open floor plans with kitchens in full view, designing kitchens is all about zones related to the flow of activity. Kitchen design is being further refined by an emerging knowledge of how layout and product choices can actually help reduce stress, particularly while entertaining.Many of the best times of our lives revolve around being with family and friends. Whether it’s hosting a formal get-together, holiday dinners or your children’s birthday parties, the kitchen is the hub of activity. A little extra attention spent planning flow; layout and product selections will reward you with a kitchen that is more functional and efficient.
Storage is the initial zone, because you want items to be stored in places convenient to where they will be used. For example, you’re going to want storage for your good dishes, glassware and silverware near the serving or dining area, such as a butler pantry.
It’s also essential to reduce clutter, ease accessibility and arrange items in an organized way. Include some roll-out drawers or trays. Drawer inserts keep small items, spices, silverware and utensils organized. But what about small, frequently used appliances? Countertop appliance garages for blenders, toasters, and coffee makers may be just what you need. On the other hand, if you want to keep your counter space free, consider going underneath the counter. You can include a pull-out mixer shelf, which comes out of the cabinet and swings up – bringing your heavy mixer even with the countertop.
The food preparation zone depends on lots of counter space, plus close proximity to the refrigerator, range/oven and pantry. Ideally, this is a separate space from the serving area, allowing both areas to function simultaneously. If you have a smaller island in your kitchen, which will be used for food preparation, keeping the countertop a uniform height will provide the maximum workspace. If your island is large enough to accommodate different levels, bakers will appreciate a 36-inch work level, while a taller side (usually 42 inches) shields work clutter from view and accommodates bar stools.
“The breakfast drawer”, with electric outlet wired at the back of the cabinet, so there’s no need to ever have the toaster cluttering the countertop; photo courtesy of Medallion Cabinetry
Your cooking zone, convenient to the food prep area, is centered on your cooktop and ovens. Two cooks in the home will require more utensils, pots and pans, so plan storage accordingly. In addition, you may opt for separate counter spaces, cooking areas and sinks. Common ovens and waste containment may need wider corridors around a central work area.
If you are considering an island with cooktop, make sure there is sufficient room next to the cooktop to place large items, such as a big pot of boiling pasta. Also, warming drawers are great features for entertaining. They allow you to warm multiple dishes simultaneously.
Some serving zones are more formal, such as a built-in buffet in the dining area or a butler’s pantry along the path from the kitchen. For casual entertaining, islands or peninsulas may be just the ticket. If your guests are usually adults, consider a 42-inch height for the serving bar area. Your eating zone may consist of a formal dining area, an informal breakfast nook, a snack bar or some combination of all three. Many folks find themselves dining at a snack bar and rarely using their dinette. If that’s you, carefully consider what height best suits your family. If you have small children, they won’t be able to get up on higher stools (or worse yet, they may fall off of them)!
Cleanup is the final, but very important, zone when planning for entertaining. As two sinks have gained popularity, so have second dishwashers. In front of sinks, consider a small tilt-out tray to keep sponges and pot scrubbers out of view. Another item that can reduce clutter in your entertaining kitchen is a liquid soap dispenser that comes up through the countertop next to the sink. What about trash? Typical solutions have been the unsightly tall kitchen wastebasket openly on display (or a smaller wastebasket under the kitchen sink). Besides having to bend over to use the latter, ever notice how much stuff misses the wastebasket? Opt for a pull-out wastebasket tray in your base cabinetry.
Beyond how our kitchens flow, there are several other major considerations, such as ease of cleaning and durability. Think sinks, countertops, flooring and appliances. Laminate countertops offer the greatest variety in colors, patterns and edge finishes. They don’t require special cleansers nor do they need to be re-sealed every year or two. While aesthetics and price may be the top influences for kitchen flooring choices, scratches, everyday wear and low maintenance are major de-stressing aspects.
Will spilled spaghetti sauce or grape juice stain the flooring? (Darker colors of grout for tile floors are increasingly popular for this very reason.) Will heavy or sharp items accidentally dropped damage the floor? Flooring choices in adjacent areas also play a large role in kitchen flooring, as many of us prefer a continuity of floor covering (which makes the entire area feel more spacious).
Appliances are one of the first items you and your guests see in the kitchen. Are the surfaces easy to clean, especially the oven/range tops and inside the microwave? How about the exterior finish? The stainless steel look has been quite popular, but it attracts fingerprints like a giant magnet. Look for new finishes, which don’t show fingerprints and are easy to clean.
Quiet is an often-overlooked aspect of a dream kitchen. Few things are more annoying than having to vacate the kitchen just to hear each other talk. Pay special attention when selecting your dishwasher and kitchen vent/hood. Some models are actually so quiet you’re not even aware they are running! Almost universally, people describe the
amount of light in their kitchens as inadequate. A light, bright and airy kitchen is de-stressing for you, your family and your guests.
As kitchens have become more open to adjacent areas of the home, they are benefiting from increased levels of natural light coming from these areas. More recently, glass block or small traditional windows are appearing between kitchen counter backsplashes and upper cabinets.
Today, recessed ceiling lighting has replaced the standard light fixture approach common years ago. Task lighting concealed under the upper kitchen cabinets offers a pleasant light level and helps reduce eyestrain. View more projects here. While you might want all available light when preparing dinner, controlled light levels are much more comfortable for everyone later in the evening.
Pay extra attention to where electrical outlets are located. Only you know how you intend to use the kitchen, so don’t leave it up to the electrician’s imagination where to locate outlets and switches. (Then there’s cable TV and the internet. Plan now where wiring needs to go).
Whatever lighting approach you choose, make sure you’re in control. From window coverings to dimmers, lighting helps establish the mood for your next get-together. Finally, consider decorating and how you reveal who you are through what you display and how you decorate your kitchen. Most women use words such as “comfortable” or“ homey” to describe their dream kitchen. Color choices throughout can have either an exciting or a calming effect. Do you decorate according to the season? Is there space above the upper cabinets for display niches or plant shelves?
We cherish relationships. We take pride in a functional and orderly kitchen. With a little extra forethought and planning, our kitchens will beckon to entertain a simple family dinner or an extravagant gala!