Create a kitchen for entertaining

Turn your space into a hub for hosting with these inspiring ideas.

Story By Rose Clearfield

The kitchen is a natural gathering place for events with family and friends. Maximizing the entertainment potential for your kitchen will help you create the ultimate hosting location for everything from girls’ nights to family holiday events to watching the big game on TV with friends. Focus on creating a kitchen space that’s an ideal fit for you and your loved ones. If an all-white kitchen sounds like a nightmare with young children, don’t do it just because you’ve seen white kitchens featured in major magazines. You’ll get the most use out of your kitchen when it’s tailored to your needs and preferences.

Clean the countertops.
Bare countertops give the kitchen a streamlined aesthetic. They also provide more options for preparing and serving food and drinks, which is essential for entertaining, especially in a smaller kitchen. Before you have people over, clear off mail, magazines, toys and other miscellaneous items. Then store appliances and other large items you won’t use during the party, such as a toaster or food processor. Depending on the nature of your event, you may want to designate specific counter areas for prep tasks and serving stations to stay organized.

Offer ample seating.
Unless you host a lot of sit-down dinners or people tend to congregate in the living room once they have food, it’s important to have enough seating in the kitchen for your guests. An island bench or built-in banquette is more flexible than stools or chairs. Don’t be afraid to assemble a temporary seating setup for social gatherings as well. Bringing in dining room chairs or basement bar stools expands your seating options without cluttering the kitchen.

Create a bar area or beverage station.

Having a permanent bar or beverage station keeps traffic flowing smoothly during a social event. People are able to serve themselves without bothering you for extra glasses, ice, etc. and without blocking the food stations. You can make a drink station solely centered around coffee or alcohol, one that caters to multiple drinks or one that you can switch up as needed. If you don’t have space for a permanent setup in the kitchen, use a movable bar cart or similar setup that you can bring in and out for different events.

Add an island.

An island is a simple way to expand the functionality of your kitchen without breaking the bank. With careful planning an island will work in a kitchen of almost any size. An island is ideal for entertaining because it’s so versatile. You can use an island for extra seating and dining as well as prep and serving. For a small kitchen a moveable island is a great option: you get the space you need for entertaining without ruining the flow of the space the rest of the time. For a large kitchen, a second island will help you designate separate cooking and serving areas.

Establish work zones to create a flow in the kitchen.

Thinking through where you’ll prep and serve your food and drinks during the party will prevent people from congregating in areas that block the food or the pathways. Prep as much food in advance as possible to maximize dining and serving space as well as to reduce your stress level while you’re hosting.

Create atmosphere.

Lighting goes a long way toward creating a welcoming atmosphere in the kitchen. New light fixtures provide a huge impact at a low price point. For a kitchen renovation, focus on a layered lighting scheme, which includes cabinet and under-counter lighting to offset overhead lights. Right before a party, light up a few candles to further add to the mood and help keep the food smells from overwhelming the space. Add a few seasonal elements to the kitchen, such as a pumpkin centerpiece for the fall or green garlands above the doorways for the holidays.

Opt for functional kitchen pieces whenever possible.

As you register or shop for kitchenware, keep an eye out for items with maximum functionality. Beautiful serving bowls, timeless kitchen cookware (i.e., Dutch ovens) and colorful holiday pieces are items you’ll use over and over again that look great out on your stove or countertops during parties.

Add tech-savvy touches.

Tech-savvy touches take a kitchen up a notch, providing a wow factor when friends and family come over for parties. Wireless speakers are ideal for playing music throughout your entertaining spaces. If you host friends for every big football game, install a big-screen TV. While you may not want a TV in your kitchen, it’s perfect for a den or family space in an open-concept living area. Finally, set up a couple of strategically placed charging stations so guests aren’t constantly looking for outlets.

Rent items for large gatherings or special occasions.

You don’t need to own every single item that you use for entertaining. Rental companies offer everything from glassware to china to drink carts. If you only host a family Thanksgiving every five years, rent the table and chairs you need to seat several dozen people. You won’t have to store these items for the rest of the year, and most companies even drop off and pick up the items for you.

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