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Designed to Entertain
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: kitchen & bath

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Creating a space for all your holiday gatherings.

Creating a space for all your holiday gatherings.

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year… parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting.” Maybe no one toasts marshmallows during the holidays anymore. But the friends coming to call, the parties for hosting, and the loved ones drawing near—those are still a source of fond memories as well as lots of preparation.

Use these suggestions to make your home ready for entertainment any time of the year.


It doesn’t seem to matter what’s on the agenda; everyone ends up in the kitchen. Creating a room that says “welcome” will put your guests at ease.

“The kitchen is still the core of where homeowners want to entertain. If we can open up their kitchen to the main living areas, that’s always a bonus. If not completely open, homeowners want the space to flow well,” Woodharbor’s Jill Lampe says.

Corey Gersdorf of AIM Kitchen & Bath agrees. “You want as open a plan as possible so it will fit a crowd and still feel comfortable for smaller gatherings.”

That doesn’t have to mean remodeling your kitchen. “Start by looking at the space you have,” Gersdorf advises. “How do you like to entertain? What prep space do you need? Do you need seating for large groups or a smaller dining area?”

Lampe says rethinking one or two key elements can be enough to transform a cramped room into a comfortable gathering space. “A relatively easy, small renovation, like reworking the island, can open up the kitchen and doesn’t require a large budget. Instead of a peninsula or bar-height counter that hides a sink or cooktop, you can design a larger island that’s all the same height. This offers full circulation around the island and opens up the kitchen for guests to visit.”

Gersdorf says another welcome touch is including the nearby bath in your holiday plans.

“Sometimes the half bath can be an afterthought, but it should tie into the rest of the space since your guests will be using it. The lighting, fixtures, and trim should reflect the style of the rest of your home.”

Help yourself

Once you’ve welcomed your guests, you want to enjoy their company without feeling tied to the serving area. Providing more space is a solution. “Larger islands are pretty common in kitchens now,” says Lampe.

“Some bar or counter-height seating lets guests sit down and visit. But the island can also provide a buffet area, especially in an open layout, so guests can help themselves and then mingle in nearby rooms,” Gersdorf says.

Other kitchen areas can be adapted for guests, too. “Clients are often opting to eliminate the kitchen desk space that used to be so popular,” Lampe says. “Instead they’re creating a pretty bar area that can double as a drop zone most days and as a beverage bar when guests arrive.”

Lampe has designed custom beverage bars to suit homeowners’ tastes. “I’ve designed for wine enthusiasts, brewers, scotch connoisseurs, and coffee lovers. Each has different needs, and usually their friends share a similar interest, or it’s something they want to share with their guests,” she says.

Arranging your kitchen with “public” and “private” zones minimizes confusion, too. For example, beverage and food stations should be set up on the “public” side of the kitchen, which may include access to the refrigerator, coffeemaker, or wet bar. “Built-in buffet areas make great serving space when you have guests,” Gersdorf says. “And with glass-front upper cabinets and accent lighting, they offer a focal point year-round.”

The “private” zone, which includes the prep and cleanup areas as well as the sink, not only streamlines the flow of traffic, but it keeps clutter out of your guests’ way and speeds up the tidying afterward.


Your guests may not notice them, but choosing your appliances well can be the difference between an exhausting event and an enjoyable time with friends.

“Bonus appliances, like wine fridges and warming drawers, free up space for other cooking and make it easier for guests to serve themselves,” Gersdorf says.

“Warming ovens are really becoming more common,” says Lampe. “They even take precedence over microwaves for some homeowners.”

She says beverage refrigerators are also quite popular. “They tend to be narrower, so they don’t take up as much space, and they’re designed to store maximum beverages. Some models even offer split wine and beverage areas so you can properly chill wine at a different temperature than other drinks.”

For homes that don’t have the space for specialized appliances, Gersdorf says opting for multipurpose units can be just as effective.

“Ovens with a warming or convection setting or a microwave feature can simplify food prep. And refrigerators with easy ice access, a water filtration system, and even a wine drawer can provide simpler beverage service,” he explains.

Lampe says refrigerator capacity is especially key for both daily and entertaining purposes.

“Manufacturers are getting better about designing interior flexibility,” she says. “And it’s nice that more are counter-depth; they take up less valuable floor space in the kitchen.”

If you’re starting from scratch, your kitchen designer can help you create a space that serves your needs every day, whether it’s a quick family meal or a holiday gathering for dozens.

With a bit of planning, you can adapt your existing space to make this year’s holiday entertaining a joy for you and your guests.


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