The Kitchen: The New Social Center of the Home

By+Jeffrey P. Helman, AIA


The kitchen has now become the place where we not only merely prepare and consume food, but a place to interact with family and friends while preparing a meal or simply enjoying hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine. Cooking is now very much a social skill and people enjoy showing off that skill. Having your guests as an audience is an essential part of entertaining. How many of us can agree that when the party guests arrive, the kitchen is filled to capacity while the living room is empty!

At a day-to-day level, another contributing factor to the kitchen becoming the social center of the home may well be our own hectic schedules. The time spent lounging in the living room, for many families, has diminished with the frenzy of work and children, and thus the time spent in the kitchen is a quality time of connecting, doing homework, browsing laptop and tablet computers and talking on the phone. It has truly become a place of multi-tasking with a variety of activities taking place.

So the question is, what takes an ordinary kitchen into the extraordinary realm of truly being the social center of the home? I think it involves seven key features that we always endeavor to incorporate into our designs.

1. Functional Layout

This will always be most important, because function still has to come first! Therefore, an investment in a great design is key to the success of the kitchen. Expensive cabinets and tops can’t compensate for a poor layout. 

2. Natural Light

We look for ways to maximize views and window space while maintaining maximum functional cabinetry. A bright space provides the uplifting feeling so crucial to the well being of the occupants.

3. Comfort

Items like soft seating, a TV, and sometimes even a fireplace help to make the space inviting and relaxing. 

4. Visual Texture

A mix of good artificial lighting, wood, stone, tile and stainless steel create warmth, personality and mood.

5. An Island

This is essential to creating the physical social center of the space, and is always the gathering place. 

6. Ample Space

Everyone wants to be in the kitchen, so whether you have large or small square footage, ease of movement and room for everyone is key.

7. The Concept

Every kitchen has a key unique element that defines the concept. It could be a view, an island, a relationship to another space, or a cooking range; find your own unique concept and capitalize on it. 

So, is today’s modern kitchen a functional workspace for true gourmet cooking and meal preparation, or is it a place to gather, entertain and connect with family and friends over a snack and a beverage while Facebooking on your iPad?  Yes, it is!  Bon appetit!

Photos provided by Helman Sechrist Architecture