Entertaining with Emily: In the era of open concept, a case for the closed-off kitchen

In the HGTV-induced era of open floor plans, Emily Farris has learned to love her closed-off kitchen.
In the HGTV-induced era of open floor plans, Emily Farris has learned to love her closed-off kitchen.

I have a problem with HGTV — and it’s not just that everybody on “House Hunters” uses the term “craftsman” way too liberally.

No, the problem is my own, and it’s simply that I can’t stop watching. I’m pretty sure my husband, Kyle, has tried to stage an intervention a few times, but honestly, I can never hear him over the sound of the Property Brothers or Chip and Joanna Gaines knocking down a wall. And you know exactly what wall I’m talking about: The one that separates the kitchen from the rest of the house.

Open kitchens are all the rage. And there are certainly times I want to take a sledgehammer to the west wall of my own. It would make mealtimes with my toddler easier, and the back of my house would get more natural light. Plus, according to every real estate listing ever written, open floor plans are “perfect for entertaining!”

But the more I entertain, the more I appreciate the separation, because when I’m in the kitchen during a party, I’m working — not entertaining.

I guess if you’re the kind of person who just has to tidy a few things before guests arrive, and cooks with the confident calm of Martha Stewart, sure, an open kitchen might make entertaining easier. But my party-prep process usually involves spending the entire day panic-cleaning while announcing that “I’m going to get in the shower in 20 minutes” every ten minutes for five hours, and sometimes yelling at Kyle for displaying his ugly bag of chips and 17 condiments on the table I just cleared.

If I’m not quite ready when guests start to arrive, I can hand them a drink — or point them in the direction of the DIY drink station I very strategically placed outside the kitchen — and disappear for a few more minutes to style the snack tray or finish cutting my cocktail garnishes.

My closed-off kitchen is a staging area — as well as a sanctuary — when I have a house full of people. It’s where I mix fresh drinks, and refill the old wine bottles I use for water. It’s where I go to take a breather (and maybe a shot of whiskey) when my mom is at my place for a holiday and starts going on about politics. And if we’re serving dinner, it’s also where Kyle is frying something or somehow managing to get meat on the ceiling (yes, really). When dinner’s over, it’s where I pile the dishes on the counter so I can head back to the living room to enjoy my guests and try to forget about all the cleaning I’ll have to do in the morning.

Now that I think about it, maybe my kitchen needs one of those old-fashioned swinging doors. Mostly so I can make a grand (if a bit ridiculous) entrance every time I bust through it holding a tray of cocktails. But also so I really won’t have to see that big pile of dirty dishes.

For more entertaining and home decor, follow Emily on Instagram @theboozybungalow or visit her blog,