There is no actual dining room in this apartment but with a large kitchen it gave us options:
1. Divide the space into distinct areas for kitchen prep and formal dining
2. Pretend it’s a dining room with a wall of kitchen stuff
3. Build an island and create a big dine-in kitchen
The Kitchen Before
I would have never even thought of option #2 but that is how the former tenant presented it to us. With a six-person mahogany dining table, seven-foot wide china cabinet, and full bar, she had created a dining room within her kitchen. But why? Was it a hate for cooking? A love of take-out dinner parties? I don’t really understand why someone would snub their kitchen with zero-prep space and a fortress of furniture, but I knew this was not the route for us.
The Kitchen After
For Mike and me, number #3 was the obvious choice. We wanted a dining area that could double as a hang-out space–because you do that a lot more often than you throw 12-person dinner parties. The casual set-up of an island encourages guests to pull up a seat while you cook and, even when there aren’t enough chairs to go around, leaning on the table is never rude. Plus, the extra storage and prep-space are invaluable.
Constructing the Island
Now all we needed to do was figure out how to build it. We spoke to a few carpenters, looked at a few ready-made options but for our basic specs and budget, IKEA parts were our best option. While most IKEA items can be built with an Allen key, their islands, on the other hand, take a circular saw and an aspiring handyman. Good thing I have both in my house because, otherwise, I would have been in over my head (see Mike miraculously build this thing).
With the goal of making this a dining table/hang-out area, comfortable chairs were key. Also from the wondrous IKEA, the Glenn stools were the perfect choice. The back has the perfect pitch to sit upright and it has a little give for leaning. With chairs tucked in, placemats out, and candles lit this workhorse of a table can actually feel romantic.
When it comes to selecting art for your home, I think the kitchen is the one place you can get a little kitschy. In our case we’ve done this with an homage to Hoboken-born Frank Sinatra on one wall (see record framing project) and a red cartoon-like painting of nameless Revolutionary War patriot taken from a fraternity at Mike’s old college.
The Fixed Parts
Of the kitchen elements that we inherited—appliances, countertops, cabinets–the Home-Depot-Does-Tuscany chandelier was the one thing I could not tolerate. It brought the whole kitchen back to the 1990s and it needed a modern replacement ASAP. The Firefly five-pendant light was the perfect swap. Clean lines and bubbly shades, it can go from task-lighting to mood lighting with the turn of dimmer.