Make sense of kitchen dining

The breakfast nook

The breakfast nook, with its classic two benches separated by a table, was the thing to have in America throughout the early 1920s and in kit homes where pre-fabricated parts were assembled by contractors in a build-by-numbers style of building. Back when we weren’t so medically advanced, the nook – a small alcove, corner or recess which offered seclusion – became an essential part of a smaller home, which downsized from a grand building in order to be able to manage germs better. It could be easily cleaned and it made the most of space restrictions.

Picture of a kitchen with a breakfast nook

The middle and working classes also adopted the nook as an alternative to being served set meals in a dining room. It became a place to have a quick meal in the morning before they got on with their days. Not everybody had the time or money to be waited on!

In the UK though, the popularity of the breakfast nook isn’t so clear-cut. Some of us chose to make like America and build our own traditional nook but we didn’t all see the cosy creation as a must-have. You could spot it within many a traditional country kitchen where alcoves were more common place in the style of the buildings but now, we’ve switched our dining preferences across a range of decorating styles, whether that be a country styled or modern styled properties. Nooks are now generally considered to be the mark of a wealthy home but they also have an old fashioned label attached to them, which has caused us to swap to kitchen bar stools in recent years in the hunt for “the next best thing” in home design.

Open plan

Since 2010, open plan living has been on the rise. A lack of growth in the property market has meant that we’ve all been looking at ways to improve our homes to make them either more saleable or liveable. To do that, we’ve needed to create as much space as possible at a time when properties have been shrinking.

The Royal Institute of British Architects revealed in April last year that the average one-bed home is a mere 46 square metres – the same size as a London underground carriage on the Jubilee Line. The London Plan requires new build homes to be at least 37 square metres for a one-bed, extending this to 50 square metres if two people are sharing the bedroom. The tiny figures spread across the UK, with the average UK home being just 85 square metres compared to for example, 137 square metres in Denmark!

Picture of an open plan kitchen

Home size has continued to affect our kitchen dining trends. Smaller properties brought about the kitchen island and bar stool set-up, as stools could then be pushed underneath countertops to save on floor space. What’s interesting is that our approach to kitchen dining has changed. Speaking to family and friends, I get the impression that they hardly ever use their bar stools for eating meals – instead they’re seen as the place to sit and chat with friends or to perch while they’re cooking. We’ve needed to look for alternative seating to go alongside them.

The dining room

With homes getting smaller and open plan becoming more popular, dining rooms are dying out. At the beginning of 2012, the popularity of kitchen/dining rooms increased by 50% in a generation, now 3 in 10 of today’s homes have a kitchen/diner, instead of a separate dining room. In rented council properties, dining rooms are rare. Instead you’ll find a living room complete with a sofa to eat meals on (it’s more acceptable socially!) and a kitchen, with bar stools tucked underneath the end of a kitchen countertop to sit while you cook. Homes with separate dining rooms may be more likely to have small round or rectangular tables, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have kitchen stools because of the different usage involved.

Picture of a dining room

The same approach goes for open plan. A small table is common in between the kitchen and living room zones but bar stools don’t seem to be on the way out just yet. I eagerly await to see if the nook will become commonplace… After all, it was designed to be space saving and today’s designs have been modernised to incorporate small round dining tables and chairs, rather than the outdated window seat or two benches either side of a table.

Do you have a kitchen/diner or a separate dining room? Which seating type do you employ? We would love to know your thoughts on the future of kitchen dining.
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