The First Things Guests Notice About Your Kitchen, According to Experts
Interior design pros say these six things will make the biggest impression on guests.
Whether you intend for it to happen or not, family members and friends always seem to find their way into the kitchen. Maybe they want to snack or grab a drink, or perhaps they don't want you to be alone while cooking. Whatever the case, this room is not only functional but is now considered the hub of the home. With that in mind, you'll want to make sure yours is leaving a good impression. To figure out where you should direct your efforts, we consulted interior design experts to learn the first things guests notice about your kitchen. Read on for their advice on how to make your kitchen worthy of a chef's kiss.
Where they can mingle
To our point about the hub of the home, something is inviting about being able to mingle in the kitchen while refilling your wine or grabbing an hors d'oeuvre. But if people feel like they need to quickly exit the room, it could be a turn-off.
"Guests will notice if there is an obvious spot to gravitate towards," says Yasmine El Sanyoura, home designer at the real estate website Opendoor. "Carving out a spot designated for guests in the kitchen can go a long way. Depending on your kitchen, this can be as simple as setting up a drink station by the countertop edge, a small charcuterie board on the island or peninsula, or some chip bowls on a nearby table." Let them know they're welcome to stay awhile.
You've probably heard the real estate trick that baking cookies just before an open house can help entice buyers, and that logic applies to having guests over, too.
"Before reaching it, guests will know the state of your kitchen just by the smells emanating from the area," notes Lily Will, founder and CEO at Ever Wallpaper.
Of course, you'll want to take the trash out (and not wait until just before guests arrive as odors can linger), but you'll also want to make sure there aren't several smells hitting guests at once. "Whether you're cooking a unique dish, baking something savory, or doing an intense cleaning session, the kitchen can be overwhelming for guests with too many smells," says El Sanyoura.
To create an inviting aroma, El Sanyoura recommends using citrus-scented cleaning wipes or scented countertop sprays. "I've also tried boiling water with slices of lemon, bits of rosemary, and vanilla extract for my own at-home scent experience," she shares. Candles are an easy idea, too, and add a bit of ambiance.
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If you're cooking, dishes can certainly accumulate, but "the first thing your guest will notice when they stop by to drop off that dish or bottle of wine they brought to share with you is if the dishes have been done or not," says interior designer Lisa Jane.
Jane notes that she does not have a dishwasher ("I empathize with the homeowner when it comes to an overflowing sink!"), which is why she recommends emptying the sink right before guests arrive. "For a quick fix, you can consider using an over-the-sink cutting board to cover the mess," she suggests.
Of all the rooms in your home, the kitchen may see the dirtiest floors, with everyone in the family traipsing through, food spilling, and maybe even pets having their meals here. And El Sanyoura says guests will notice.
"First, I recommend suggesting that guests take their shoes off upon arrival to limit the spread of dirt overall," she shares. "Then, be sure to keep floors clean on an ongoing basis—I personally recommend a combination of dry cleaning (Swiffer and/or broom for dust, crumbs, pet hair, etc.) and wet cleaning (Swiffer WetJet, mop, and cleaning solution) to keep flooring in tip-top shape."
After all, who wants to feel like they can't walk around in their socks for fear of stepping on pasta sauce?
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To you, that tray of vitamins, keys, and who-knows-what-else might seem like an organized system, but to your guests, it can be off-putting.
"Do you have mail strewn about on the countertops? Open cereal boxes on your kitchen table? Paper scraps and other remnants of a past family arts and crafts night all over the floor?" asks Christina Giaquinto, professional organizer and brand ambassador of Modular Closets. "Clutter takes up physical space, drains mental energy, and can cause stress and anxiety, so take a few minutes to declutter your kitchen before your guests arrive."
Likewise, a dirty kitchen, even if it's a spot you think is hidden, can really leave a bad taste in guests' mouths, especially if you're preparing food there.
As El Sanyoura points out, cleanliness doesn't just mean scrubbing floors and wiping down counters. "It means focusing on areas where germs can spread. Think light switches, sinks and faucets, light fixtures (which can easily invite dust), cabinet and refrigerator handles, and door knobs. Be sure to disinfect these commonly-touched surfaces ahead of a guest's visit to ensure it's not only sanitary but also inviting."
"Cabinet fronts also accumulate lots of dust (especially in the grooves of the cabinet profile) and can have different splatters and food residue on them from cooking," she adds. "Taking some time to wipe down the cabinets will go a long way for first impressions."