Is the kitchen island the new dinner table?

Kitchens are a hot topic right now. They are ALLLL over insta & it’s the first thing we talk about when in a home with clients because they really set the tone of the whole house. They get a lot of our time and investment, and rightly so! I feel like there are never smarter dollars spent in a home than those poured wisely into the kitchen. A well designed Kitchen is a total game-changer!

I am often asked what makes a good kitchen. Is it the style? The layout? The finishes? And my answer is never simple. It’s always a layering of all these important factors. I do think there is one thing that really differentiates an okay kitchen from a great one, and that is how it facilitates gathering.

Having lived in many homes in San Antonio (and California, Omaha, and St. Louis!!) over the years, including five different homes since having children, I have experienced how the layout of a kitchen impacts connection. I’ve lived in good ones and bad ones & carefully approached my own renovation with all the likes and dislikes, intentionally creating a space that we all love coming home to. Kitchens are important!

Clients bring me into their homes and tell me about their challenges, be it counter space or walls. They tell me how it feels to all be in one space. Maybe it’s claustrophobic and loud. Maybe it’s essential to be together during the precious morning and evening hours we spend with our loved ones. Our Kitchen, the heart of our home, does have the ability to affect us on an emotional level, every single day…& design can make or break how we feel about being home–and how we feel about being in the kitchen!

The Peacock Farm Project
Photo Cred: Madeline Harper


We’ve all heard that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” and then cringed and spoke a piece of our own mind. (Right?! Just me?!!) If we think about the kitchens of previous generations, the story we unfold is one of isolation. She is in the kitchen, alone, working. Where is everyone else? Can she see them? Are they safe? (I mean, maybe she likes it…sometimes cooking by myself with a podcast on doesn’t sound half bad!) How do the walls between her and her family change their dynamic?

As more and more homes are built or renovated to include an open concept, I have often wondered about the way our homes are influencing our culture. Mom is no longer isolated. Kids can see her, watch her, learn from her, join her. Maybe Dad is cooking, and the whole family has space to participate in a meal and preparation. That is something to celebrate!

This shift matters.

The Trailend Project
Photo Cred: Madeline Harper


When we give people a smart, thoughtful space, they will use it. And this is where design comes in.

How do you want to feel in your kitchen? Who cooks here? When do you cook here? Do you also eat here? What else happens here? How can this space serve your family? Your friends?

I ask all these questions, and many more, when we do a full scale Kitchen Design. The answers to these questions matter to me, because however we design a space will, without a doubt, impact our family and the relationships we have. If my kids can do homework across the counter from me while I am preparing dinner, they can engage and have my support while I prepare a meal. If I had to walk to another room every time a child asked how to “carry the one” or spell another word, (speaking from experience here!!) odds are, I’ll become frustrated about multitasking, they’ll become frustrated about homework, and it’s a lose-lose for everyone.

“I didn’t know I could love my kitchen more & then school started. LIFE. F&$%ing. CHANGING.”
Amanda, owner of The Peacock Farm Project
Photo Cred: Madeline Harper


Beyond simply serving our family, I feel a shift in the way we’re using our homes to entertain. No longer is there a prevalence of sit down dinners and dinner parties, but rather, gathering that takes place in an informal way.

A kitchen island or peninsula can act as a conversation hub. There is something about having a counter to lean on, set drinks or plates on, and be able to move freely around, that facilitates interaction. How many times have you been to a gathering and spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen chatting in this very spot? Add a place to sit, and I’d put money on someone having a cup of coffee and wanting to stay awhile.

For larger scale entertaining, I think the host benefits most of all! No longer must we be stressed to get dinner done before everyone arrives. No longer is he or she stuck, removed from her guests, while wrapping up. Rather, she’s right in the center. Other hands chip in. And we all grab plates, dish up, and stay gathered right where we started–in the heart of the home!

Reno By Styleberry

So is the Kitchen Island really the new Dinner Table? I sure think we’re well on our way to concluding that. Sure the idea of a sit down meal sounds great. It’s really nice when it can happen, but for me–with big kids and a dozen after school sports and activities–it’s a total luxury. What about the rest of the time? Can our conversations at the counter be equally as meaningful?

I think so, 100%!! We may not all be eating at the same time, but we’re there. Sharing our day. Grabbing a bite. Writing a story. Building lego creations. Washing a dish. Prepping a meal.

Face to face.

Side by side.


So when you think hard about your space, how your kitchen influences your friends and family, I encourage you to think about it as a space for connection. It’s our workhorse. It has to be practical. But it can be pretty too.

This month we’ll be focusing on the connection that happens over dinner and dining. We’re got another Design Board coming your way, with loads of inspo to help you transition through the holiday decor in a simple way. Don’t want to miss it? Join our Styleberry Insider’s List and get it delivered right to your inbox!

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