The Biggest Kitchen Design Flex Is a Couch
Finally, somewhere to store pesky party guests while cooking.
Updated Oct 10, 2018 4:54 PM
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Among the many things I was struck by when I visited Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico, this past summer (her pantry! her garden! her handmade plywood tables!), what amused and stuck with me the most was something truly surprising: a low, white cotton–slipcovered Nancy Meyers–esque couch in the kitchen.
Like many deviations from style norms, at first it appears unorthodox, but the more you think about it, the more obvious it seems: Why not have a cozy, soft-backed place to sit in the warmest room in the house? Perhaps unsurprisingly, artist and designer John Derian, a favorite of Meyers, also has a sofa in the kitchen of his Provincetown, Massachusetts, vacation home. O’Keeffe’s and Derian’s unexpected seating choice is not only stylish and approachable but also practical—a unique combination.
Admittedly, my Brooklyn apartment technically has this arrangement. The only distinguishing factor between the cooking space and the living space in my 400-square-foot one-bedroom is flooring. The hand-me-down black leather sofa my parents bought more than 20 years ago at a designer closeout store in northern New Jersey has aged gracefully and plays nicely opposite my milky white refrigerator. Though this positioning is similar to O’Keeffe’s, it’s not quite the same. As someone who works from home most of the time, part of what makes being in the kitchen so enjoyable is that it’s time spent away from my laptop. While cooking, I’d prefer that my workspace (read: my couch) be out of view.
When I think about what I want in a future home, one with more than three rooms, I always start with the kitchen. Many home cooks pine for a window over the sink or luxe countertops, and while my dream layout includes these nice-to-haves, for me, the focal point is the couch—one that I wouldn’t use as a workstation. Soft seating is a simple upgrade that totally transforms a room, turning a functional space into a relaxing one.
A kitchen with room to lounge represents an attitude toward cooking that I’ve come to adopt in the past few years: It’s an all-day approach that prioritizes leisure. For me, workdays are punctuated by stops in the kitchen—to start making bread, to roast vegetables for dinner, to de-seed a pomegranate. Behind each meal is an accumulation of tasks made easier by having an inviting space I like being in.
Impractical as it may seem, having a couch in the kitchen lends itself to the way many of us cook today. Rare is the dinner guest who is content to stay in the living or dining room while hosts are preparing a meal. Cooking has become more communal, and kitchens are where people gather. Why not offer curious onlookers comfortable seating—and maybe a basket of green beans to shell or bottle of wine to open?