Today’s family kitchen is more than just a room in which to cook: it is the true heart of the home, a multifunctional hub in which different generations can gather to cook, work, relax and entertain, all while keeping a watchful eye on younger family members.
It must be able to meet everyone’s demands whatever the time of day, from accommodating chaotic breakfast sessions to intimate suppers at the end of a long day.
There is no benefit to cramming everyone in to a small space, so in order for the room to work effectively, it must be large enough. One of the most popular extension projects is to add a kitchen/dining/living area which opens out to the garden through wall-to-wall doors. Assuming they meet certain criteria (check planningportal.co.uk) such projects often do not require planning permission . Alternatively, you may be able to create a large open plan space by removing a non load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room.
Where space allows, a family kitchen should include a good sized dining table, preferably one which is extendable to accommodate gatherings. A dining table can provide a good transition between the kitchen and a more informal sitting area, with one or two comfy sofas or armchairs. Where possible, window seats provide a clever solution.
Young children require an extra level of consideration when planning a family kitchen. You will want to keep little ones entertained close by, so it is a good idea to include a children’s cabinet in the design, stocked with toys, positioned away from the cooking area. For teenagers, consider designing in a homework/study station.
Ensure your kitchen will be easy to clean, and opt for child locks or soft-closing drawers and cupboards, with curved cabinet ironmongery to prevent accidents on sharp edges.
How to add style to a family kitchen
To create a homely look, it’s all about the informal, so mix and match as much as possible, combining new finds with upcycled pieces, and different styles of chairs around a simple, farmhouse table to give a relaxed, festive feel.
Choosing freestanding units, such as larders, dressers and butcher’s blocks from different eras will evoke the feel of heirlooms passed down through the family, and if space is limited, hang a variety of wall cupboards to create a similar mismatched effect.
Painted pieces in soft chalk paint will add a splash of colour to a space, which can be changed easily with the seasons, so be daring. Soft furnishings should be pretty with nostalgic prints – Liberty lawn fabrics and the perennial favourite, gingham, are ideal. Combining the two works really well, so experiment with swatches before buying to ensure the colours complement one another.
Complete the scheme with antique prints and artwork that reflects your personality and passions, and fill your cupboards with beautiful vintage linens and charming china pieces, ready to be brought out for the big day.
In this New England kitchen by Mark Wilkinson, the extractor fan – an essential for ventilation
in a busy kitchen – has been cleverly hidden under a canopy to create a beautiful focal point. With a clear-lacquered oak island, and units finished in the company’s own satin eco paint in Oyster, kitchens start from £40,000
Incorporating an island is a practical solution to maximise counter space in a busy family kitchen. Aside from a place to prep, a bespoke island unit can also accommodate a range of add-ons, from deep drawers to small sinks and wine cooler systems. Martin Moore’s English kitchen collection starts from £35,000
Creating some form of central hub is essential in all family kitchens. An island is the ideal solution as it can also provide a natural break between the practical cooking zones and the more relaxing living and dining areas. The best islands have seating at one side, with bar stools tucked underneath a projected work surface (avoid high stools for small children), facing a prep area, perhaps with a sink or hob and dishwasher, so that the chef can interact with family members and guests while cooking.
The bigger the family, the more storage space will be required. Consider pan drawers and pull-out shelving. A large pantry kept distinct from the prep area of the kitchen will allow for family members to help themselves to breakfast items and snacks without interrupting cooking.
The Shaker design remains one of the most popular choices when creating a kitchen with
a family-friendly feel. Second Nature’s timeless Langham kitchen features chunky solid timber doors, and is available in 24 colours, shown here in Alabaster with granite worktops, priced from £12,000
No homely kitchen would be complete without a generous-sized cupboard for storing those family food essentials. This handcrafted, in-frame catspaw oak larder from Churchwood comes as freestanding with two drawers, from £2,500, or as part of a kitchen, from £20,000
It is the little touches which make a kitchen feel like a space for all the family to enjoy. Include a large pin- or chalk-board to which everyone can add messages and pin pictures and achievements on. To make the space even more appealing to children, avoid a scheme which is too grown up and neutral: add colour with a feature wall, bright accessories or painted furniture.
Finally, give consideration to flooring. In a family kitchen it should be practical, hardwearing and slip-resistant. Stone or ceramic tiles are good options but if you would prefer a more cushioned surface, look at high quality vinyl, which can mimic beautifully real wood and stone.