Kristine Gill for Better Homes & Gardens on the value of an eat-in kitchen. Let the professionals at SRB Signature Kitchen and Bath help you increase the value of your home with a kitchen or bath remodel.
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An eat-in kitchen can be a dynamic space in any home, offering an alternative dining option to a formal dining room.
Every home has a kitchen, but have you ever heard the term eat-in kitchen (or seen it in a property listing) and wondered what distinguishes an eat-in kitchen from a standard one? The term eat-in kitchen basically refers to kitchens with space for diners to eat within that room (as opposed to in a separate dining room)—and no, we don’t mean eating over the kitchen sink.
“An eat-in kitchen can be either a kitchen countertop with bar stools or a space that is adequate size for what is typically a smaller table used for breakfast or more intimate settings,” says Andrew Kramer, a principal agent with Redfin. “It’s not a place to entertain multiple guests, typically.”
Read on for a closer look at eat-in kitchens, plus how this type of kitchen layout can affect home values.
Key Features of an Eat-in Kitchen
Eat-in kitchens might be large enough to fit a small or medium table and chairs or so small that the only available seating is barstools at the counter, but either way, an eat-in kitchen is defined by the presence of a place to sit down and eat in the same room where your food is prepared.
These days, the opposite of an eat-in kitchen is an open concept floorplan where the kitchen, dining room, living room, and maybe even a workspace all flow together as one large room—but with defined areas within that space for each specific use.
Hal Bennett, a principal agent at Redfin, describes these kitchens as more defined and closed off by doors and walls.
“So why would someone choose an eat-in kitchen over an open concept kitchen? Privacy, versatility, on the go dining, and less wasted space,” Bennett says. “Having a separate room to escape to for private conversations can be a real advantage. Since the kitchen is where preparation is done, it doesn’t look odd to step away for a few minutes to indulge in a quick convo.”
Most families use eat-in kitchens for breakfast and lunch (breakfast nooks are common features in many eat-in kitchens), but still prefer to have longer, more elaborate dinners in the dining room, if the home has one, says Stayce Mayfield, a principal agent with Redfin.
Eat-in kitchens aren’t new, but there is a new trend of many homeowners eating in the kitchen instead of the dining room more often.
“They aren’t new by any means,” Kramer says. “The way in which we use them today has become more prevalent with our fast-paced world and less formal means.”
Joshua Massieh, the CEO of Pacwest Funding and Real Estate, says some buyers aren’t even looking for a formal dining room anymore, though others may still think of a separate dining room as a must-have
“Speaking for myself here, our family uses the eat-in kitchen on a daily basis,” he says. “The dining room tends to be a ghost town of the home and a waste of square footage these days. In other households, it is the exact opposite, and the eat-in kitchen is used solely for snacks or parties that the owner is hosting.”
Eat-in Kitchens and Home Value
When a buyer or agent sees the term eat-in kitchen on a property listing, they assume a few things about the space.
“On my listings, I will either state it’s an eat-in kitchen or mention the island with seating, and if there is a breakfast area,” Mayfield says.
Eat-in kitchens don’t have to have a certain kind of seating—barstools at a counter, a small table with chairs, and banquette seating are all popular choices—but most homes have enough space to seat at least four people in the eat-in part of the kitchen, Mayfield says. Many eat-in kitchens with large islands often also have a three-foot berth around the island to make room for barstools, she says.
While eat-in kitchens don’t necessarily add to a home’s overall value, their absence may detract from it.
“It’s definitely a feature that new homeowners have become expectant of,” Kramer says. “They are specifically looking for a large island where they can seat four or more people at the counter. Although it’s not a setting for a formal dinner, it is a very common setting for friends and family to congregate together.”
Bennett believes that eat-in kitchens will continue to be more and more popular, as homeowners tend to have meals on the go.
“Having one space that does everything makes cleaning and maintenance much easier,” he says. “Not having to carry all your dishes out to the dining room and clean a second living space can be a huge time saver.”
While eat-in kitchens are a mainstay in larger suburban homes, in certain parts of the country where space is scarce, eat-in kitchens are less common—and carry more value.
“An eat-in kitchen is considered a luxury for apartment living and can command a hefty price versus a galley kitchen—a narrow space that offers only the utility of a kitchen and no seating,” says Christa Kenin, a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman. “Young city families are particularly attracted to eat-in kitchens because they want to enjoy the traditional feel of eating around a table with their loved ones at the beginning or end of a day.”