Most of us building custom homes are not just doing it for ourselves, but so our friends and family can enjoy the space too. Even if you don’t plan on being the central hub for regular cocktail parties, game nights and potlucks, your nice, new house will probably be the spot for holiday dinners and casual family barbecues at least once or twice a year. So, in this week’s episode, I’ll give you some quick tips on how to design a home for entertaining— with features that will make your parties run more smoothly, make your guests to feel comfortable and features that will help you enjoy more time with your friends and family during get-togethers.
1. Include oversized sliding, french or folding doors that can open up wide and essentially eliminate the wall between an interior room and the outdoors. This expands your entertaining space, increases ventilation and gives your guests a good amount of free flow between the interior and exterior.
2. Design an open concept great room where there are sight lines between the kitchen, dining area and living room, creating a shared experience for cooking, eating and conversation. That way those in the kitchen can interact with those in the living and dining rooms and no one feels isolated while preparing food or during clean up. An open concept great room also allows your guests to spread out so everyone is together, but not on top of each other.
3. Add a sideboard or buffet to your dining space. Use its cabinets or drawers to store extra plates and silverware for your guests. The top of the buffet can used to display different appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts so guests can help themselves during parties. A self serve dinner or party will be a lot easier on you as host.
4. Consider glass front cabinets or open shelves for glasses so friends and family can easily grab a glass if they want a drink. Displaying glasses for your guests is more convenient than trying to direct people to exact right cabinet where the glasses are stored and hidden from view. Ever had this conversation? “The glasses are in the cabinet to the right. No, the upper right. Nope, not that one. Go over one. Look in the cabinet that’s two down from the fridge.” UGH! Instead of going through that, just make it easy for guests to find glassware. You can also display plates on open shelving, if you’re so inclined, but it seems like folks go searching for glassware more often than they do plates.
5. If you do a lot of group cooking, you’ll need lots of counter space and different work zones. One work zone might be for prepping food, which is my specialty (I’m not a good cook, but I’m an awesome sous chef). There should also be a zone for cooking and for clean up. Make sure there’s enough space beside and behind each of those zones so friends and family have plenty of room to work.
6. Make kitchen aisles wide enough to allow for good flow. Aisles and walkways in the kitchen should ideally be at least 42 inches. 36 inches could work, but it will be a little tight. If more than one person will be cooking or prepping in the kitchen, shoot for 48 inch aisles.
7. Design your house for good traffic flow in mind. Good traffic flow means that people can move through your house without having cut across work areas, through furniture clusters, or through personal spaces, like bedrooms. When people move from the front door to, and through the main living space, they should be able to navigate the space easily, without bumping into corners or furniture. Walkways should be at least three feet wide, and preferably four to five feet. Two to five feet is needed between chairs, coffee tables and sofas in seating areas.
8. If you live in a chilly or cold climate, add a little extra space to your entry coat closet to accommodate your guests’ coats and jackets. You can also store collapsible coat racks in your garage, basement or attic and set them up in a bedroom, laundry room or office to create a temporary coat room during parties.
9. Incorporate extra seating into the architecture of the home, such as an oversized hearth, built-in benches and window seats that add dimension and beauty on a day to day basis, but also provide extra seating when you entertain.
10. Buy furniture piece that can be used as extra seating during a party, such as a few ottomans that can be tucked away under console tables and pulled out for seating when needed. Or use garden stools as side tables in your living spaces or guest bedrooms. A garden stool is typically shaped like a small barrel and is made of ceramic, wood, plastic or metal. They look great as side tables, but are sturdy enough for most people to sit on. Benches and larger ottomans can do double duty as coffee tables and extra seating.
11. If you host dinners pretty regularly, invest in comfortable dining chairs in medium to darker tones with high performance or scotch-guarded cloth fabric to resist stains. Some people like to use outdoor fabric for these indoor pieces. Alternatively, you can use easy to wipe down wood, leather or pleather chairs. Just make sure the chairs are comfortable because if your friends are like mine, they’ll often linger at the dining table for lots of conversation after a meal.
12. Locate a powder room or guest bathroom close to, but not directly off of the main living area. You want a bathroom for guests that’s fairly simple to find, but that provides them with plenty privacy too. We’re planning a guest bathroom directly off of the entry hall that’s just around the corner from our great room.
13. Set up seating clusters for group conversations and for intimate one on one conversations. For example, in addition to having a large sectional or sofa next to a couple of chairs for groups to talk, tuck an upholstered bench or two occasional chairs in a quiet corner for one on one conversations. A bonus here is that the bench and the occasional chairs can be added to the dining table for extra seating.
14. Install low maintenance flooring so spills clean up easily and scuffs and scratches are more readily camouflaged. Instead of going with light stone floors or carpeting, which can easily absorb stains, opt for porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl flooring or wood floors that will allow you to effortlessly wipe up spills. If you decide on wood flooring, consider low gloss, distressed or scraped wood floors that will hide scratches, scuffs and dents.
15. Invest in a quiet range hood and dishwasher so you don’t have to raise your voices during cooking and clean up.
16. Sound proof bedrooms around the entertaining spaces so family members who want to retire before the party has ended won’t be disturbed. Take a listen to episode 72 for more information on soundproofing.
17. Add a second living space, bonus room or lounge for kids, preferably on another level, where they can play games, hang out and make noise with disturbing the adults.
18. If you’re having a cocktail party, transform an office or a bedroom in the front of the house into a bar, so guests are welcomed with a cocktail soon after they arrive. Store a portable bar cart or two in the closet of that room and bring the cart out when it’s time to party.
19. Think about guest parking when designing your house. Is there space for guests to park on the street near your house? If not, is possible to add a semi circular driveway where guests can park in front of the house, or can you request an extra wide driveway for guest parking? You could also choose to forgo lots of grass in your front and side yards and install beautiful pavers, gravel or concrete slabs instead. That will provide extra parking spaces for your guests. Bonus here is that a parking area is very low maintenance as compared to a lawn. I know it might not sound homey or attractive, but you can really do some beautiful designs with hardscaping materials that are practical for extra parking.
20. Consider a second dishwasher if you entertain regularly and if you have the budget to do that. That way you can wash all the dishes at once instead of doing one load after another. With two dishwashers, you can clean up in a shorter amount of time.
Well, there you have it-- your entertaining quick tips. I hope that helped. If you know someone who is building or remodeling who loves to entertain, you can share this episode with them by text or email.
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