A good eat-in kitchen incorporates strategic seating arrangements, multifunctional pieces, and a thoughtful layout. So, to make a kitchen double its use-case as a functional cooking space and dining room, you have to think like a savvy designer—throw a connecting living room into the eat-in kitchen mix and you’ve got yourself a real Rubix cube of a decorating project on your hands. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do so with 18 eat-in kitchen ideas for every size, style, and layout. Whether you have a small apartment that doesn’t have a separate dining room or you want to make the most of a large kitchen with a casual counter snack zone or a sunny breakfast nook, these designer spaces will provide you with all the inspiration and direction you need to make it happen. Keep reading and take notes of the eat-in kitchens ahead to start mapping out your own vision.
Dress It Up
“What I really wanted was a kitchen that felt like a library,” says designer Brittany Bromley of this space. The dark wood stain creates a more formal atmosphere that is still down to earth enough for casual family meals. If you want to build a banquette by a window, work around the existing frame instead of blocking light or messing too much with the bones of the space.
Mirror the Walls
You might not have room for a breakfast nook, but you can probably make some space for a counter bar, especially if you place it strategically. This one in a glam kitchen designed by Amir Khamnejpur scores double points for a counter-height dining table that moonlights as a kitchen island. Mirrored walls make it feel bigger.
Strive for Symmetry
This eat-in kitchen in a beautiful Spanish Revival Southern California home by Madeline Stuart is all about symmetry. The central skylight illuminates a casual dining area while steel and glass French doors open up onto a terrace. The open kitchen has counter stools for even more casual dining, too.
Float a Counter
Gil Schafer created a dining nook perfect for a morning coffee brainstorm session, thanks to its placement by the window. There’s enough surface space on the floating counter to get a little work done, enjoy a meal, or do some cooking prep.
Call On a Table Cloth
Throw a tablecloth over a bistro table to dress it up or leave it bare when using it as extra surface space for kitchen duties. Anthony Dunning turned his small kitchen into a stylish and efficient space, thanks to this simple styling trick.
Separate With an Area Rug
In this small dining space in a great room designed by Robert McKinley Studio, an area rug helps delineate a separate, intimate setting. The round dining table further highlights the area, which is accentuated by the round rice paper pendant and rattan tray.
Use Durable Materials
Bright sky blue paint gives this eat-in kitchen designed by Elizabeth Cooper an undeniably cheerful quality. Aside from ensuring that everyone’s day starts off on the sunny side, using the same paint for all the appliances (that’s the fridge peaking out on the right) and the walls behind the banquette ensure a cohesive look. Vinyl upholstery also means no tears wasted over spilled milk: just wipe down crumbs and spills!
Mix Casual and Formal Pieces
Dallas-based designer Jean Liu made this room a triple threat: kitchen, formal dining room, and casual breakfast nook. She opted for super sleek cabinets with understated hardware complements the pendants over the dining table perfectly. The caramel leather banquette cushion is both polished and approachable and adds just enough contrast with the black dining chairs and attached gray island.
Deck Out a Desk
In a narrow galley kitchen designed by Ashley Whittaker, a small vanity desk stands in as a pop-up spot for kitchen prep work or dining when all other surfaces are taken. She installed tall upper cabinets to add storage while keeping the countertops clutter-free, and then introduced a colorful stool for functional fun.
Maximize For Living
Designed by Ruard Veltman, this room does it all. Part living room, part kitchen, part dining room, it’s designed to be a high-functioning gathering space that occupants can really live in. A Dutch gable provides a decorative touch while also serving as a durable backsplash, thanks to the easy-to-clean oil paint that covers it all.
Honor Your Style
In this industrial kitchen designed by Kathleen McCormick, the steel table can function as a casual breakfast spot, a bonus workspace, or a classic island. Hidden storage compartments in the forest green cabinetry make up for the streamlined design.
Use the Table to Break Up the Room
Heidi Caillier gave this kitchen a bright coat of paint (white on the exposed brick and blue on the cabinets and hood) and then contrasted with dark wood furniture and flooring. The small table provides extra counter space and a place to dine without blocking the pathway.
Build It In
The single-seat banquettes and built-in metal table in a kitchen by GRT Architects are reminiscent of a classic midcentury diner—perfect for this inky and sophisticated kitchen in a midcentury modern home in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Customize a Console
New Yorkers know how awkward those one-wall kitchens can be: They’re tiny yet somehow manage to take up an entire wall in your living room. This chic and simple kitchen designed by The Brooklyn Home Company proves that there are ways to redeem them. A console functions as a narrow kitchen island and a dining spot without breaking up the room’s flow.
Use Versatile Furniture
You don’t need to cower your table in a corner! Sometimes putting it smack-dab in the middle is the best thing you can do for your eat-in kitchen. This rustic farmhouse table grounds a modern kitchen designed by Les Ensembliers and makes the room feel much more airy and open than a bulky island might. But that’s not all: It can be used as a kitchen island, a desk, home studio table, dining table, or more. Plus, it’s on wheels, making it easy to move around for entertaining needs. Pro tip: Wheels are great, but a folding table is even better for a small space.
Shrink Down Furniture
Here’s another cleverly designed galley kitchen. Nanette Brown extended the backsplash all the way up every wall in the room for a jewel-box effect. And because the room is so narrow, she opted for a skinnier dining table and narrow bench that doesn’t eat into the pathway when not in use.
Use Color Wisely
Custom back cushions that match the seats create both cohesion and comfort. The wooden wall paneling warms up the darker elements and also reflects the more casual chairs across the table in this eat-in kitchen designed by Studio Shamshiri.
Set It Apart With Interior Glass
Crosby Studios used glass interiors to frame a tiny breakfast nook off of a gallery kitchen. It makes the eat-in kitchen feel a little larger and more distinct since it separates the cooking and dining areas—but the transparent arch ensures that the two spaces can still share the light.
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