It's early Wednesday morning and I'm where I often am - in the kitchen, news on the TV, laptop open and engaged on the counter, and cookies baking in the oven. Today, I'm making chocolate-dipped macaroons for my neighbor's Easter Tea on Friday morning. Next week, I'll make them again for Passover. (In my experience, good macaroons are non-denominational.) My dog, Riley, has been fed and he's sitting at my feet waiting for Cliff to take him on their daily morning hike.
On Sunday evening, we hosted dinner for Lior, our Israeli tour guide who's now visiting California for the next few weeks. This potluck gathering included several couples who'd been on the trip and wanted to return his hospitality with dinner and dessert. We sat around our antique Irish farmhouse table and enjoyed one another's company as we reminisced. We didn't sit at the beautiful, highly-polished round table in the formal dining room, or on the comfy sofas in the living room - we gathered in the kitchen. (And to give credit where credit is due, Cliff cooked the chili while I tended to my Open House at 45 Lane Court.)
By design, our kitchen is purposely open. When Cliff and I took on our home's renovation, we enlarged the old-fashioned galley kitchen by expanding into the adjacent maid's room (I'm the only maid living here!) relocating a half bath, and eliminating a set of stairs to the basement below resulting in an airy, sun-lit L-shaped room that connects to both the living room and the dining room (our main floor is essentially a donut for easy flow) AND allows for casual entertaining (the only kind we do any longer, save Thanksgiving). And while the kitchen's main component is a large center island, if I could make one change, it would be to make that island even bigger! (I still may.)
Here's the thing, our kitchens are now our living rooms. It's where we prepare meals, it's where our kids do their homework, it's where we sort the mail, drop the backpacks, hang our coats, read, write, watch TV, play games, and gather with family and friends. Aside from our bedrooms (only because we need to sleep), most of us spend far more time in the kitchen than in any other room in the house.
As such, they've become both sexier and multi-functional with open shelving, dedicated ice-makers, built-in espresso machines, under-counter wine refrigerators, and the like. Mine has TWO dishwashers to make clean up easier for those large family gatherings I'm frequently hosting, a walk-in pantry, and LOTS of counter space!
But not every Homeowner has caught on to the concept. I often go into older homes that have been recently remodeled only to find that the owners kept the original blueprint of their fairly petite kitchens intact, while an expansive formal dining room sits fallow bedside it. OR they fail to incorporate the warren of small rooms, breakfast nooks, back hallways, butler's pantries or laundry facilities that snake toward the backyard. This is space just ripe for the pickin'. Speaking as a Realtor (and as a serial renovator), keeping a small kitchen, small, is a MAJOR mistake.
Gone are the Betty Crocker days when meals were prepared in the kitchen behind swinging doors. With the bulk of American households being supported by dual incomes, our only time together may be limited to after work, after school, after sports, after music lessons, or after tutoring (you get the picture). No surprise then that the room that beckons is where we feel supported, loved and cared for; where we are literally and spiritually fed. In other words, give the kitchen its due!
So if a kitchen remodel is on the horizon, I want to encourage you to actually think "outside the box" by reevaluating closets, hallways, dining rooms, breakfast rooms, and other spaces to add square footage to this multi-functional CENTERPIECE of our current lifestyles. Even for those who never cook a meal, order in, or use Door Dash as their go-to solution, the kitchen will always be the spot where family and friends continue to gather as the years unfold.
And if your house is small, it's even more important to enlarge this space since an "open concept" is the number one request most Buyers desire. Take down a wall (or two), put in a header, and GROW your kitchen. I promise you, your investment will be returned in spades come time to sell. BTW, if you remodeled in the 90s, that work will now be considered "dated." (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.) Quick facelifts include painting the wood cabinets, changing out the drawer pulls, adding new lighting, removing bulky uppers, adding open shelving and redoing the backsplash and countertops.
Finally, I encourage you to marry the outside of your house to the inside. Attend to those long-ignored gardens and decks. Stop neglecting them as in many cases, they can nearly double your living space. I've got an outdoor kitchen in my rear yard which draws me into the garden far more often and allows for easy entertaining all summer long. In fact, our kitchens are so important that it's okay to now have more than one!
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.