Your Eat-In Kitchen: 10 Space-Smart Design Ideas

The American kitchen has changed quite a bit in just a few generations. Once used primarily for food prep and casual meals, the kitchen has become the hub of household activity. The kitchen is where we arrange appetizers and chat with our guests while we cook. It's also where we plan vacations, help with homework, and of course eat throughout the day—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even the occasional coffee and crossword. Small wonder, then, that there are so many kitchen seating options, from traditional tables and chairs to space-saving stools that tuck beneath the counters. Here are 10 stylish dining solutions that make even the smallest kitchen a welcoming place to gather.

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  1. Table Basics


    Countertop stools are great for quick meals, but if space allows, a table and chairs are a luxury worth considering. A round design with chairs that tuck neatly underneath is a sensible choice for small spaces. As an added benefit, this white table takes up less visual space than a darker color would.

  2. An Eye for Detail


    A center island is a great way to add storage, counter surface, and dining capability to any kitchen that has the available floor space. Here, a trio of pale gray wooden stools are tucked under the extended countertop, offering a contrast to the kitchen's white-and-sea-foam color scheme and echoing the stainless-steel surfaces found throughout the space.

  3. Retro Style


    To maximize seating and storage in this sunny kitchen, the homeowners installed a corner banquette with drawers underneath. Red leather cushions pair well with the yellow walls and recall old-fashioned diners. The unique cut of the table eases movement around the space.

  4. Best of Both Worlds


    Love the nostalgic look of a banquette but prefer the flexibility of a table and chairs? Do as these homeowners did—position a table in front of a window banquette and place chairs around it.

    Related: 10 Ways to Bring Banquette Seating to Your Kitchen

  5. Sweet and Simple


    Even the most space-challenged kitchen can accommodate casual seating at the edge of a counter. Here, brackets beneath the marble extension add a graceful architectural detail. Dark wood stools punctuate the room's predominantly pale color scheme.

  6. Smart Storage


    Although the space at the bottom of these stairs could have accommodated a traditional table and chairs, the owners opted for a built-in banquette with additional storage underneath. The soft, sage-green cushions complement the pattern of the upholstered chairs on the other side of the table.

  7. Formal Flair


    In homes where the only dining area is in the kitchen, feel free to dress it up as you would a formal dining room. The easy elegance of upholstered armchairs, an heirloom table, and an eye-catching chandelier adds a sense of fun to the functional space.

    Related: Bon Appétit – 10 Ways to Dine Without the Room

  8. Widespread Appeal


    To accommodate seating at the end of a work island, extend the counter material and even consider widening it as these homeowners did. Use your choice of seating to underscore the overall style of the room.

    Related: 12 Outstanding Kitchen Island Options

  9. Level Up


    Another design strategy for incorporating seating into a work island is to build two tiers, the lower devoted to food prep and the higher to dining. Using the same counter material for both levels creates a cohesive look.

  10. Table Time


    Although work islands have become commonplace in kitchens today, you can choose instead to devote the space to a traditional farm table like the classic example seen here. Counters that surround the perimeter of the room ensure ample workspace, while mismatched chairs unified by similar wood tones add a whimsical touch.

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