Lounging around

A comfortable space off the kitchen


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While the kitchen remains the heart of the home, an adjoining lounge extends its heartbeat of food and fun. Outfitted with a sofa and stuffed chairs, a lounge is a cozy space directly connected to the kitchen, where people can both relax and keep company with the cook. Furnished as a kitchen’s living area, this space can have a bar or a fireplace so families can chill out and “lounge around” in a comfortable atmosphere.

Also called the living room in an open kitchen design, Patricia Davis Brown, of her namesake firm in Vero Beach, says most families live in this part of the house.

“People just naturally gather around food,” she says. “But everyone lingers in a comfortable living room or lounge that’s not cut off from the kitchen.”

That wasn’t always the case. Brown says in the 1980s, design started to shift to open kitchen layouts, a stark contrast from the walled-off kitchens and formal dining rooms of early to mid-century homes.

Gone are the days when people cooking in the kitchen were cut off from everyone else, Brown says. Her firm has overseen many remodeling projects that create an open kitchen design.

The size and shape of the lounge is dictated by an existing home’s layout. People are getting rid of tables, tearing down formal dining room walls, and converting breakfast nooks into lounges by adding comfortable furniture with undivided, easy access to the kitchen.

“The way we live and entertain today is much more informal,” she says. “The kitchen area has become the place where kids do homework and families entertain, play games and hang out watching television.”

Whether you’re renovating an existing house or building a home, treat the lounge as an extension of the kitchen area and make it a more intimate place for people to congregate. Brown says that means the look of the lounge should complement the kitchen’s design and style.

Start with the flooring of the lounge and work your way up the walls. “When you step into the living area of the kitchen, it shouldn’t feel like you’re stepping into a different house,” she says. “The flooring should be a natural continuation of what’s in the kitchen.”

The flooring in the lounge should be soft and warm, yet durable and easy to clean. Wood, tile or stone floors found in the kitchen can be continued into the lounge, but a large area rug or carpeting underfoot makes it more inviting than a cold, stark floor.

When choosing paint colors, look to the kitchen for continuity. If the kitchen and the lounge share a continuous ceiling, it’s wise to keep paint colors the same, too. However, Brown says if there’s a ceiling beam between the kitchen and the lounge, there’s more room for creativity.

“This living space is meant to be more fun, so you can pull an accent color from the kitchen and make it the predominant color of the lounge,” she says. “The idea is to make the lounge more accessible, and that can mean making it a more playful, colorful space, depending on the homeowners’ aesthetic.”

Since many families end up living in the lounge area, make sure the paint or wallpaper choice is one that is durable and can be easily cleaned.

Many take lounging to heart and have a hearth in this room. The fireplace can be either wood-burning or gas, with a simple contemporary firebox or an elaborate stone hearth surround.

It’s never been easier to get fired up about incorporating a fireplace into a lounge design. A zero-clearance fireplace — made of metal with a masonry lining — is a self-contained unit, which allows homeowners to have a gas-burning fireplace that can be directly vented through an outside wall.

A natural focal point of the room, the fireplace doesn’t have to compete with the electronic attention-grabbers. “With today’s flat-screen televisions, you can hang the TV above the fireplace and not have to re-orient the room to enjoy the fire or a family movie,” Brown says.

The finishing touches of a lounge are its furnishings, which should be comfortable, yet fit a homeowner’s decorating sensibility. “Don’t place Arts and Crafts-style furniture into a home with a contemporary Asian-themed decor,” Brown says. “You want design elements that all play well together.”

Like the walls, make sure the furniture is durable and easily cleaned, especially if food from the kitchen migrates into the lounge. Brown says accent colors in the form of throw pillows can easily be swapped out on neutral-colored overstuffed chairs and sofa.

Amenities such a bar cart or a piano reflect how a family likes to entertain in their lounge. Well-placed lamps for reading, a cabinet that stores board games and a large coffee table to gather around are more reasons for families to lounge together.

“While everyone gathers in the kitchen to eat, everyone piles into the lounge to add to the memories of spending time together,” Brown says. “A lounge extends that feeling of warmth and comfort we all find in the kitchen.”

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