Interiors advice

Interior designer, Clair Strong, offers her top tips on how to design a truly sociable kitchen

Nowadays, we want the kitchen to be the heart of our home and not just a place to cook and eat. Think of your kitchen as more than just a practical space – it needs to be a flexible, inviting space used for family gatherings, entertaining and day-to-day living. Here are a few simple ways to make your kitchen a welcoming sociable space where family and friends will love to spend time.

Make room for an island unit


Having a kitchen with an island unit as the sociable hub of the room is the top of most of my client’s list of requirements. An island gives lots of extra workspace but also creates a natural divide between the ‘working’ and ‘socialising’ areas of your kitchen, with the sink and oven on one side and stools on the other for people to perch and chat to you while you prepare a meal. If you have children, think about lowering one end of your island to create a seating area for them to eat their tea or do their homework while you’re busy.


If you haven’t got room for an island, a breakfast bar at the end of a unit is a good alternative. Bar stools can be neatly stored under it out of the way when not in use.


Include a casual seating area 

If you have space, having a sofa or a couple of small armchairs in your kitchen will create an inviting spot to relax with a pre-dinner drink. Zone the area with a small drinks table, some soft lighting and a stylish rug to give it a softer feel than the rest of the room. I am a big fan of drinks trolleys; style them up with pretty decanters and glasses ready for cocktail hour and you’ll create a fabulous focal point.

Built-in, bench-style seating makes efficient use of space and is great for families with children because it also provides extra hidden storage for toys and shoes. Soft furnishings allow you to add pattern and colour to your kitchen space and make it feel warm and welcoming. 


Bring the outside in


If this summer has taught us anything it's to value our outside space. The most sociable kitchens link to the garden to create a seamless indoor-outdoor entertaining space. The best way to achieve this is to install bi-fold or Crittall-style doors to allow maximum light into your kitchen and give direct access to the garden.


If your kitchen doesn’t open directly on to your outdoor living space, position your dining table and chairs to give you the best view outside when you are eating. 

Think about lighting


In the daytime you want your kitchen to be bright and friendly with lots of natural light but, after dark, good lighting is essential to make it a multi-functional room. Combine task lighting like under cabinet spotlights with more general feature lighting to create atmosphere.  Install dimmer switches so you can alter the light from bright light for food preparation to soft lighting for enjoying a romantic dinner.


If you have a dining table in your kitchen, think about installing pendant lights above the table. I like to source interesting pendants and chandeliers to make the room feel more like a living space than a functional space and add style and personality to the room.

Technology comes to the kitchen


Tech is often ugly but an essential part of modern life. With the kitchen as the hub of family life, having a TV in the kitchen can make the kitchen a more sociable space. Hide the TV in a purpose-built cabinet if you don’t like the look of it! Make sure you have speakers in the kitchen so you can stream your favourite Spotify playlists when you have a party, and USB charging points are a must for busy families.


Revolutionise your kitchen experience with a boiling water tap, which gives you access to instant hot water and does away with the need for a kettle; and look for an oven with a built in microwave to free up more countertop space.

Hidden and built-in storage


When guests are in the kitchen you want to have clear work surfaces and all your crockery and equipment hidden away. Well-planned storage is key. Think about having all your appliances hidden in a special ‘appliance’ cupboard, wall cabinets that extend right up to the ceiling, a larder for all your pantry foods and having a free-standing dresser for your plates and glasses to avoid the kitchen looking cluttered. Use open shelving to display personal decorative pieces and books to add character.

A sociable kitchen is a room for family dinners, socialising with friends, parties, drinks, work and after-school activities. The most successful modern kitchen balances practicality and warmth and is flexible and stylish too!


As a small, friendly, creative business based in Bath we pride ourselves on offering client-led interior design solutions for all the rooms in your house, from redecoration to complete redesign and refurbishments. We recently launched a virtual interior design service to help clients design or update their homes without the need for a face-to-face meeting. We can also design off-plan for those of you with moves ahead.


All images are of completed work, undertaken by myself, you can see many of the projects I have worked on since 2006 on my website at or click the buttons below.


All images Nick Smith Photography, with the exception of Clair Strong image by Kate Butler.