How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks

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By Michele Koh Morollo / Published by Dwell
Besides being a place for food preparation and cooking, your modern kitchen can be a prime social zone where your friends and family can gather to feast and spend quality time together.

If you frequently entertain guests in your home, or love holding long leisurely dinner parties on the weekends, it’s a good idea to keep these points in mind when designing or remodeling your kitchen. Here are some tips on how to turn this functional area into a space that's fit and fun for gatherings.  

And make sure to scroll to the bottom to shop our favorite kitchen picks.

1. Consider an Open Layout 

When there’s a crowd in your kitchen, it’s important to ensure that people are comfortable and can move around and mingle with ease. Avoid claustrophobic layouts with tight corners or islands that are placed too close to the walls. A doorless, open-plan kitchen is best, as it creates an inviting and spacious atmosphere.

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 1 of 9 - The eye-catching tile backsplash is by Popham Design.

The eye-catching tile backsplash is by Popham Design.

2. Create Circulation and Connectivity 

Think about how you and your guests will interact within and around the kitchen. It's important to ensure that people can effortlessly transition from the kitchen to the living room and dining areas, and vice versa. If you have a patio, garden, balcony, or courtyard, site your kitchen next to (or near) these areas so that dining alfresco can be an option. By designing a kitchen with good circulation and connectivity, you won’t have to worry about it being too cramped, as the crowd will naturally spill over to other areas of your home. 

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 2 of 9 - The resident of this home wanted to be able to use the space as a fun gathering place for parties, so Bestor set a DJ booth at the edge of the kitchen. Custom plywood shelving holds vinyl records.

The resident of this home wanted to be able to use the space as a fun gathering place for parties, so Bestor set a DJ booth at the edge of the kitchen. Custom plywood shelving holds vinyl records.

3. Make Sure Your Kitchen Island Is Multifunctional

As a defining feature in many modern kitchens, the island counter shouldn’t just be a surface for preparing food. When it’s party time, clear out the counter top and bring out some stools so that guests can sit around the island and enjoy their beers and snacks—or even a casual buffet meal.

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 3 of 9 - While the open kitchen and living room space provide ample opportunity for entertaining, perhaps as compelling is the Kovels’ surprisingly private roofdeck. "We love to have parties over here," says Kovel, "and sometimes we go up to the roof." With a privacy screen vexing voyeurs to the west, and no other tall building, save the church spire, nearby, the Kovels and guests have free rein. "We have a hot tub up there," Kovel wryly discloses.

While the open kitchen and living room space provide ample opportunity for entertaining, perhaps as compelling is the Kovels’ surprisingly private roofdeck. "We love to have parties over here," says Kovel, "and sometimes we go up to the roof." With a privacy screen vexing voyeurs to the west, and no other tall building, save the church spire, nearby, the Kovels and guests have free rein. "We have a hot tub up there," Kovel wryly discloses.

Shop Stools For Your Kitchen Island

4. Add a Wet Bar 

The merry making isn't complete without refreshments, whether it's cocktails for the adults or homemade lemonade for the little ones. So, consider including a wet bar where guests can linger and chat. Because most wet bars are equipped with storage for glassware as well as a sink, you can wash glasses quicker, which will shorten the waiting time for beverages. It can also be used as a place to make some post-dinner espressos.

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 4 of 9 - Shown here is the wet bar in Apartment G, designed by Takenouchi Webb.

Shown here is the wet bar in Apartment G, designed by Takenouchi Webb.

Shop For Your Wet Bar

5. Go Discreet Where You Can

To create a more relaxed "living room" feel, keep your kitchen from looking too much like a place for cooking. Install discreet or streamlined cooktops, ranges, hoods, ovens, or "hidden" kitchen appliances like this built-in refrigerator with wood-finished doors from Sub-Zero.

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 5 of 9 - Integrated built-in refrigeration unit with smart-touch controls from Sub-Zero.

Integrated built-in refrigeration unit with smart-touch controls from Sub-Zero.

6. Install Smart Storage 

Keep your kitchen clean, neat, and clutter-free with smart storage so that pots, pans, small appliances, and utensils are out of sight and out of mind. Bulthaup’s kitchen tool cabinets, which can be shut to hide all your kitchen essentials, help ensure that your kitchen isn't a mess when guests arrive. 

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 6 of 9 - Bulthaup kitchen tool cabinet.

Bulthaup kitchen tool cabinet.

Shop Kitchen Storage

7. Introduce a Cool Backsplash or Bold Lighting 

Interesting pendant lamps and backsplashes with bright colors or bold patterns can add character to your kitchen, transforming it from a utilitarian space to an area for fun. 

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 7 of 9 - This dark and bold kitchen features Beat Pendants by Tom Dixon and a black-and-white tile backsplash by Popham Design.

This dark and bold kitchen features Beat Pendants by Tom Dixon and a black-and-white tile backsplash by Popham Design.

Shop Tom Dixon's Beat Pendants

8. Make Sure it Fits Seamlessly With the Rest of Your Home 

A good entertaining space should have a look that's consistent with the overall design of your home. Use the same (or similar) finishings and colors as the rest of the space. If you want the kitchen to stand out, you can introduce different materials or colors, but make sure they complement the overall interior concept of your home. 

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 8 of 9 - Although it mimics the appearance of rickety mining shanties, the home is airtight. Triple-glazed windows and highly insulated walls contribute to its overall net-zero status.

Although it mimics the appearance of rickety mining shanties, the home is airtight. Triple-glazed windows and highly insulated walls contribute to its overall net-zero status.

How to Design a Kitchen That’s Ideal For Entertaining—and Shop Our Picks - Photo 9 of 9 - The concrete wall mimics the slope of the hill outside as a reference to early Maori structures that were dug into the land. The simple kitchen has strandboard cabinetry and an MDF island that conceals a fireplace at one end. The ceramic works on the built-in seat at right are by Raewyn Atkinson and Robyn Lewis.

The concrete wall mimics the slope of the hill outside as a reference to early Maori structures that were dug into the land. The simple kitchen has strandboard cabinetry and an MDF island that conceals a fireplace at one end. The ceramic works on the built-in seat at right are by Raewyn Atkinson and Robyn Lewis.

Shop Our Kitchen Picks