Focus On: Social Kitchens

By a country mile, the most popular project I am asked to look at are kitchen extensions, and the biggest driving force of this is to create a social kitchen.

Houses all differ, but the traditional format of homes up and down the country has a living room to the front, adjacent to the front door and hallway, with the rear split between a formal dining room and a kitchen. Kitchens were small practical rooms designed for one person to do the domestic work, any guests being entertained in the more formal rooms. Communal dining was important- but the act of cooking it wasn’t part of the social experience. In addition, Kitchens in many of the homes we live in, built in the Victorian era, or mid 20th Century, weren’t intended with modern appliances or labour saving devices in mind

Dining spaces were to be shown off, so they’re often disproportionately large in comparison to the amount of time they were actually used, leading to a disconnect- the oft used but cramped and isolated kitchen vs. the larger but infrequently used dining room.

Nowadays a kitchen is seen as the centre of home, and is an area to show off. Its connection with the rest of the house is paramount- it needs to be practical (above all else) but also not cut off – home owners want to be in a space where they can entertain, chat, supervise and interact with their children- and they want to fully utilise the floor area they have.

The keys to a social kitchen-

Create a social hub– this might be a dining table or an island/peninsula- somewhere people can gather, attached or near to the main kitchen. Seating is vital, even if its just an occasional perching place. This can be key as a social gathering point which includes the ‘cook’ in the conversation. Its also incredibly versatile- my own small kitchen island is frequently used as a place for a quick cup of tea (or glass of wine!), as a workstation, for play or do crafts at, for eating breakfast or lunch. It can be a perfect place for kids to do home work while dinner is being prepared. I’d wager if you set up a camera, it would be the most frequently returned to point of the house- the true centre.

Don’t forget a practical kitchen– the kitchen still needs to work- that all important ‘work triangle’ is essential- and its important to plan the kitchen so that key areas of it face into the room- there’s no point having a big social kitchen if you spend most your time facing the wall! Think about key items like a fridge and how easy it is to access from the main room (if you can fit in a wine fridge, all the better).

If you have space- add a soft seating zone – a nice comfortable sofa with a focal point (could be a fireplace or a TV) means you and your family will really ‘hang out’ in this room, and guests will feel at home. It also means there’s an alternative social space for different people- if the kids have friends over for example. You might want to soften the flooring in this area- a carpet or a big rug makes a more comfortable play space for children. If there’s room for some storage so that toys or hobby equipment can be easily cleared up it will help keep you room streamlined.

Think about transition to the garden– Gardens are also increasingly thought about as part of the envelope of the home- another room to use (at least for some parts of the year). Even when the weather isn’t for eating outside, a view of the garden is perfect for expanding your horizons, bringing in light, monitoring children’s play and feeling a connection to outside. Bi folds are ever popular for their large openings and the way people can drift in an out but there are other options- think big sliding panes of glass unimpeded by frames, or super cool Crittall style frames. Being able to overlook the garden and transition between the two is often part of what makes a social kitchen really successful.

Consider Noise– Noise in a shared, larger rooms noise can be a factor. Retain a closable door to the rest of the house, and if its possible- create a separate utility or built in cupboard for Washing machines, failing that, look for the quieter appliances.

If you want to create or revamp your kitchen we can help you design the social kitchen that forms the heart of your home.

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