'Kitchen parties are always the most fun' - 5 tricks designers use to make a kitchen perfect for entertaining

5 ways to make your kitchen the ideal place to entertain. Designers share their secrets to creating a space for connection.

contemporary kitchen with large green island
(Image credit: Studio DB)

Kitchens are so much more than the heart of the home. They're also the place where the most fun people end up at during parties, or where the most relaxed dinners with friends happen.

Kitchen parties are always the most fun because everyone feels at ease - and at home - in a well-designed modern kitchen. And so, interior designers are making a variety of choices to adapt the kitchen for entertaining. From lighting that evokes an ambiance to secret coffee bars and extra-large islands, these tips and tricks help your guests flow better through the space and offer opportunities to connect. Inevitably, the challenge lies in achieving a balance. 

The goal is to allow your kitchen to work in a multi-functional way, seamlessly transitioning from daytime meal prep and family time to evenings fun-filled with friends. To help you strike this balance, we’ve spoken to interior design experts around the world, revealing their secrets for creating a kitchen that entertains with ease.

1. Add open access shelving

contemporary kitchen with open shelving and bespoke bar

(Image credit: Regan Wood, Design: Allison Lind Interiors)

Whilst we all dream of an architectural layout that serves the needs of the space, sometimes the building bites back and we are presented with a problem. The answer, of course, lies in creativity. As demonstrated by interior designer, Allison Lind in this project where an awkwardly placed wall becomes a beautiful bespoke bar and shelving unit. 

“The original kitchen in this condo loft was closed off from the rest of the room,” she says. “The clients dreamt of a more open, welcoming flow but we discovered a bit of a challenge: a structural support wall was smack in the middle of the space. Instead of giving up on our dream of an open floor plan or simply allowing the awkward wall to stand solo, we pivoted – utilizing the structure to create extra storage and a pretty focal point. On one side, the clients get a handy coffee bar and display/storage for pretty cups and glassware. And on the other, a built-in wine bar.” 

The ease of open-access shelving works especially well when hosting as you avoid the constantly repeated question of every guest which is ‘Where do you keep the glasses?!’

2. Introduce more surface space

contemporary kitchen with large green island

(Image credit: Studio DB)

Sometimes bigger is better, as proven by this expansive island in Studio DB’s Shore House project. The bamboo-like tiles and forest green panelling not only make this island an anchor for the rest of the kitchen but give the space a sense of energy too. From a practical standpoint, the additional counter space makes everyday tasks easier but also allows guests to congregate around this focal point with ease, a statement echoed by the designers. 

“The scale of the island allows for the kitchen to act as not only a place to prepare meals, but an environment to enjoy each other’s company as well. With so much space to gather around, the island allows for conversation in the same way a formal dining room would, just with a more relaxed nature. They love to cook as a family and the large kitchen island allows them to engage with guests while doing so,” said Damian and Britt Zunino, founders of New York-based, Studio DB. 

Take inspiration - even if you're not currently remodelling perhaps there is a way to add more counter space with a butcher's block or slim console table. 

3. Add the right decor accents

white kitchen with brass bar

(Image credit: Greg Natale)

Australian designer Greg Natale makes the case for an elevated island that functions as a wet bar in tandem.  The calming stone and elegant sky blue of the kitchen are balanced by the glamour and depth of the brass overhanging shelf and bar stool. 

“The client brief for this project was to make the kitchen feel like a bar, so we installed an alcohol display and dropdown glasses above the island to give it a casual, bar-like feel,” Greg says. “The corners of the island were rounded to match the relaxed, organic curves seen throughout the apartment.” The corners also inadvertently encourage the flow of movement with the rounded edges.  For those who want to update their existing kitchen design, Natale’s project is the perfect example to follow, the overhanging shelf not only creates a dedicated bar storage but also adds drama to the space overall. The details make it sing, from the brass wine racks to the cocktail shaker accessories.

4. Create a secret coffee bar

green secret coffee bar in kitchen

(Image credit: Patrick Biller, Styling: Me and Mo, Design: Tiffany Leigh Design)

Something special hides behind the cabinet doors in this kitchen from Tiffany Leigh Design. A secret coffee bar is a great way to utilize extra space whilst creating an experience for your guests. The ease of everything within reach makes it easy for your guests to feel at home.  

“To me, great entertaining is all about making people feel at home. I love when my guests help themselves to a cup of coffee in the morning, it's a sign that they've gone from 'visiting' the house to experiencing the home. A coffee station with a really great coffee machine is a perfect way to entice guests to be involved in the home - they can enjoy a cup of coffee while you do the washing up and engage in a memorable conversation together,” says Tiffany Piotrowski, founder of Tiffany Leigh Design. The added benefit of the doors is any mess or spills can be covered with ease, allowing you to enjoy entertaining without worry. Our guide to the best coffee makers will help you here.

5. Create an atmosphere with lighting

black kitchen with lighting

(Image credit: Tessa Chrisp, Design: Abbey Lang Home)

Lighting is as much a science as it is an art form, and its importance does not diminish in the kitchen. Introducing the right lighting accents can help your kitchen feel more inviting and set the tone for entertaining. Interior designer, Abbey Lang’s kitchen design makes the case for LED strip lighting to highlight details whilst the pendant works as both a visual sculpture and spotlight.  

“In this home, the kitchen is the center stage of a large open plan area, the dining room and lounge are either side of the island and the outdoor dining room flanks the kitchen. The kitchen was designed to 'speak' to the surrounding spaces but have its own dominance in the center. Lighting was a strong design element, we used LED strip lighting to enhance textures, flushing down the marble, timber, and Moroccan tiles. Three pendant lights were placed above the kitchen Island giving a focal point to the expanse of stained oak shaker-style cabinetry. The pendants were chosen for their soft form and warm glow. When entertaining the lighting zones the spaces and creates a warm ambient atmosphere,” says Auckland-based spatial and interior designer, Abbey Lang of Abbey Lang Home. 

Whether you're designing the entire kitchen or thinking of a refresh, LEDS and the right pendant can make all the difference. With the low cost and ease of installation, LED strip lights under shelving or cabinetry are a growing interior trend that adds romance and warmth to kitchens.

Kitchen updates to quickly make your space party-ready

Writer and design expert Faaizah Shah is the founder of The Interiors Consultancy. She has worked with designers such as Staffan Tollgard and design houses such as Sanderson to help them understand and communicate their narratives. She is known for crafting engaging stories and imaginative content, and understanding great decor from her years alongside some of the best creatives in the industry. She is also a contributor to Livingetc.