You are here

Family-Friendly Kitchens

Check out these ideas for kitchens that keep kids, adults, and pets safe, happy, and together

Written and produced by Debra Steilen
  • David A. Land

    So you’re building a new kitchen or remodeling from the studs out. If you’ve got kids or older adults in the household, you probably want to make sure the space is family-friendly as well as fashion-forward. These ideas, from big (an open floor plan) to small (a step stool for little chefs), will help you create a space that fits the whole family. 

    Shown: A large wood-topped island offers plenty of space for homeowner/designer Kayce Hughes and her daughters to spread out while eating breakfast. 

    Designer: Kayce Hughes

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Open Floor Plan

    Merging the kitchen with adjoining rooms lets you stay in touch with your favorite peeps while cooking or cleaning up. That’s why so many home buyers look for an open kitchen that faces a family room or great-room. In our example, a wall was bumped out three feet to create space for a breakfast room with a bank of windows. “When I cook, everyone else can be in the kitchen with me and be comfortable,” says homeowner/designer Nicole Metzheiser. 

    See another view on the next slide.

    Architect: Tim Adams
    Interior Designer: Nicole Metzheiser

    Visit the rest of this updated house.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Cooking and Conversation

    Two swivel armchairs flank the raised-hearth fireplace that’s just steps from the marble-topped island seen in the previous slide. “Those swivel chairs are the best,” says homeowner/designer Nicole Metzheiser. “They really allow for conversation because you can turn to talk to someone.”

    BTW: French doors on either side of the fireplace lead to a screen porch. When the doors are open the kitchen and porch feel like one big space.

    See the floor plan for this kitchen on the next slide.

    Architect: Tim Adams
    Interior Designer: Nicole Metzheiser

    Tour the rest of this updated home.

  • Open Floor Plan

    You’ve seen pictures of the kitchen. Now check out this floor plan to see how the kitchen works. The main work zone, between the range and primary sink (on the island), is insulated from interruption by the adjoining areas, which offer comfy seating and lots of natural light. “I’m big into protecting the work space,” says architect Tim Adams. “We created a flow so people naturally congregate outside the island.” Worth noting: With this floor plan, Mom and Dad can also keep an eye on the activities in the backyard, thanks to the wall of windows and easy access via another French door.

    Illustrator: Carson Ode 

    Download our free kitchen planning guide.

  • Andreas Trautmansdorff

    Two-Island Territory

    Boost your kitchen’s sociability—as well as its functionality—by including two islands in the floor plan. Reserve the island closest to the range/cooktop for food prep. Then let kids do their homework at the second island while you cook. They stay out of the work zone and you stay in control. The second island also makes a great breakfast bar or gathering spot for guests while you put the finishing touches on dinner.

    Shown: With two islands and two sinks, this kitchen is well equipped for homeowner Linda Waks and her daughters to share cooking chores. Durable materials (including quartzite counters, vinyl-covered stools, and stone flooring) suit a busy household that also includes a Great Dane and five cats.

    Design: Linda Waks and Dee Dee Taylor Eustace

    See our best island-storage ideas.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Multipurpose Nook

    Whether you call it a banquette or a breakfast nook, this bench + chairs approach to kitchen design is great for families. You fit more people into a smaller amount of space because the bench doesn’t move. You keep kids under control because it’s harder to escape from a banquette than from freestanding chairs. (Great for kids’ birthday parties!) This set-up also offers a convenient place for guests to hang out while dinner is being prepared.

    Editor’s Tip: Choose indoor-outdoor fabric, vinyl, or real leather for the bench and chair seats to make it easier to wipe them clean.

    Architect: Geoffrey Bray
    Designer: Wendy Kirkland

    Check out these beautiful banquettes.

  • Ed Gohlich

    (Work) Zone Defense

    Focusing kitchen amenities on a single wall also aids in keeping visitors out of the main work zone. In this kitchen, a stainless-steel freezer and paneled built-in refrigerator bracket a snack- and sandwich-making area. Glass-front cabinets keep dishes in plain sight. A microwave oven is neatly tucked into the middle, accessible to older kids and adults alike. And the cook works in peace in the space between the range and the island.

    See the next two slides for more family-friendly ideas from this kitchen.

    Kitchen organizational planner: Lesa Heebner
    Interior designer: Jeffrey Alan Marks

  • Ed Gohlich

    Computer Corner 

    Wi-Fi makes it possible to set your laptop or tablet just about anywhere in the house. So why not include the kitchen? Just make sure you pick a spot outside the main work zone. You can search for recipes, pay bills, brag about your kids on Facebook, and catch up on work—all while dinner is cooking in the oven. Plus, kids can do their homework under Mom’s or Dad’s supervision.

    Editor’s Tip: Expand your corner into a full-blown command center by including a bulletin board or chalkboard for messages, a calendar to plan family activities, bins for sorting mail and paperwork, and anything else it takes to manage multiple schedules.

    Shown: Kitty-corner from an island, this computer nook keeps family members connected to information. The homeowner plans menus, for example, then sends them to a printer in the walk-in pantry. See it on the next slide.

    Kitchen organizational planner: Lesa Heebner
    Interior designer: Jeffrey Alan Marks

    Tour another kitchen with multiple zones.

  • Ed Gohlich

    Easy-Access Pantry

    Got room for a walk-in pantry? Celebrate, because your family will benefit in all sorts of ways. For one thing, organizing food and paper goods in one location simplifies shopping by making it easier to track what you have on hand. Family members will be able to find what they need and do a better job of putting groceries away (as in, without your help). Plus, a spacious pantry helps eliminate clutter from countertops, which makes your kitchen look bigger and leaves work zones ready to roll.

    Shown: This spacious walk-in pantry (which includes a printer) is found behind French doors framed by bookshelves. The set-up is just a few steps from the cooking zone.

    Kitchen organizational planner: Lesa Heebner
    Interior designer: Jeffrey Alan Marks

    Get more kitchen storage ideas.

  • Greg Scheidemann

    Smart Idea: Pantry + Laundry Room

    Kill two chores with one stone by powering through the laundry while you cook. How? By setting up a walk-in food pantry that also includes a washer, dryer, utility sink, and designated shelves or cabinets to hold detergent and other supplies. Lucky you if there’s enough room to hang a rod for air-drying laundry!

    Shown: Along with a sink, this pantry boasts a washer and dryer (just visible on the left), a refrigerator, freezer, and a vinyl floor that stands up to heavy foot traffic.

    Design: Jen Ziemer and Andrea Dixon

  • John Granen

    Cabinets That Camouflage

    Cabinets give your kitchen its sense of style. Don’t let them showcase your family’s sticky fingerprints, too. Save the high-gloss lacquered cabinetry for when you’re once again an empty nester. Instead, choose cabinets with an antiqued, distressed, or stained surface that hides smudges and smears until you’re good and ready to clean them off. 

    Shown: Topped with honed slabs of slate, the stained white oak cabinets and island (on the left) sport a glazed buckskin tone that complements the house’s hewed-timber ceiling beams. A baking and prep island (on the right) is constructed of reclaimed barn boards and topped with thick hand-planed wood.

    Designer: Jennifer Hoey Smith

    Walk through this rustic vacation home.

  • John Bessler

    Fuss-Free Countertops

    When it comes to family-friendly kitchen surfaces, durability and wipeability are practically required by law. But set your sights even higher and choose a countertop material that resists fingerprints, too. That means instead of highly polished stone slabs, choose something with a little texture—such as leathered granite (shown), honed quartz surfacing, or concrete. Prefer solid surfacing? Order your countertops with a satin finish. And enjoy the benefits of being able to remove minor scratches yourself without hiring a pro.

    Shown: This family-friendly kitchen includes countertops made from leathered granite, which lend warmth as well as fingerprint resistance. Cabinets feature an equally fingerprint-resistant crackled finish layered with glazes in shades of red, blue, and black. The floor is covered in irregular sizes of limestone tiles, which provide a stylish, slip-resistant surface.

    Kitchen designer: Heidi Piron

  • Werner Straube

    Metallic Mind-Set

    If stone slabs aren’t your thing, consider stainless-steel countertops. But keep in mind how much you hate cleaning fingerprints from your shiny stainless-steel refrigerator. Choose a brushed finish (for your counters) that camouflages small scratches, and enjoy the patina that stainless steel develops over time.

    Shown: Stainless-steel countertops suit a kitchen that’s designed for an avid baker (Pamela Rothbard) and budding artists (her children). “My kids can do whatever they want [on stainless-steel counters], and I never cringe,” Rothbard says. “It cleans like a dream.”

    Kitchen designer: Rebekah Zaveloff

  • Alise O’Brien

    Kid-Safe Corners

    Want to worry less about children running through the kitchen? Make sure your countertops sport gently rounded edges (left) instead of sharp corners (right).

    Shown: A granite countertop with rounded corners includes a gently curved cutout to create visual interest.

    Designer: Jenny Rausch

  • John Granen

    Slip-Resistant Flooring

    Kitchen floors just seem to attract spills. That’s why it’s so important to choose slip-resistant flooring—especially if your family includes children or older adults. Make your kitchen a safer place to eat, work, and play by flooring it with cork, linoleum, certified slip-resistant tile, textured vinyl or laminate, or stone tile with a honed, tumbled, hammered, or flamed finish. Slip-proof area rugs also help feet get a grip. Even your dog will thank you.

    Shown: Both the upscale butler’s pantry and the adjoining kitchen are floored with honed Bleu Chinois limestone tiles.

    Designer: Nancy Burfiend

  • Gordon Beall

    Wipe-Clean Wall Paint

    When it comes to painting kitchen walls, shiny is good. Choose semigloss paint—rather than flat—to make it easier to wipe off spaghetti sauce, fingerprints, and (fingers crossed) scribbles.

    Shown: Along with easy-to-clean walls, this neutral kitchen features honed-granite perimeter countertops, a marble slab as a backsplash above the range (no grout to clean!), and cabinets with a custom glaze. Simple knobs and pulls, and a sleek gooseneck faucet are all easy to clean.

    Designer: Jay Jenkins

  • Michael Partenio

    “Help Themselves” Appliances

    Want to protect the work zone from hungry/thirsty family members and guests? Consider installing these appliances to help them help themselves to beverages and snacks.

    • Refrigerator drawers (shown) outside the main work core—so kids and adults can grab refreshments at any time without getting in the cook’s way. Get extra points for stocking the drawer with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit and yogurt.
    • An undercounter wine chiller outside the work core to simplify entertaining.
    • A microwave oven installed at a child-friendly height (e.g. in an island).

    Shown: Stacked refrigerator drawers are integrated behind custom panels that match the cabinetry (all painted with Benjamin Moore’s "Duxbury Gray"). The countertops are Absolute Black granite.

    Architect: Kate Johns 

  • Andreas Trautmansdorff

    Family Flexibility

    With today’s busy schedules, it’s hard to get everyone to sit down for dinner simultaneously. So make dinnertime more flexible by including a warming drawer in your team of appliances. That way, you can keep food the right temperature for mealtime stragglers. You can also preheat plates, keep side dishes hot until the roast is ready, and make food in batches (such as pancakes) that stay warm until it’s time to serve breakfast.

    Shown: Because her family likes to grill year-round, homeowner Linda Waks included an indoor grill cooktop in the kitchen mix. The warming drawer is found right below the cooktop for a fast, easy transfer of food.

    Design: Linda Waks and Dee Dee Taylor Eustace

    See more of this efficient, elegant kitchen.

  • Werner Straube

    Double Dishwashers

    Feeding a large family? Love to cook big meals and/or entertain? Simplify cleanup by outfitting your kitchen with two separate dishwashers. Here’s why:

    • Multiple family members can help load and unload dishes without bumping elbows.
    • You can declutter an open kitchen fast by stashing dirty dishes in the dishwashers instead of on the counter.
    • It’s easier to keep kosher if you use separate dishwashers for meat and for dairy.

    Shown: In this kitchen, one dishwasher is installed to the left of the sink. The other one is in the island next to compartmentalized dish drawers. This plan makes it easy for the kids to unload the dishes and put them away. “I’m a mother who works full time and has three kids,” says homeowner Regina Stilp. “I didn’t need a kitchen to be large and grand, just functional, practical, and convenient

    Design: Todd Atkins

  • John Bessler

    Breakfast Zone

    Getting everyone out of the house on time gets easier when breakfast staples are stored in one location. Create a family-friendly breakfast zone by designating cabinets and drawers for cereal, bread, bagels, and toaster pastries; adding shelves for plates, bowls, and coffee mugs; installing refrigerator drawers or an undercounter refrigerator for milk and juice; and including a coffee system and toaster. And remember: Anytime you can save time, steps, or energy because you grouped appliances, fixtures, and storage to streamline a task, that’s family friendly.

    Shown: Designed by homeowner Joan Nemirow, the hutch (including the wall-hung shelves above it) supplies everything her family needs for breakfast. Two built-in refrigerator drawers from U-Line can be used as freezer drawers for ice when the Nemirows entertain. Directly below the sink, metal containers hold dog food and treats for Gracie (who waits patiently here for a biscuit).

    Designer: Joan Nemirow

    Get more tips for creating a pet-friendly home.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Staying Connected

    You might not want to allow smartphones at the table. But you’re missing the mark if you don’t provide a convenient place for family members to charge their personal electronics. Popular spots include discrete power strips inside drawers or cabinets and sleek charging stations that sit on top of the counter. You’ll always know where phones, tablets, and laptops can be found. And other rooms will look less cluttered as a result.

    Shown: High-tech gadgets rate as high-priority in this household. That’s why three charging-station drawers, one for each family member, are tucked beneath a countertop near the pantry. Outlets in the back of each velvet-lined drawer keep cords out of sight while charging laptops, phones, and tablets.

    Designer: Matthew Quinn

    See the rest of this elegant kitchen.

  • John Granen

    Smart Idea: Mobile Workstation

    You may like solitude when you’re cooking. And we respect that. But for those cooks who appreciate assistance, it helps to have at least one additional work zone to accommodate extra hands. Adding an island seems like a given. But if you don’t have room for one, secure a sturdy wheeled cart that can be moved to where it’s needed. Choose a stone, quartz surfacing, or metal top to accommodate food prep. Use lower shelves to store utensils, dishes, or ingredients. Add baskets or bins to corral smaller supplies.

    Browse “Savvy Kitchen Island Storage.”

  • John Bessler

    Step On Up

    Whether you’re making holiday cookies—or pizza—include the younger generation(s) in the fun. Keep a sturdy step stool handy to help the kiddos get up to counter height. (And remember to use it yourself instead of standing on a chair next time you need to reach the top shelf.)

    Shown: Intergenerational cooking-baking takes priority in a kitchen that features a range niche sheathed in brick and new yellow-pine floors.

    Designer: Lisa Hilderbrand

    See more of this historic home