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`Keeping room' can help cook up family togetherness

Roll your kitchen into one wide-open space made for cooking, eating and casual living. The time for the old-fashioned idea of "keeping room" has come.

As in days of old, today's kitchens must serve a multitude of tasks. Whether it's accommodating guests during a party or children doing homework, everybody still ends up in the kitchen. If you want to plan a "keeping room" that's inviting to more than a cook, keep in mind:PROS

- Family togetherness is one of the best reasons to plan a living/seating area with your kitchen. This gets the cook into the midst of family activity. Including a television and/or stereo may ensure the area's popularity as a spot for the family to gather.

- By planning for extra people in the kitchen, you can keep those who aren't cooking out of the main work area with seating that steers traffic away from the cook.

- Keeping rooms offer more space to work with so you have more flexibility with furniture arrangements and can use the space more effectively.

- Seating areas add warmth and character to the kitchen and make cooking and cleanup seem less like chores.

- By combining the family area with the kitchen, both rooms will feel more spacious. "You borrow daylight from both areas so you normally get a brighter area," says kitchen designer Maggi Hughes.

- Extra space means you can include extra amenities such as a beverage and snack center where kids can easily serve themselves. This area also can become a secondary work area during large gatherings. Include storage for glasses, a sink, ice-maker, undercounter refrigerator for beverages and a drawer for utensils.

CONS

- A keeping room means loss of quiet for the cook. If the kids are watching television and someone else is wanting to talk on the phone or have a conversation of her own, great-rooms aren't the best arrangement, says Hughes. It can be especially bothersome in families with many children.

- There is also less privacy. Some people enjoy having time with themselves so they can concentrate and do their own thing.

- Open views mean guests entering the seating area can see the kitchen - whether it's dirty or clean. You either need to keep on top of kitchen cleanup or not worry about letting company see cooking messes or dirty dishes. Design your keeping-room kitchen as a series of activity areas, rather than one free-for-all space.

- It's also more expensive to decorate two areas. "If you're opening up a space, you need to make sure the kitchen and the family area are coordinated, so it might cost some additional dollars," says Hughes.

- You may have to sacrifice space in other rooms to enlarge the kitchen. One family decreased the size of their family room to accommodate extra seating space in the kitchen.

- A larger, more spacious kitchen necessitates more steps while cooking. To maintain efficiency, pay special attention to kitchen work areas.

DESIGN IDEAS

Here are a few additional space-planning tips:

- Pay attention to the location of windows and doors because they dictate the use of the space. Doors need room to swing, and the traffic path should be at least 3 feet wide. Many times putting a door around a corner can improve the use of the space.

- Place the refrigerator at the edge of the work core, so snackers can reach it without bothering the cook.

- Provide easy access from the work core to eating areas such as a formal dining room or patio table. Plan an alternate route for noncooks.

- Use design elements to visually define work and social areas. An island or a peninsula can provide a transition between the work core and the dining area. A change in ceiling heights and/or floor covering can distinguish the family room from the dining area.

- If you're including a television, it's nice to have one that you can swing around to view from both the seating and work areas.

- A butler's pantry also works well in keeping rooms. It might be a piece of furniture or an actual built-in that has a counter, storage for linens, and decorative doors for displaying dishes.

- A crafts area for children, which might be just a couple of drawers for crayons, markers and other supplies, should be placed close to a table where children work on projects. Even a desk area with extra drawers makes good crafts storage.

- Make a floor plan to scale that incorporates scale-size furnishings in typical arrangements before you begin con-struction. Analyze the space and traffic flow with furniture in place. "You need to think about how far chairs, stools and appliance doors come out into the walkways," says Hughes. There should be room for someone to walk by when a person is seated or a door is open.