Most kitchens are fine for family dinners and intimate parties, but catering for a crowd might push them beyond their capacity. However, with a few style adjustments and clever storage hacks, you can transform your kitchen into the ultimate entertaining space, taking the stress out of big gatherings so you can enjoy your time as host.
Look at where your existing kitchen might not be meeting its potential. Lisa Mayski of Kaboodle Kitchen suggests retrofitting handy devices to create additional kitchen storage and – space permitting – adding to the benchtop. “Extend an island to create an area dedicated to grazing and serving food,” she says. “When you’re finished entertaining, it can act as a second dining space or food prep area.”
To temporarily tweak a kitchen into an entertainer’s space, annex territory from other rooms in your home. Move plasticware or small appliances from the kitchen to the garage or linen cupboards to make way for trays and platters. You could also use the laundry as a storage spot or dumping ground for dirty dishes – a large sink helps when cleaning up after the party.
Run down your stocks of food in the weeks prior to hosting an event to create extra storage space. Use up, consolidate and tidy pantry items to buy you extra clearance – and take the opportunity to make sure your pantry hardware is working hard enough. “Pull-out wireware is a great way to add an extra layer of organisation to your pantry,” says Lisa. Adding a few shelf-stackers helps to utilise unused cupboard height.
Finding more room in the fridge is trickier, so call a good old chilly bin into service for your party. Blocks of ice will last longer than cubes, so D.I.Y. blocks in old ice-cream containers ahead of time. Store food in containers or on racks, so they don’t get soggy from melting ice.
Tip: Rotating baskets in corner cabinets create better access for storing large bowls, platters, appliances or even pantry items.
Prior to your party, take out all your platters and serving bowls, give them a good wash, and decide if you need to upgrade or increase your inventory. Do the same with crockery, glassware and cutlery to make sure there’s enough for everyone, throwing away any chipped and broken pieces. (Alternatively, set these aside for an upcycle or craft project.)
Don’t stress if they’re not matching – mixing eclectic pieces from different sets in varied sizes but in a consistent colour palette can look great!
Take advantage of warm weather and long evenings and have the party outdoors. You can still create a semi-formal atmosphere, even with folding chairs at trestle tables.
Style editor Tilly Roberts suggests using pretty fabric, tablecloths or even new drop sheets to cover the table. “Set the mood with fairy lights or candles – citronella ones help keep mosquitoes away, too!”
Tip: Never leave lit candles unattended, especially around children and pets.
A portable trolley offers serving and food storage space for drinks and nibbles and can be wheeled outside and moved around where needed.
Don’t exclude the chef and host when entertaining at home – when guests first arrive, don’t be afraid to bring the party to the kitchen. “If your kitchen is open plan, gather everyone around to keep the chef company,” says Tilly. “Set up stools, and face lounge or dining furniture towards the kitchen.”
Use visual cues to mark the kitchen as ‘open to the public’. “Light a candle, pick flowers and display fresh produce like tomatoes, apples and lemons on platters, to create an enticing space,” says Silvia Colloca, author of The Italian Home Cook.
Serve snacks or pre-dinner drinks on the island bench. However, you don’t want foot traffic around the stove. “Set up a self-service food and drinks area. Preferably this would be located on a kitchen island or within close proximity to the kitchen, but not directly inside it,” says Lisa.
A successful event is one the host enjoys, too, so steer clear of complicated dishes. “Keep your recipes simple!” advises Silvia. And use the barbecue – firing up the grill tends to draw a crowd and inspire offers of assistance!
To maximise space on a busy benchtop, set up a station where guests can help themselves to what they’ll need. Assemble a timber picnic tray table according to instructions, then corral lightweight glasses and cutlery in a stylish container or jar on the top and stack napkins and plates underneath.
Our tray (pictured) is 610mm long and allows for two plate stacks. Afterwards, fold up the legs and pack it away, ready for your next gathering!
Tip: This versatile piece can also be used as a shelf-stacker to help fill unused areas on higher shelves.
Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered.
Check out our 10 kitchen design factors to consider before you get started.
Photo Credit: Brigid Arnott, Kaboodle, Louise Roche, Simon Whitbread