20+ Party-Ready Kitchens

Whether your idea of a great get-together is a sophisticated wine tasting or a multigenerational free-for-all, these 20+ spaces are full of designers' best tricks for creating a kitchen that's ready to party.

Photo By: Christopher Robbins

Photo By: Photography by Nancy Blandford

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Photo By: Photography by Natalia Pierce

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Photo By: Photography by Larry Arnal

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Photo By: Photography by Kip Dawkins

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Photo By: Photography by Nitsa Stakias Zdziera

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Photo By: Photography by Nick Garibbo

Gone are the days when a hostess toiled alone behind closed doors, missing the best jokes while everyone else sat stiffly at a formal dining table in another room. Today, guests want to mix and mingle with their hosts near the cooking — and hosts prefer kitchens where the planning and prep feels less like work and more like a party, too.

Designer Nancy Blandford, CMKBD, ASID, calls this kitchen "party central." Designed around two support columns, the large U-shaped island can be approached — and used — from six sides. One side is for seating, while another acts as the bar, and the other four sides are for meal prep and serving. "This was the first time I designed a U-shaped island," Blandford says, "and I'm amazed at how well it works for entertaining."

For a cook who likes company but prefers a little elbow room during a party, Sheila Tilander, CKD, CBD, designed a kitchen that provides the hosts (or chefs for catered events) plenty of space for food prep and cleanup while guests gather in the living room. Guests can rest drinks and elbows on the long curved counter, or gather around the island, at the dining table or in the family room.

Entertaining on a large scale requires plenty of platters, trays and glassware that must be handy for events but out of the way for everyday meal prep. In this kitchen by designer Keira Burgess, ceiling-height cabinets offer lots of storage for entertaining essentials. Everything's right in the kitchen, protected from dust and grease — but out of the way of daily family cooking. White cabinets on the back wall, and nearly white Ceasarstone counters keep the room bright, while the dark-stained wood island and far china cabinet wall add a warm, inviting feeling.

When a kitchen opens up to a living/dining area as stylish as the one in this New York City apartment by Andrew Suvalsky, form and function are equally important. The long countertop Suvalsky designed for the space ends in a wedge-shaped, wood-paneled cabinet that keeps it integrated with the kitchen while also inviting guests to stand around the "wedge" as one would at a restaurant or bar. "The materials, lines, colors and tones of the kitchen are slick and sophisticated," Suvalsky says, "so the kitchen blends in with the apartment, rather than separating itself from the look of the living/dining area."

To create a sense of openness for this apartment kitchen, designer Andrew Suvalsky repeated the wood tones used elsewhere in the apartment, punctuating them with acid-etched mirrors and gray marble. Low-back stools ensure the countertop's strong horizontal line isn't interrupted, and that the space remains open and sleek.

Even with the design challenges open kitchens present, "they offer lots of benefits for entertaining," says Noa Santos of Homepolish, "because the cooking/dining experience isn't compartmentalized." In this kitchen — kept open to make the apartment feel larger — wooden barstools lend a warmth to the otherwise slick surfaces and geometric hard lines.

The owners of this kitchen by Natalia Pierce, AKBD, Ottawa chapter representative for the National Kitchen & Bath Association, wanted an open space where guests could gather to enjoy fine wines and cocktail parties. The long, curved copper sink Pierce installed is the perfect depth to fill with ice for chilling favorite beverages. The kitchen, with two separate islands where guests can imbibe and interact, also includes both a wine fridge and a cooler for soft drinks.

The kitchen in this Oregon vineyard estate home turns into a public tasting room on weekends. To allow for privacy when desired, and openness when needed, designer Linda Evans, CKD, installed a drop-down screen used during "wine tasting" hours to partition off the kitchen. When the homeowners want a more open flow between the kitchen and dining/tasting bars, the screen retracts into the ceiling, a great idea for any home with an open kitchen that is sometimes better left unseen.

This kitchen by Nathalie Tremblay won first place in the large kitchen category at NKBA Ontario Design Awards 2013, and it's no wonder why: The refined layout features distinct work zones for cooking, food prep, cleaning and storage, and the aisles are extra wide for easy traffic flow. Unused space below the stairs was enclosed with glass panels and transformed into storage for up to 180 bottles of wine.

Designer Nathalie Tremblay included counters of varying heights to maximize prep and dining options in this great entertaining kitchen. A TV that retracts into one of the countertops allows the homeowner to catch a show while dining solo or prepping for a party, and can be used to entertain guests with a big sporting event or a "dinner and a movie" experience. For parties where the TV is an unwelcome distraction, the screen disappears at the touch of a button.

That same kind of "now-you-see-it-now-you-don't" flexibility makes this kitchen by Pat Ives, CKD, a cook's dream. The large eat-in space includes a Wolf microwave drawer, a large prep sink and two remote-controlled appliance garages.

To provide extra counter space for serving large parties, the appliance garages in this kitchen retract into the granite countertop to become part of the dining/prep area that also includes a drop-in knife block and trash pullout. Design by Pat Ives, CKD

To make this small apartment kitchen more party friendly, designer Solange Boice, CKD, used every inch of storage space possible and created work surfaces in unexpected places, including this pullout counter next to the oven, which can be used to cool foods or as an extra buffet surface. "Allowing guests to be part of the action, serving themselves or staying close enough that they can help if needed, makes the home more inviting and the party more fun," says Boice.

This kitchen, designed by architect Kurt Worthington and interior designer Susan Diana Harris, welcomes guests of all ages. Kids have room to wander (or run) around on the spacious floor, while adults gather around the island or at a custom teak dining table (not shown). The U-shaped counters offer plenty of surfaces for gifts, wine and food, while the counter-height island allows for buffets and a dining or cocktail area. Layers of pendant lighting and playful ceiling heights create the perfect ambiance for just about any occasion.

The owners of this home like their parties big, and they like 'em boisterous. To accommodate the merriment, Synergy Design & Construction removed a large portion of an exterior brick wall to reveal a sweeping view of the backyard. This allowed the designers to re-orient the direction of the island, providing easy traffic flow from the adjacent dining room. An eight-burner stove provides plenty of cook space while a warming drawer keeps food hot and ready.

With five children of their own and as many as 75 guests of all ages on a typical weekend, the homeowners wanted a kid-friendly party kitchen — and they got it, thanks to lots of crowd-pleasing features included by designer Angela Cherry Courtalis. A mini fridge, convenient to guests of all heights, stores individual beverages so small guests don't have to wrestle with two-liter bottles or spill sticky soda all over the floors and counters. A flat-screen TV is high enough above the fridge that football fans can see every play, even when someone is grabbing another drink.

Even kids have no excuse for leaving their garbage out after eating, thanks to this handy open-top trash compartment. A hidden surface on a track under the counter slides out to cover the opening for extra prep space when needed. Design by Angela Cherry Courtalis

Sometimes what's outside the kitchen is almost as important as what's inside. In this sinuous kitchen, the lake views are a highlight of any gathering. To take full advantage of the vistas day and night, designers Tim Scott and Erica Westeroth, CKD, NCIDQ, of XTC Design, installed layers of illumination, including pendants, pot lights and recessed lighting in the base cabinets' toe kick. The room's overall design is open, but not totally exposed to any mess created in the kitchen during cooking.

Large windows around the perimeter of this efficient two-island kitchen by Linda Evans, CKD, make it a pleasant place to get ready for a party — and a lovely spot for mingling too. The round red standing bar is a focal point and conversation piece for guests while additional pops of red throughout the room add drama and interest.

A peninsula adjacent to the patio doors makes indoor/outdoor entertaining a snap in this kitchen by Ryan Christenson of Remodel Works Bath and Kitchen. The counter area can be used as a buffet or as a place to keep burgers out of the sun before they go on the grill. White cabinets keep this kitchen bright and sunny while watery green subway tile adds a splash of color.

Designer Linda Evans, CKD, knocked out several walls and installed large French doors to the back deck to give this narrow townhouse kitchen a better flow for entertaining. During parties, guests can sit in the living room at the front of the home, mingle at one of two bars in the kitchen, "or," Evans says "be stopped on their way outside and asked by the cook to carry something out to the deck." Hmmm? Two bars, a back deck and an atmosphere where everyone pitches in? Sounds like our kind of party!