Livability at a
Formal Eating Area
Candlelight, soft music, ample room for guests and great conversation
make dinner parties a delight. Whether it’s a formal dinner party
or a family holiday dinner, memories are intertwined with meals
together. The main things to look for are space, proximity to the
kitchen and flexibility. Is the dining area a comfortable size
for the table, chairs and hutch, if you have one? Is it close to
the kitchen, reducing steps when carrying hot dishes, or clearing
the table? Should you desire privacy, can the space be closed off?
If you have larger gatherings, are there two dining areas, perhaps
the kids are at one table with the adults at another. Or, does
your dining space flow openly into an adjacent space for additional
seating? In addition, flooring choices, color, wall textures, ceiling
treatments and window coverings are primary considerations. In
addition to the aesthetics, look at maintenance issues – a high
chandelier with lots of light bulbs can become a real pain when
it’s time to change those bulbs. Having control over lighting
is critical to enhance your get-together. This includes accessible,
easily adjustable window shades/coverings as well as separately
switched, direct and indirect artificial lighting on dimmers.
Informal Eating Area
A table for breakfast and a snack bar for quick dinners provides
several informal eating areas. The snack bar also makes a great
spot to set-up a buffet.
Everyday meals mean everyday use for dinettes and snack bars.
Because of its frequent use, maintenance and easy cleaning are
central issues. Expect spills when you are considering flooring
choices. Will you have to move chairs out of the way to sweep or
vacuum? Especially at snack bars, seating suspended from the island
or peninsula is a wonderful solution to ensure accessible seating
that’s easy to clean under. It also helps prevent damage to the
flooring from chairs!
Open Living Spaces
With the eating area, kitchen and great room all open to each
other, everyone is part of the fun. An open floor plan really pulls
entertaining or family life together.
More than just eliminating walls, today’s kitchens are being designed
with attention to views of fireplaces and entertainment centers.
Open designs have also focused new attention on views into the
kitchen. This has been one reason for the rising popularity of
stainless steel appliances and glass front cabinets.
Outdoor Living Spaces
We are naturally drawn to the outdoors. After a hectic day at
work, relaxing in the outdoors helps release tension. Research
even shows that exposure to sunlight and trees has numerous health
Whether it’s a barbeque or outside games, outdoor entertaining
should be a natural extension of your home’s flow. Covered porches
are especially appreciated if inclement weather threatens your
outdoor plans. For some, adding screens around the porch to control
bugs means being able to truly enjoy being outside. Still others
will opt for windows all around, turning their outdoor living space
into a true four seasons room.
With today’s media choices running the gamut from gaming to movies
or sports to the internet, until the issue of where the big screen
TV goes is settled, we can’t seriously consider building or remodeling.
Lighting and sound are the major issues to be addressed. Glare
from windows or other lighting can ruin the multi-media experience,
so this must be under control. While one group wants to crank up
the volume, others may want to carry on normal conversation or
even get some shut-eye. Sound isolation clips for drywall walls
and ceilings, insulating those cavities, or using acoustic sound
mats are all reasonable approaches to controlling sound levels.
Also, be sure to use a solid core, weatherstripped door to finish
sealing off a media room.
Split Bedrooms to Control Noise
Its inevitable when friends get together that someone else
in the home needs privacy – whether studying, catching up on work
brought home, or needing to get some sleep. Splitting secondary
bedrooms from the master suite, and distancing bedrooms from
entertaining areas, provides much needed quiet.
Few things in life are more important than getting a good nights
sleep. Inside the home, look for quiet products such as kitchen
or bath fans and appliances. Who wants to move to another room,
just because the dishwasher is running? You can also limit noise
coming from outdoors through advanced insulating, caulking and
air sealing measures when your home is being built, plus quality
windows and doors.
finished lower level not only adds needed square footage but
allows for more informal entertaining.
If you are fortunate enough
to be building on a basement, today’s engineered floor systems
make wide-open basement spaces feasible and affordable, as they
can span greater distances than conventional lumber.
In many areas, builders are responding to tougher energy codes
by insulating basements – a great start towards a comfortable living
space. Make sure you know where you will want electrical and other
wiring to be run, and meet with your electrician to go over the
Moisture and humidity are key issues in tandem with temperature.
A little extra spent on basement waterproofing measures could save
you from expensive repairs later. And even though your air conditioner
is designed to remove excess humidity from your home in the summer,
you may well find you need to run a freestanding de-humidifier
in the basement as well to control humidity, mold, mildew and possible
Kids Play Area
If there are children in your home, you will value a place where
they can go and play. A place where toys and games are stored and
Lego creations can be left for a another day. In other words, a
place where kids can be kids. Separate from their bedrooms, this
flexible space may or may not have been finished space when the
home was initially built.
Consider the types of activities your children will enjoy. If
it is painting, for example, you will want a flooring surface that
cleans up easily with a sink nearby. Also, consider how the space
may be used differently as the kids age. Keep fanciful themes to
more easily changed aspects which will also keep costs down when
it’s time to replace Winnie The Pooh with your boy’s favorite sports
THE ENTERTAINING KITCHEN
Many of the best times of our lives revolve around being
with family and friends. Whether it's hosting a formal get-together,
holiday dinners, or your children's birthday parties, the kitchen
is the hub of activity, A little extra attention spent planning
flow, layout and product selections will reward you with a kitchen
that is more functional and efficient.
Due to the popularity of today's open floor plans with kitchens
in full view, designing kitchens is all about zones related to
the flow of activity. Kitchen design is being further refined by
an emerging knowledge of how layout and product choices can actually
help reduce stress, particularly while entertaining.
Storage is the initial zone, because you want items to
be stored in places convenient to where they will be used. For
example, you’re going to want storage for your good dishes, glassware
and silverware near the serving or dining area, such as a butler
It’s also essential to reduce clutter, ease accessibility and
arrange items in an organized way. Include some roll-out drawers
or trays. Drawer inserts keep small items, spices, silverware and
utensils organized. But what about small, frequently used appliances?
Countertop appliance garages for blenders, toasters, and coffee
makers may be just what you‚re looking for. On the other hand,
if you want to keep your counter space free, consider going underneath
the counter. You can include a pull-out mixer shelf, which comes
out of the cabinet and swings up – bringing your heavy mixer even
with the countertop.
The food preparation zone depends on lots of counter space,
plus close proximity to the refrigerator, range/oven and pantry.
Ideally, this is a separate space from the serving area, allowing
both areas to function simultaneously.
Photo courtesy of Schrock cabinetry
Photo courtesy of Medallion cabinetry
Photo courtesy of Medallion cabinetry
Above Left: With
kitchen space at a premium, cabinet manufacturers have
introduced innovative designs with increased storage
Above Right: Your back will appreciate roll-out
trays, perfect for heavier small appliances and other
Above Lower-Right: Keep the kitchen clean and Mom
happy by including cabinets with pull-out wastebaskets
and recycling trays.
If you have a smaller island in your kitchen which will be used
for food preparation, keeping the countertop a uniform height will
provide the maximum work space. If your island is large enough
to accommodate different levels, a 36-inch work level will be appreciated
by bakers, while a taller side (usually 42 inches) shields work
clutter from view and accommodates bar stools.
Your cooking zone, convenient to the food prep area, is
centered around your cooktop and ovens. Two cooks in the home will
require more utensils, pots and pans, so plan storage accordingly.
In addition, you may opt for separate counter spaces, cooking areas
and sinks. Common ovens and waste containment may need wider corridors
around a central working area.
If you are looking at an island with cooktop, make sure there
is sufficient room next to the cooktop to place large items such
as a big pot of boiling pasta. Also, warming drawers are great
features for entertaining. They allow you to warm multiple dishes
simultaneously and keep hot cooked foods at serving temperature.
Some serving zones are more formal, such as a built-in
buffet in the dining area, or a butler’s pantry along the path
from the kitchen. For casual entertaining, islands or peninsulas
may be just the ticket. If your guests are usually adults, consider
a 42-inch height for the serving bar area.
Your eating zone may consist
of a formal dining area, an informal breakfast nook, a snack bar,
or some combination of
all three. Many folks find themselves most often dining at a snack
bar and rarely using their dinette. If that’s you, carefully consider
what height best suits your family. If you have small children,
won’t be able to get up on higher stools (or worse yet, they may
fall off of them!)
Clean-up is the final, but very important, zone when planning
for entertaining. As two sinks have gained popularity, so have
second dishwashers. In front of sinks, consider a small tilt-out
tray to keep sponges and pot scrubbers out of view. Another item
that can reduce clutter in your entertaining kitchen is a liquid
soap dispenser which comes up through the countertop next to the
What about trash? Typical solutions have been the unsightly tall
kitchen wastebasket openly on display (or a smaller wastebasket
under the kitchen sink.) Besides having to bend over to use the
latter, ever notice how much stuff misses the wastebasket? Opt
for a pull-out wastebasket tray in your base cabinetry.
Beyond how our kitchens flow, there are several other major considerations,
such as ease of cleaning and durability. Think sinks, countertops,
flooring and appliances. Laminate countertops offer the greatest
variety in colors, patterns and edge finishes. They don’t require
special cleansers nor do they need to be re-sealed every year or
While aesthetics and price may be the
top influences for kitchen flooring choices, scratches, everyday
wear and low maintenance
are major de-stressing aspects. Will spilled spaghetti sauce or
grape juice stain the flooring? (Darker colors of grout for tile
floors are increasingly popular for this very reason.) Will heavy
or sharp items accidentally dropped damage the floor? Flooring
choices in adjacent areas also play a large role in kitchen flooring,
as many of us prefer a continuity of floor covering
(which makes the entire area feel more spacious.)
Appliances are one of the first items you and your guests see
in the kitchen. Are the surfaces easy to clean, especially the
oven/range tops and inside the microwave? How about the exterior
finish? The stainless steel look has been quite popular, but it
attracts fingerprints like a giant magnet. Look for new finishes
which don’t show fingerprints and are easy to clean.
Quiet is an often overlooked aspect of a dream kitchen. Few things
are more annoying than having to vacate the kitchen just to hear
each other talk. Pay special attention when selecting your dishwasher
and kitchen vent/hood. Some models are actually so quiet you’re
not even aware they are running!
Almost universally, people describe the amount of light in their
kitchens as inadequate. A light, bright and airy kitchen is de-stressing
for you, your family and your guests.
As kitchens have become more open to adjacent areas of the home,
they are benefiting from increased levels of natural light coming
from these areas. More recently, glass block or small traditional
windows are appearing between kitchen counter backsplashes and
Today, recessed ceiling lighting has replaced the standard light
fixture approach common years ago. As well, task lighting concealed
under the upper kitchen cabinets offers a pleasant light level
and helps reduce eyestrain.
Whatever lighting approach you choose, make sure you’re in control.
From window coverings to dimmers, lighting helps establish the
mood for your next get-together. While you might want all available
light when preparing dinner, controlled light levels are much
more comfortable for everyone later in the evening.
Pay extra attention to where electrical outlets are located.
Only you know how you intend to use the kitchen, so don’t leave it up
to the electrician’s imagination where to locate outlets and switches.
Then there’s cable TV and the internet. Plan now where wiring
needs to go.
Finally, consider decorating and how you reveal who you are
through what you display and how you decorate your kitchen.
use words such as “comfortable” or “homey” to describe their
dream kitchen. Color choices throughout can have an exciting
or a calming
effect. Do you decorate according to the season? Is there space
above the upper cabinets for display niches or plant shelves?
We cherish relationships. We take pride in a functional and orderly
kitchen. With a little extra forethought and planning, our kitchens
will beckon to entertain a simple family dinner or an extravagant
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