It may be too late for a last-minute remodel of your living and entertaining space for the holidays, but it’s the perfect time to gather data for an update next year. Make creating a joyful and practical gathering space a New Year’s resolution for 2024.
Pay attention to where holiday guests want to be (usually the kitchen, right?). Watch how and where traffic flows as people mingle– are guests getting stuck under the mistletoe on purpose or because your doors are too narrow? Think hard about what kind of environment you want to create. An open floor plan where guests can socialize with cocktails and mocktails and take advantage of jawing with the hosts as they prep and cook for the night? An outdoor living room where people can gather by the fireplace and bundle up under an infrared heater to enjoy the brisk air and hot drinks? A downstairs intimate gathering space tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the house?
Bring the kitchen into your entertaining space
In the TV half-hour drama, “The Bear,” season 2, there’s a flashback episode to an earlier Christmas with Carmy’s family. The kitchen is small and when people invade to talk to (or complain to) Carmy’s mother, it’s a scrum. People are bumping into each other, spilling things, getting in Ma’s way as she frantically cooks, smokes, and drinks. It’s chaos. And not the kind of chaos that is every family’s holiday. It’s drama.
Consider opening up your floor plan to bring the kitchen into the entertaining space. Open up walls and doors and allow for a less hectic flow around the rooms. Few cooks want to be cooped up, laboring over a meal in solitude, but no one likes a kitchen full of lingerers who are in the way. In an open kitchen/entertaining space, the hosts can enjoy their guests and their guests, the hosts.
Large islands, multiple islands, and spacious countertops improve the flow of a kitchen space and its practicality. You can use them as bars, buffets, extra seating, and prep stations.
Bring your entertaining space to the outdoors.
The easiest way to do this is to build a new porch, or add a sunroom. If the room has screened windows, it makes it usable for longer… in the midsummer heat a ceiling fan can allow a cool breeze in the evening to allow for late night conversations in the fresh air over your drink of choice while keeping the bugs out.
You can also create an outdoor entertaining space on a patio. Furnish the patio with great comfy couches and chairs, an outdoor fireplace (with a pizza oven, even?). An outdoor fireplace is the ideal outdoor focal point and gathering spot. Supply blankets if it’s really chilly. And everyone– adults and children– love s’mores!
Outdoor space heaters, like those found at many restaurants and bars, are inexpensive and easy to upkeep. Usually they function on propane you can acquire at any gas station or grocery store.
Another option is to add ceiling-mounted infrared heaters. They don’t look quite as temporary because they are built into the actual space. And… they leave the floor open without unnecessary furniture in the way. When building a porch or sunroom, this is a simple item to add and allows you to use the room for much longer into the year. In Louisville, this could mean eight or nine months with outdoor usable space each year.
And, of course, whether you choose a patio or porch for your outdoor entertaining space, big, lovely glass doors to the inside will welcome the outdoors to your home.
Bring entertaining downstairs.
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, a finished basement has myriad uses. It can be great as an “early apartment” for teenage children or as a guest room for visiting relatives. A finished basement can also serve as a family gathering space with a big TV, games, and practice space for kids’ hobbies. But it can also be used as an intimate gathering space for everything from cocktail parties to book clubs to sports-watching parties.
More than a “man-cave” or indoor “she-shed,” a finished basement can be designed with entertaining in mind.
It’s a space that can house a full bar with a sink and refrigerator. Some even install kegerators to dispense their favorite brew or a wine fridge. Small tables with chairs encourage card games and close conversations. A jumbo TV can serve as ambiance or can play the Big Game or movies for Movie Night. A giant sectional can seat that TV’s audience
A powder room dedicated to downstairs entertaining can always be clean and stylish, unlike the ones upstairs that see everyday family traffic.
Take literal notes after holiday parties in your house this year– whether those parties are big community gatherings or intimate family affairs. These notes will help you communicate to your home remodeler what kind of improvements you’d like to see. Wider doors, opened up walls, outdoor spaces, basement redesigns… all of these are achievable before Holiday Season 2024. Enjoy your Holiday Season 2023 and be prepared to deck new halls in the years to come!