Today’s kitchen is the social hub of the home where friends and family come together to cook, drink, and chat: the benches and table being used as often for kid’s homework and personal admin, as for cooking and eating. So with everyone gravitating into the kitchen, what are the tricks for creating a space that works for the cook, and everyone else in the family?
There seems to be three key things that need balancing:
- A practical cooking space for the family
- A place for all the non-cooking activities
- A space that works when friends come over
Getting the right balance is surprisingly easy – it just takes a little planning.
A practical cooking space for the family
What I think is so great about a well designed family kitchen is that it works equally well whether there’s one person cooking for the whole family, or different members of the family wanting to cook. There’s been nothing better than watching our ten year old daughter slowly grow her own cooking repertoire, and there are definitely some things in our kitchen layout that make it easier for her.
- Our microwave is down low – so while not officially cooking, she built her confidence reheating and melting cheese on things – great first steps.
- All of our pots, pans and crockery are in drawers – it means that she can easily access whatever she needs (and hopefully put it back afterwards too!).
- The bench tops are all easy clean and won’t stain.
- The oven controls are pretty straight forward.
So our tip is, if you are upgrading an appliance or looking at the whole kitchen layout, take some time to think about who’s going to be using the space and how it can work equally well for all the family at their different ages and stages. And don’t forget visitors.
A place for all the non-cooking activities
I don’t think it’s just our house where the kitchen has become not just the focal point for meals, but for the whole rhythm of the day. So for us it’s where the school notes are filled out, the homework gets done, and the work from home days happen in amongst a myriad of half finished lego and craft projects. Somehow the study just doesn’t have the same appeal.
The only problem with that is that the bench space and the dining table both get a little crowded. And having laptops and paper close to the sink and food is a recipe for disaster.
I’ve seen some multi level kitchen island benches, where a lower table height bench comes off the main island bench. So non-cooking activities are still happening in the heart of the kitchen, there’s just less risk of a spill or a splash, and you don’t have to constantly clear up before you start prep on the evening meal.
We’re not quite up to a kitchen redesign, so our solution has been to add a second smaller table to our open plan area, just for all those activities the kitchen bench and dining room table used to get used for that actually have nothing to do with food or eating. So now we have some dedicated kitchen space for everything non-kitchen!
A space that works when friends come over
There’s nothing better than when the house fills with the noise of chat and laughter of friends. It’s definitely more fun though when your kitchen is set up to make entertaining easy. So here’s three tips from those who make it look simple:
- One girlfriend of mine had two dishwashers installed – even when one was full and going, the other one could be loaded, keeping the bench clear & the glass cupboard restocked.
- A French door fridge – they are so easy for storing big platters & bowls of food in when it’s catering time, and work just as well when it’s just your family.
- Think about adding a wine fridge – keeping the drinks and the food separate, make storage and serving a whole lot easier. If you’re almost up to a full kitchen re-fit, pop a drinks sink on your wish list – that is one addition that really does make a massive difference to how a space works when you’ve got people over.
- And then finally, while not officially a part of your kitchen design, a great BBQ, close to the kitchen can really simplify feeding big groups of all ages.
So there are our tips for a family friendly kitchen – keep it easy to use, easy to clean and with a space for everyone and everything. And enjoy.
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