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The Home Designed for Entertaining
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

What features make a home perfect for entertaining? The answers begin with hospitality at the open front door.

You come into a nice foyer and move to the living room and then back to the den and through the den into the breakfast room, the kitchen, and the dining room, says agent Corrine Calder with Briggs Freeman.

The floor plan does direct the flow of crowd movement within the home, according to Betty Abio of Abio & Associates Real Estate. So home design should avoid dead-end rooms, i.e., rooms with one door where traffic clogs up and forms a bottleneck.

?Really, oversized formals, really,? said Mona Biskamp, manager of Henry S. Miller, ?and rooms that flow into one another---sort of open to one another. In other words, you don?t have to walk through the utility room to get to the game room, or you don?t have to go upstairs for the recreation room.?

?We like to have at least three areas, counting the dining room, the living room, and the beautiful den, (with) the bar in between the den and the formal area. And if there is a library downstairs, that is an asset,? Biskamp said.

?A home should have a kitchen that?s big enough to accommodate lots of people because in my opinion, the kitchen is the heart beat of the home,? Abio adds.

?I think that the kitchen is the focal point of the home now-a-days in everyday entertaining,? said agent Linda Hobbs with Ebby Halliday. ?And I see houses being built around gorgeous kitchens, wonderful commercial looking appliances, wonderful appointments to the kitchen. And they are open for people to gather around and participate in the process of food production, very often, or at least to entertain the chef while he prepares the food.?

?As far as I?m concerned, if you are doing a lot of cooking, the first things you need are two ovens,? Calder said. ?An island is wonderful, and an open kitchen with living area such as a breakfast room is wonderful?that?s a place not only to sit, that?s a place from which to serve.? Calder often showcases Briggs Freeman listings with lunch?kitchen buffets, she calls these luncheons, because she makes lots of soups and breads from scratch and serves them from the kitchen counters.

?They love my broccoli cornbread,? Calder said. ?And I have Mexican/French bread, which has mayonnaise, cheese, green chilies, and butter, and what I call red lobster bisque with cheese in it.?

?I think it?s very nice to have a bar area?whether it?s an honest to goodness bar or not?but some place to set up drinks, even if you are just serving a large group coke and ice tea?as long as you can get your beverage service out of your food service,? said Calder. While some of the newer homes have bars where you can step into them, others have bar cabinets with the service set into the wall and folded over with double doors.

?I think a typical home party is on the casual side, even with a person or two serving the large crowd,? Abio said. ?The parties that I most often attend and have myself are gathering good friends around good food and good conversation.?

?A lot of people have very formal homes,? Biskamp said. ?But I still find they entertain rather informally.? Instead of sit down formal dinners and afternoon tea parties, the buffet has become the way of eating, even when the event is catered and very fancy.

?This time of the year, my neighborhood has a cookie party,? Biskamp said. ?Everyone bakes four dozen cookies. Then, depending on how many people are to be there, each person brings all of these cookies.? The home is decorated for Christmas; all the cookies are put out on different platters on the dining room table; and the hostess serves tea, punch, or hot cider. In this case, the dining room sets the stage with the party overflowing into other rooms for sitting and chatting. ?It gives you a chance to actually visit with your neighbors. Some of them, if they have a little tiny baby, bring it along. And we all love the baby.? After the party is over, everybody takes home three-dozen cookies, a great feature because most people don?t have time to bake a dozen different kinds of cookies.

Incidentally, every year, Biskamp brings a cookie made with rich, yeast-raised, piecrust dough, cut into squares and filled with a boiled apricot puree, then baked and heavily covered with powdered sugar.

?Even when people scale down, they want that dining room for the family?empty nesters for the family to come back for Sunday dinners,? said Hobbs. ?Or they?ll have one piece of furniture that they use for family entertaining or just entertaining?the dining room table?that?s a big thing with a lot of people. The dining room table has to fit.?

?The party that I?m planning to give this year is going to be a tamale party,? Biskamp said. ?My maid knows how to make wonderful homemade tamales.? So, Biskamp plans to invite a half dozen people to come to her kitchen and learn how to make tamales. And at the end of the party, the participants will take home the tamales to feed their families.

?The other thing that I see in the newer homes (homes built to suit a particular person and in spec homes) is a focus on outside eating areas and big cooking areas?sometimes around a pool, sometimes not,? Hobbs said. ?I?ve seen many people want the big, outside built-in cooking areas with the Weber grills?sort of inside-outside entertaining.?

The media room and all the wiring and high tech equipment that seems especially endearing to young home buyers in their 30?s, 40?s, even 50?s is another force driving home design for entertaining, according to Hobbs. They want sound equipment, speakers everywhere, and background lighting?for instance moonlighting?to add visual and audio atmosphere to the party. As for the home theater party, its prevalence is not yet realized. But vogues come and go. Take, for example, the card table, which was reportedly the staple for 18th century entertaining. Although still used for bridge parties and card games, the card table has otherwise disappeared into game tables and game rooms.

Of course, the ultimate house for entertaining just might become a feature of the entertainment experience, itself.

?What I see that they (homeowners) are looking for is, not only flow, they?re looking for design elements that are interesting,? said Eleanor Mowery Sheets, agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. ?In other words, you walk into a particular contemporary or traditional home that has features that are attractive from every view?architecturally you might have some symmetry that?s interesting, you might have some landscaping artistry so that entertaining is viewed as the wholeness of the whole project. I think that?s what people, who truly understand art and symmetry and entertaining and bringing people into an experience, want?that?s what entertaining is all about.? Moreover, this concept can be carried out in small and large-scale homes.

?I see many people going trend towards smaller intimate parties,? Mowery Sheets said. ?I see a lot of parties in wine rooms, parties in dining rooms that maybe overlook a water feature or piece of art and sculpture?something that visually attracts attention or gives a feeling of ambience that moves your heart and soul.?

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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