The Social Kitchen

by Susan Serra, CKD

Once again, today we are joined by Kitchen Design Expert and Contributor, Susan Serra, CKD. Known to many as “The Kitchen Designer” for her popular blog, Susan is an award-winning Certified Kitchen Designer, with a national clientele.

The social kitchen has an important role to play in the home every day, under so many different scenarios. Whether it is two people sitting down for a midnight snack after a weekend night out, the daily family meal, the birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving, as only a few examples, the kitchen, if planned properly, can make socializing truly enjoyable.

So, how does one go about designing a social kitchen? One that is conducive to social interaction? I’ll share my planning secrets with you. And, the good news is, I’ll bet you can find more than one of these tips useful which will enhance the quality of life in your home!

Top Ten Tips for a Socially-Focused Kitchen

1. Add an island. You’ve heard it before, and it’s true. There is something magical about standing at an island in the center of the room, as opposed to being on the perimeter. Whether you are the cook prepping for dinner, a child doing homework, a friend with a cup of coffee on a stool, islands rock for everyone!

social kitchen

2. Plan multiple work stations. The kitchen will feel, and will be, more organized in terms of traffic flow when guests gather to help (and chat). Kitchen helpers can then perform their tasks in designated spots, maybe just a bit away from where the cook is working. It works for everyone.

3. Add a movable cart. Flexible countertops and storage space are a luxury, no matter how small. A cart can define traffic areas, help out the cook or assistant, and is a workable solution for a variety of situations, including another spot to hang out at or be used as a place to assist the cook.

4. Enlarge the kitchen. Not everyone can enlarge the footprint of a home, but, look beyond the boundaries of the kitchen, into the dining room, or other surrounding room and consider what the space would look like if it were one very large space. Dreaming is free! Take time to visualize.

Ina Garten KitchenHere’s Ina Garten’s large, social kitchen that she shared in this House Beautiful interview. Photograph by Simon Upton.

5. Enlarge the windows. Natural light, with views to the outdoors are lovely to have in the kitchen. The feeling is less confining. Where possible, bring windows down way low, in the dining area, or in the working kitchen area, even down to the countertop. It’s a less utilitarian look, and a gracious feeling.

6. Cut down on cabinetry. Do you really need all that stuff? Make the kitchen, again, less utilitarian in its aesthetic. Open up cabinetry, float upper cabinets and/or base cabinets on walls, let the eye rest between cabinetry rather than move along a long, hard, run of cabinetry. Think of cabinetry a bit more as furniture pieces.

7. Bring in the “living room” artwork. Why not? Bring in your oil paintings and items you love that are both large and small in scale. Be surrounded by your true personality as reflected in your favorite decorative items. Walk around your home to select what you love, not only what you perceive to be “good enough” for the kitchen decorative layer.

The Social Kitchen

8. Other accessories. Bring in books and stack them on their sides with a decorative object on top of a stack. Install wall sconces on each side of a window, on either side of a hood, or in another area of the kitchen. Pay attention to lighting in general, and choose alternative types of fixtures you may see in other rooms. Hang your lights low! It’s a great cozy feeling. If they feel too low, they’re probably not!

9. Soft furnishings. Bring in a sofa, or design a super cushy bench, add lots of pillows, all of which create comfort, which encourage family and friends to linger.

10. Relax, and enjoy those who want to be with you!

the kitchen designerSusan Serra is a CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer) is an award winning designer and the principal of Susan Serra Associates, Inc., for nearly 20 years.

Susan’s design work is widely published in online and print shelter publications and she is a frequent source for the media on kitchen design issues.

Susan’s blog “The Kitchen Designer” is the most read blog authored by a professional kitchen designer.



How well does your kitchen function for socializing with family and friends? What would you change?

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2 Comments for “The Social Kitchen”

Hi Susan, your kitchen design ideas really do blow me away. I’ve seen a bit of your work online and I’m now sure to follow your blog “The Kitchen Designer”. I look forward to reading your future posts.

Hi Amie,

I’ll be sure Susan sees your comment. She really has the right stuff when it comes to kitchen design.

Thanks for visiting!

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