The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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5 Ways To Plan For Adequate Kitchen Dining Space

I've been thinking about space that is designed for dining in, or just beyond the kitchen. Having recently moved from a 3500 square foot house to a house that is less than 2000 square feet, dining space is very much on my mind.

It has been my experience that when plans are brought to me by potential clients, there is often not enough space planned for the dining area. It is the most overlooked area in space planning that I've seen. So, here are what I consider to be very important issues. Some of these may seem simplistic, but in the course of whole house plans, for example, it is an area that can be easily overlooked, and perspective on paper can be misleading for those unfamiliar with floorplans.

Take a look at the plans below. This is a client's home  and is a fairly large home for 2 people, no kids. The kitchen is a large kitchen. Notice the first plan with handwritten comments (mine) which is how it came to me.

Some time later, the second plan is what we came up with. I have some objections to that plan as well, as I had to defer to the clients' wishes, of course, but I was able to substantially enlarge the dining area and if you look at the lower wall of each plan, you'll see where some changes were made based on my suggestions. Not perfect, but much better. (The island and the table are too large for the plan, but that was the clients' wishes, and 42" is too narrow between the island and the cooking wall.) NOTE: the three big columns in the original plan in the south area of the image are outdoors.

It's a shocking example of how, if overlooked and accepted, this large kitchen would have had seating for 2, which, at the time, the clients had no issue with until I brought up additional lifestyle scenarios for their consideration.

Follow these tips for a more satisfying dining experience. That says a lot, and it should...dining with loved ones is one of the most beautiful things in life. To me, dining comfort is as important as anything that is planned in the kitchen.

1. What is the maximum number of people that you want to seat? Visualize several lifestyle scenarios. Planning for maybe 2-3 more people than you will typically seat, if space permits, is a common request and makes sense in most cases.

2. Analyze the space surrounding the dining area. Is there space to move around the table comfortably? Will people at the table feel confined? Is there enough room between fixed kitchen cabinetry and the table? Between doorways and the table? Account for chairs being pulled out as well. I will promise you that you will probably need more space than you think you need. Visualize people seated and others moving around the table. Those images will reveal the problems and/or solutions to you.

3. Is there another dining room? Under what situations will that dining room be used? Must it only be used for formal situations and furnished in a very formal style which may not be conducive to casual dinners with a large group? Think through how the dining room is best used...its frequency of use as well. This will help determine the size table to use in the kitchen or breakfast room.

4. Think flexibly! Can your table be expanded to accommodate more people? If so, are you ok with that? Can you create a hinged plywood top to put on top of your table top, covered with a table cloth if your table does not have a leaf? A great solution for rare occasions and if there is no other dining room or if you simply prefer to be in the kitchen.

In my case, I am finding in my new home, that, having expanded the table to accommodate 9 people in the breakfast room, I do not like the smaller space that is left over, even though I would not consider it cramped. As a result, I will be changing the living room into a dining room. Radical, but necessary, as, to me, ample space surrounding a table is conducive to comfort and relaxation and lingering meals.

The answer is this: There is no right or wrong.

5. Built in seating saves lots of space! Consider banquette seating to accommodate more people, save space, and sit with comfort (if planned properly.)

So much to think about, and all VERY important!

Here is the later version of the plan I referred to:

And here is the first one that was brought to me with this plan:











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Reader Comments (12)

Great points! Lifestyle is so important.

Did you find out what the initials ESP mean? I love banquette seating.

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Lang

Thank goodness someone else's eyes where on this, great post. How much space should be between island..48"?

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Susan, it could have been a built in mixer, can't remember.

Hi Michele...in a good size kitchen, I like to use at least 52", sometimes more. I hate feeling cramped, and a bigger aisle makes it easier for two people to be in the same space or if one passes by.

March 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Moving from a huge place to something that is relatively smaller would entail an amount of adjustment especially in the designing aspect. But you, looks like you didn't have to adjust to anything since you came up with an excellent job here:)

March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCustom Cabinets TX

TX, the floorplans shown are a client's home, not mine.

And, in my case, it's not much of an adjustment, although I am often observing how I and others work in this new kitchen, as I think about how it might be better when we do eventually renovate.

March 11, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

This became an issue in my kitchen, and was one of the things I was most irritated with my KD about. In addition to looking at the amount of space you have, you also have to think about how furniture will fit in that space.

When we designed our kitchen, we were not planning to touch the existing eating area, which was quite spacious. We planned to keep our existing table and chairs at least for a while.

Our kitchen has pretty narrow aisles everywhere, mostly out of necessity because the space simply is narrow. And we added framing and insulation after the design was finalized, which shaved off a precious few inches. Anyway, after our island was in place, but before granite was installed, WE (not my KD) realized that the aisle between the cooktop and the island was way too tight, and the KD had the island moved over a few inches. Then the aisle between the peninsula and the island at the other end of the island was too tight, so we moved the peninsula out a bit as well, into the adjoining eating area.

We still had a fairly large eating area, so I didn't think about it much. Then one night, it suddenly dawned on me that because of the placement of the windows, etc. that in order to center the table on a brick wall between two windows it would have to be too close to the peninsula. I was sick, absolutely sick.

My KD came over to discuss with us, and measured from where the edge of the countertop on the peninsula would end to where the table would be. Everything was within the barest minimum space guidelines. It was clear that that was not planned, just lucky. We debated eliminating the peninsula altogether, but that would have involved a major redsign. We ended up shaving a few inches off the overhang on the peninsula, I found stools with the smallest footprint that I could find that would still be reasonably comfortable, and we have made do. Honestly, the table gets pushed over a lot. You can see in this (terrible) picture that the table is not usually quite centered.

Some day I will probably try to find a narrower table, maybe a narrow trestle table. It doesn't bother my husband, but it drives me a little crazy that if someone is sitting on a stool, and someone is sitting in a chair at the table, everyone has to squeeze by everyone.


March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

Great planning tips for the kitchen!

March 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

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March 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermike
March 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermike


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March 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercolocman

It was clear that that was not planned, just lucky. We debated eliminating the peninsula altogether, but that would have involved a major redsign

May 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergrow taller 4 idiots

This became an issue in my kitchen, and was one of the things I was most irritated with my KD about. In addition to looking at the amount of space you have, you also have to think about how furniture will fit in that place .
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July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarkbenson

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