Even if you don’t have space in your floor plan for a designated dining room, you can’t just eat standing up every day. The good news is that your kitchen can pull double duty as a food preparation space and an eatery. Though space may be limited, this is an opportunity to create an intimate room where the act of making food and the act of consuming it are closely intertwined. And serving up your creations will be a breeze, with the table just steps from the stove.

The key to creating a balanced eat-in kitchen is mixing and matching the right furniture—in size, shape, material and color. Imagine your guests trying to squeeze through a narrow space because you chose large, high-backed wooden chairs with imposing arms! It just wouldn’t work. You must get a feel for the layout of your space and make design decisions accordingly.

Here are some ideas for designing an eat-in kitchen that just works.

 Try an Open-Base Island

Creating a kitchen bar that mimics all the casualness and coziness of your favorite watering hole is actually a practical space-saving move. By choosing an island with part or all of its base left open, you make way for people to pull up stools and chow down. You can also include open shelving so your odds and ends have somewhere to go besides the countertop. In a tight space, any extra bit of legroom and airiness goes a long way. Avoid bulky, traditional islands that are all cabinet and countertop with no flexibility.

 Consider Benches

Just because your eat-in kitchen can spare room for a table doesn’t mean you have to outfit it with a set of matching chairs. Think about it: Do modern restaurants generally have wall-to-wall bistro tables? No! They generally place booths along the walls and in the corners.

Likewise, you can create a breakfast nook complete with window seats, a bench or a banquette in addition to a few compact chairs. As you eat your morning eggs and toast with natural light pouring in the windows, your kitchen will feel more spacious than you originally thought possible. And your entire family or friend group can sit down and savor the moment.

 Get the Light Right

So much of mood and perception is actually lighting. If your lighting scheme is successful, you’ll barely notice it because the room is so comfortable and usable. If it’s unsuccessful, you’ll be fighting to create ambiance and get work done every step of the way.

Modern lighting stores like Lumens have all the fixtures you need—from recessed and flushmount lights overhead to hanging pendants for task lighting above the island. A quirky chandelier can tie together your entire breakfast nook, while wall sconces and under-cabinet lights work to brighten key areas. No eat-in kitchen is complete without a healthy overall glow plus more focused lighting in the high-traffic areas (like your chopping station and your eating surfaces).

 Mix Metal and Wood

How can you drum up visual appeal in a snug space? Mix and match textures, of course. If your appliances are all stainless steel, throw some natural wooden barstools into the mix. If your kitchen table is flanked by wooden chairs and a wooden bench, make sure the light fixture above has enough industrial charm to balance it out. As fans of contemporary design will tell you, natural and human-made elements can co-exist in one lovely space, provided that they’re balanced.

Above all, you want your eat-in kitchen to have flow. Get creative with your furniture and fixtures and you’ll have a delightful space that combines two of the best things in life: cooking and eating.