The kitchen is the center of the home, whether you’re preparing a meal, the kids are doing homework, or you’re hosting a dinner party. But what do you do if you have a small kitchen and there seems to be not enough space to set up a traditional table and chairs?
This is where you have to be crafty, creative, and willing to think differently when it comes to your seating arrangements and eating habits, say interior designers and home organizers. Finding a way to have some chairs, an island, or even a table that comfortably seats six or 12 can be found, but you have to be strategic about how you arrange the space or how the furniture works.
The first step is to find space for a traditional table or lots of chairs. Using every inch of this space is the goal, says Anna Popov, founder of Interiors by Popov. For example, Popov is a fan of the console table setup since he can move to a larger table, perfect for holiday gatherings.
Popoff worked for a homeowner who loved to entertain and hosted at least twice a year a dinner party of 18 people. The challenge was that she lived in an 1,800-square-foot townhouse, so the layout had to leave room for flexibility and adapting to her needs.
Popoff created a kitchen with an island, an island-adjacent dining table, and an extendable dining table that were all the same width and, in the case of the latter two, the same height.
“The result is a continuous dining table that seats 18,” says Popoff. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ design approach for these situations—everyone has different needs.”
Here are some other space-saving solutions for adding seating for one, two, or even a dozen or more people in kitchens of any size.
Hang it up and fold it up
Building extra seating, a desk, or even a table using furniture that folds on hinges that allow items to be used and then put away can help add more functionality to a kitchen, says Jodi Kutner, a West Palm Beach, Florida, real estate agent and author of the apartment notes website at Internet. “You can create a desk area within your kitchen with a raised or built-in counter or barstools placed at different heights so you can work while standing or sitting,” says Kutner.
A modern and stylish solution is motorized furniture that folds out of the wall, says Eugene Colberg, principal of Colberg Architecture in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. “Another new kind of motorized furniture is coming off the roof,” says Kohlberg.
Repurpose unused spaces
That unused closet or pantry? Turn it into a small dining area with a foldable table and chairs. When you’re done with the meal, everything goes well again. Another idea, says Jennifer Spinelli, founder and CEO of Niche Home Buyer, is to replace the oversized dining table with a pint-sized kitchen version.
Colberg describes using a space that once housed a dishwasher to create a seating area. “We removed the dishwasher and in a 24″ by 24″ space, put a slide-out countertop under the worktop with two stools,” says Kohlberg. “It comes out and acts as a makeshift table and disappears when not in use.”
Storage and seating combination
The kitchen is the heart of the home, so you want to have a comfortable place for people to congregate, says Dennis Suplee, licensed realtor at Long and Foster in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and founder of Spark Rental.
“Years ago, I saw one of the best ideas ever: Built-in storage benches were used for seating, so they do double duty, and a small cafe table was put in front,” Suplee says. “It was very inviting and made the small kitchen feel warm and inviting.”
L-shaped banquettes also make use of corners, usually underutilized kitchen spaces, says Ben Kuhl, home renovator and CEO of Shelf Expression in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Banches can be designed in a variety of ways and can really provide additional ways to add more unique design elements to a kitchen,” says Cole.
Do double duty
Those nooks and crannies in your kitchen? Ready for seating solutions, says Stacey Lewis, a Vancouver, Canada-based interior designer and owner of Eternity Modern, an e-commerce store that specializes in mid-century modern furniture and décor.
“A window seat is a great way to add extra seating without taking up too much space,” says Lewis. “Try using benches or ottomans that double as storage containers. If you have extra chairs or seating in the living room or den, bring them into the kitchen. This is a great way to accommodate larger groups of people without your kitchen feeling cramped.”
Put it on wheels
If a kitchen island isn’t feasible, use a portable island on wheels, says Gunner Davis, a realtor from Tampa, Florida. “Because it’s portable, it can be placed in any convenient location and pulled out at just the right time for use,” says Davis. “These islands work as great sidebars, too. You just have to reorganize when you use it.”
If you really want to combine comfort with an out-of-the-box solution, Vy Truong, co-owner and creative director of Houston-based interior design studio Very Handsome, suggests lounge furniture. Yes, there in the kitchen.
“It may not be unheard of to build a lounge space into your kitchen and breakfast area, but why are these spaces so close to each other when they serve similar functions? Adding a lounge chair or even a short sofa to your cocktail tables can evoke a memory reminiscent of dining on the couch.” Watching TV at your parents’ house.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out How People Lived in Europe and Asia for ideas on making small spaces work beautifully, says Popoff. These families also invest in good, high-quality “smart” furniture, she says.
“Smart furniture that transforms or transforms into another functional item, like a coffee table that rises, can be used as a dining table. Or simply choose a small bistro table with two complementing chairs; it can make a quick and great solution,” says Popoff.