If You Had a Choice: Eat-In Kitchen or Separate Dining Room?

©. Ben Rahn/A-Frame

It seems odd that a site named Apartment Therapy would have a post titled Let's Bring Back the Eat in Kitchen ; that is what almost every apartment has, most are usually too small to have a separate dining room. However the author writes:

Lately there's been more of a trend towards informality, with the kitchen and dining room edging closer together. You see a lot of breakfast nooks, dining areas that are right next to the kitchen, but still cut off from the action. What I'm proposing is a single room that incorporates both eating and dining.

I really thought that was pretty standard these days; even in new houses, like the one shown above, designed by LGA architectural partners for friend of mine, The kitchen and dining are pretty much in the same room, and the kitchen counter is really the focus of attention, accessible from both sides.

credit: Carla Weinberg

© Carla Weinberg

In smaller spaces, like the wonderful renovation by Tom Knezic and Christine Lolley, it's impossible to have a separate dining room, it just takes up too much space. I think there are real green benefits to the eat-in kitchen, but also social ones.

A few years back I was interviewed by a now defunct green kitchen design magazine and suggested that this was the way we should be designing today. My predictions:

Local food, fresh ingredients, the slow food movement; these are all the rage these days. A green kitchen will have big work areas and sinks for preserving, tons of storage to keep it in, but will not have a four foot wide fridge or a six burner Viking range. It will open to outdoors to vent the heat in summer, to the rest of the house to retain the heat in winter. The dining area will be integrated into it, perhaps right in the middle. A green kitchen will be like grandma's farm kitchen- big, open, the focus of the house and no energy from the appliances will be wasted in winter or kept inside in summer.
Green Kitchen

© Williamson Chong

I thought it would be very much like Donald Chong's wonderful kitchen, still I think the best I have ever seen.

There is nothing inherently "not green" about a big open kitchen, if it is not filled with monster appliances, formaldehyde and vinyl. If it is where you live and not repeated with accessory breakfast rooms and empty dining rooms, it probably can and should be the biggest room in the house.
credit: Craig A. Williams

© Craig A. Williams

Now I live in a house with a separate dining room; that's how they built them in the era where people had servants. It's rather nice not to have to look at the mess in the kitchen, but if I was designing it from scratch I would definitely go more open. What about you?

Eat-in kitchen or separate dining room?