No longer isolated from the home's more social areas, increasingly open kitchens are now combined with casual dining and lounging areas that actively draw people together. Watch the family room TV while you wash dishes, or fix the evening meal while talking to your children who are doing their homework at the table. Prepare hors d'oeuvres while chatting with guests as they mingle.
When executed well, this blend of multi-functional spaces -- the kitchen with its delicious aromas and the sitting area with its inviting softness -- functions as the heart of the house. What makes these combinations work? We examined some of our favorite kitchen/family rooms to find the recipe for success.
Create visual unity: The cream-colored cabinets in this kitchen are matched by another set at one end of the family room, tying the two areas together. Antique heart-pine floors are laid throughout. A khaki color on the walls enhances the light atmosphere.
Define space with strong details: Because the space is so large, it allows for a substantial island that visually divides the room. The piece, painted black, provides the counter-space that most cooks only dream about, but it doesn’t skimp on details such as carved legs. Armoire-style cabinetry in an alcove between the kitchen and formal dining room has the same rich black finish.
Harmony through repetition: Arched door openings leading from the kitchen to the dining room were constructed to mimic a series of curved windows and to unite the two spaces.
Bring in light: Glass cabinet doors and plenty of windows ensure the space feels open and bright, even though it's lined top to bottom with storage. Mixing light sources, such as suspended halogen lights and antique lamps, lends a cozy feel.
Instant antique: This new kitchen design needed to match the genteel style of an older house. Cabinets are painted white with a brown glaze for aged appeal, and drywall mud and glaze lend the walls a textured patina. Synthetic flooring and countertops mimic more expensive natural products.
Design for many uses: The island serves multiple functions -- separating cooks from guests, working as a bar for parties, and providing a buffet for family meals. The island is fitted with a cooktop and raised vent, and below there's plenty of storage space for pots and pans.
An alternate sink makes a great prep area for a second chef. Because it's close to the refrigerator, it's the ideal spot for washing fresh fruits and vegetables too.
Splurge on pleasures: The island also contains a built-in warming drawer, a grandkid-friendly detail that's perfect for cookies and breads.
The farmhouse sink and limestone surround are mostly a gesture to beauty. The owner admits the Italian, etched-leaf sink is the most impractical item in her kitchen, but its a favorite.
More of a good thing: If you like the drama of this tone-on-tone kitchen, you can easily re-create it in your own home. Just choose a color, and stick to it. Here, Semolina by Benjamin Moore was used as a starting point. The color went on the cabinets and trim. The walls use a mixture of one-half Semolina tint, and one-fourth Semolina tint for the ceiling. This is a great alternative to choosing three different colors off the paint card. It ensures they will work in harmony. Apply this method to any room where you are using the same hue for the walls, trim, and ceiling. Choose a wall color, and then ask for a custom mix of one-half or one-fourth of that tint for the trim and ceiling.
Inspiration point: Any project will seem overwhelming if you don't start with a single item to inspire your palette. Here, decorative tiles for the backsplash in a Provence-based hue influenced the paint choice. Tile molding creates a frame around glazed field tiles accented with a pattern of smaller, decorative squares.
Customize appliance exteriors: The kitchen's design impact relies heavily on color, so the appliances must coordinate. A large black or stainless steel refrigerator would have ruined the unified yellow of this room. The new refrigerator -- which came with instructions for creating custom panels -- was made over with painted wood panels designed to match the cabinets. A dishwasher with an interior control panel is camouflaged to blend in with the kitchen's brightly colored cabinets.