How do You Like to Entertain?

How do You Like to Entertain?

This should be a question asked of every home buyer. That answer likely will have a profound effect on finding the right home for you. Formal living and dining rooms provide a welcome sensory buffer from the kitchen (visual mess, clatter and chatter, cooking odors) when entertaining. But ask any real estate agent, today the majority of home buyers seek large, combined entertaining spaces with a socializing area and expandable eating area, both open to the kitchen. Yes, as a nation we’ve become a bit more casual – just look at how we dress for work or church. What else is driving the popularity of the open concept? Practicality – buyers understand “cost per square foot” and value space they could use daily more than infrequently used formal entertaining areas. Togetherness – as family time together is increasingly rare and a separate kitchen often results in isolation when prepping, cooking, or cleaning up. And, multi-tasking – whether that’s watching TV while preparing dinner or keeping tabs on the kids after dinner.

The semi-formal “Great Room” borrowed from both the formal living room and casual family room. Often open to the front entry, great rooms may showcase the living room’s attractive finishes (flooring, ceiling treatments) and amenities (fireplace, lovely windows) as well as the family room’s big TV and comfortable furniture. Unrestricted by walls, which limited table size and therefore seating, an open dining area allows you to extend the table, accommodating big family holiday meals. Cherished memories! After all, grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to be with everyone, not to sit at the “adults” table while the kids eat elsewhere. 

Though it is already a generous-sized dining area, the Sunflower Glen (plan #42425) has an open layout that permits “temporarily borrowing” space from the great room, so that you can add leaves to your dining table or set up another table alongside your existing table for large dinner gatherings, allowing everyone to be together.

More than the clothes we wear and the vehicles we drive, we reveal ourselves through our homes. Now part of the public entertaining space, kitchens add to your story. Appliances may suggest the serious chef; storage can be beautiful and obvious, minimalist and hidden, or unique and colorful; and finishes, including flooring, counter tops, and back splashes, speak volumes about who you are. Eliminating kitchen clutter assumed new importance, ushering in solutions such as the Drop Zone to catch items when you first arrive home, Small Appliance Centers (see the Sunflower Glen above) to keep such items off your kitchen counter tops, and larger prep pantries or ironically, Work-in Pantries which, while corralling the mess, harken back to the separate, closed-off kitchen spaces typical of older home designs.

In the excitement of a model home tour, sometimes unnoticed is the presence and design of the front entry foyer. While it’s true that most of the time we go in and out of our homes through the garage, we still welcome guests into our homes at the front door. Do you prefer a home that opens directly into an entertaining space such as the great room? While immediately welcoming, people living in such designs have mentioned they sometimes miss out on greeting their visitors. Conversely you may prefer a more formal sense of entry for receiving visitors, but this comes with the added cost of that square footage. Is there a closet at that front entry, or do you plan on hanging coats elsewhere?

When entertaining, people gravitate towards sunny spaces. Physiologically, our eyes are attracted to light and studies show that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in our bodies, a feel-good chemical.  Add in the obvious benefit of being able to easily and clearly see everything, and sun-filled entertaining areas win almost every time. Oversized windows, particularly out the back of the home can offer beautiful vistas. Or, you might spend the same amount of money on standard size windows placed on two, or sometimes three sides of your entertaining area, ushering in daylight from multiple directions. Sunlight can be more prevalent in our kitchens as well. By accommodating storage needs with an extra-deep pantry, the Silver Creek (plan #42028 shown below) omits traditional upper cabinets on the rear kitchen wall in favor of additional windows! When we’ve shown home buyers the opportunity to delete some upper cabinets in favor of additional windows in the kitchen, most will gladly spend a little more for the added sunlight. Just be sure you’ve addressed that “lost” storage with, say, an oversized pantry.

Silver Creek - #42028
light cabinets in kitchen

What about your kids? While the open kitchen/dining/great room layout can work great for your neighborhood get-together, where will the kids play and not disrupt the party? If you are fortunate enough to have a basement foundation, that may be your answer – a play room in the basement. But if you’re building on a slab or crawl space, having a secondary entertaining place for their play is the recipe for everyone’s enjoyment. Finishing off space over a garage is ideal for noise reduction. In lieu of a two-story high entertaining room, would you see more value in a rec room built atop that main floor entertaining area? And though primarily envisioned as a place for parents with their children, the Family Lounge can also double as a kids’ entertaining area.

Cedar Glen II - #42229 UL

The Cedar Glen II (plan #42229) offers the potential of finishing nearly 250 sq. ft. of space over the garage – an ideal place for kids’ entertaining.

Honey View - #42343

The Honey View (plan #42343) includes an upstairs rec room accessed by a couple stairs, allowing the entertaining area directly under to still feature an impressive 11-foot high ceiling.

Dillon Park - #42477

The Dillon Park (plan #42477) provides a family lounge upstairs, which could double as kids’ entertaining space.

Join us next week for: Outdoor Entertaining at Home

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Don’t Let Outdoor Living be an Afterthought

Don’t Let Outdoor Living be an Afterthought

I could have done so much more to create memorable outdoor living spaces. I would have made better decisions if I had just known then what I know now. I should have paid as much attention to these issues as I did the home’s livability on the inside. Don’t make the same mistakes!

Because it’s such a big purchase, buying a home has a certain amount of uncertainty. To deal with the numerous decisions, we narrow our focus to achieving our goals at that moment, whether that’s evaluating closet space, choosing countertops, or staying within budget, which can cause us to take our eyes off the big picture and overlook important aspects such as outdoor living and entertaining. This often results in the all too common “could have, would have, should have” regrets.

Could Have: While some relish the idea of an older home on an acreage, I was ready to be done with that – the maintenance…lack of modern amenities…just keeping up with the mowing was tiresome. And coming from that home, I never thought much about back yard privacy. But that is a real issue now. Whether it’s a card party or hosting our book club, it seems like the neighbor kids are always in their back yard on the playset or trampoline. I do love their laughter, and they’re great kids, but that noise and activity can be distracting. Now I appreciate the builder’s home designs that provide outdoor privacy from side-neighbors.

Would Have: If I had thought about the fact that the sun always sets on the back of our east-facing home, I would have paid extra for a roof over our deck. Our big umbrella just doesn’t cut it when we have friends over. Additionally, we’ve had to scuttle barbecuing plans due to rain – a covered deck would have allowed the barbecue to go on.

I wish I had thought through where the grill would go. We would have had a natural gas line run out to the grill, meaning no more lugging around those heavy LP gas tanks. And we would have had a light installed over the grill. Now, when I’m grilling after sunset and cut into the meat, it is hard to see if it’s cooked medium-rare, medium, or medium-well.

Had I known we would move Mom in, I would have chosen that barrier-free option for the transition onto the deck. The threshold and two-inch drop are dangerous for her, having caught her walker more than once.

Should Have: Traffic jams are for cars, not where we go in and out to the back yard. I should have gone with that Gunnison design that had doors off the dining room AND doors from the great room onto its loggia. There was even a door from the owner’s bedroom.

Gunnison - #50016

Buffered by the dining room and owner’s suite, the Gunnison’s (plan #50016) loggia provides desirable privacy. Access from the dining room and great room provides a circular traffic flow, minimizing potential congestion. And just imagine stepping out of your bedroom onto this great space with the morning’s first cup of coffee.

NO REGRETS. As evidenced by these disappointments, there is a tendency to unduly focus on creating the perfect spaces inside our homes, overlooking key considerations for making your outdoor living spaces equally memorable. Taking the time to look at how you like to entertain – or just relax – outdoors can result in the place you most long for in your home is actually outside!

Pre-air conditioning, big front porches were practical and commonplace. Neighbors conversed, and multiple generations played together, on the porch. Birthday parties, kids’ or grandkids’ treasure hunts and squirt guns, or just curled up on a porch swing with a good book, enjoy it all from the Modena’s (plan #29372) 7-foot deep porch that wraps three sides of the home.

Modena - #29372
Modena - #29372

Still, most outdoor living today focuses on the back yard. While covered outdoor living spaces provide welcome shade and protection from inclement weather, know they do cut down on the amount of sunlight entering your home. Skylights can be a beautiful and functional solution to restoring diminished light levels resulting from covered outdoor spaces.

Outdoor Cooking. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults own a grill or a smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. So, it’s only natural that our affinity for grilling out is a significant design consideration, beginning with where that grill will be located. Will it be the centerpiece of a full outdoor kitchen?

The Evergreen Weekender (plan #42054) presents a decidedly casual approach, inviting conversation and s’mores around its fire pit anchoring the uncovered portion of the home’s rear patio. At the other end of the covered patio, a wall for privacy and suggested outdoor kitchen location. This design also helps avoid common regrets when it comes to bathrooms and storage. Its powder bath has two doors – one just off the patio. Guests don’t have to traipse all across the house just to use the bathroom. And there’s convenient double-door access to plenty of storage for outdoor furniture, games, and supplies in the deep garage.

Evergreen Weekender - #42054

Screened Porches. Amidst comfortable furniture, plants, and the gentle breeze, screened in porches are useful any time of the day. The screened windows connect us to the outdoors and still keep out those pesky mosquitoes. Dinner on the porch, with a few select friends, amidst the cascade of sounds and aromas, is a special treat.

The Sinclair Terrace (plan #42424) is a celebration in outdoor living – with its 30-foot wide rear screened porch and access to twin covered porches, one with outdoor kitchen and private access from the owner’s suite!

Sinclair Terrace - #42424
Sinclair Terrace - #42424

You don’t want to find yourself saying, “could have, would have, or should have” with regards to outdoor living. From small, intimate gatherings to neighborhood parties and milestone event celebrations, attention to your outdoor living accommodations before you sign a purchase agreement is one way to reduce uncertainty and eliminate regret!

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Versatility by Design – Product Spotlight

Versatility by Design – Product Spotlight

KitchenAid Attachments Stacked

Attachments Stacked

Whether you are entertaining or preparing a meal for your family, efficiency AND versatility are important. KitchenAid® has introduced a wall oven that will quickly replace many other cooking appliances in your home. They applied one of the most popular features of their widely popular KitchenAid Stand Mixer, versatility, to the Smart Oven+. The Smart Oven+ features interchangeable attachments that allow you to cook, grill, steam, etc., all in the same appliance. Even better, the attachments stack to save space and most are dishwasher safe, making clean up a breeze!

Baking Stone Attachment

Grill Attachment

Steamer Attachment

The oven also boasts smart capabilities that pair with the mobile app, so you have complete control. The oven can be powered by voice commands or through your AI devices. KitchenAid did not skimp on design options either. The Smart Oven+ can be customized to match the height of existing cabinetry to give your kitchen a cohesive look.

Learn more about the KitchenAid Smart Oven+.
Photos Courtesy of KitchenAid.

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Glass Care Center: Made for Entertaining

Glass Care Center: Made for Entertaining

Thermador's Glass Care Center dishwasher was made for entertaining. It is specifically designed with glassware in mind, and can hold up to 26 large wine glasses, giving it the largest wine glass capacity of any dishwasher on the market. Thermador paid special attention to breakage and designed a no-slip, soft rubber lower rack and adjustable stands so stemware stays put. And to prevent the host from getting stuck in the kitchen, the dishwasher has smart capabilities and can be controlled through their Home Connect™ app. It even features an array of color options for dishwater lighting!

Work-in PantryHow great would this be in your Work-in Pantry?

A Work-in Pantry makes storage, prep, serving, and clean up a breeze! With additional appliances, such as wall ovens and a dishwasher, as well as storage and counter space, the Work-in Pantry is a wonderful addition to your kitchen configuration. The Glass Care Center dishwasher would be a perfect addition to your Work-in Pantry. Learn more about this Thoughtful Design Concept in the blog post: Storage and Prep Kitchen in One!

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Images Courtesy: Thermador
Learn more at Thermador.

(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Storage and Prep Kitchen in One!

Storage and Prep Kitchen in One!

Problem: You enjoy entertaining, but don't like to rush around cleaning up from food prep before your guests arrive. You have a large family and need additional space for storage, prep, cooking, and cleaning up. Or, you just enjoy keeping the kitchen clean and presentable.

Solution: The Work-in Pantry concept is more than a mere walk-in pantry. It offers the conveniences of storage and prep kitchen in one! Perhaps you have several dishes that need to be baked, the additional ovens are handy. A second dishwasher makes clean up quick and easy when you wash the dishes you store in the pantry in that dishwasher. Prep for a party and leave the mess in the Work-in Pantry until after your guests have departed. All the while your kitchen counters are free for serving up hors d'oeuvres, not your prep dishes!

Additional Benefits of the Work-in Pantry:

  • Some dishes produce strong odors that may be unpleasant to the senses, such as seafood/fish, spices, etc.; keep these in the Work-in Pantry and out of the main kitchen and entertaining areas.
  • For those that require kosher (or other ethnic/religious) food prep, the Work-in Pantry provides an ideal solution for keeping prep/cooking/serving separate. 

The Zinnia (plan #42041) presents a nice Work-in Pantry layout. Tucked in the back corner of the kitchen with ample space for incorporating additional appliances, storage, and counter top for food prep.

Zinnia - #42041 Pantry

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