That nip in the air means the holidays are approaching, bringing the happy chaos of a house filled with friends and family. You can bet they will all end up in the kitchen – which makes this the perfect time to start rethinking that space. With proper planning and today’s technology, a kitchen can be remodeled to accommodate even the most ambitious entertaining.
Open It Up
If you live in an older home, you may be dealing with the kitchen of the June Cleaver generation – a U or G-shaped space sequestered from the rest of the house. Today the kitchen is the hub of the home and has to serve multiple purposes. If you entertain a lot, you need flexible-use spaces within your kitchen that can accommodate various people, whether young kids or friends or visiting relatives.
Islands are usually recommended for kitchens at least 12 feet wide. Consider an open galley kitchen with an island and a bank of cabinets against the back wall, or an L-shape with peninsula or island. Such open layouts allow the cook(s) to chat with kids doing homework or guests gathered around the island, which serves as a makeshift desk, buffet, wet bar and dining area.
Make the Island Multitask
Islands are requested in most new kitchens now, and for good reason. Not only do you eat most of your meals there, it also serves as a traffic cop, keeping people close at hand but out of the way of the food preparation area. A lot of kitchen projects these days involve ripping out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and replacing it with an island, so that the kitchen can be expanded into one larger space. This allows better access and traffic flow for entertaining.
Adding a sink to the island is a great idea. You spend 80% of your time in the kitchen at the sink, so you should put it where you want the most interaction. For entertaining and dealing with family, an island sink is the best use of that space.
Choose Spill-Resistant Counters
Granite is still the first choice for counter and island tops, but engineered stone or quartz countertops are gaining fast. There is more variety available now, and more consistency. Since the quartz products are ground-up stone suspended in resin, you get what you see in the showroom. Granite, on the other hand, is a solid chunk of natural stone, so coloration and texture can vary. Choose granite slabs at the fabricator so you can see exactly what you’re getting.
If you do a lot of entertaining, it’s important to note that quartz repels stains better than granite and requires less maintenance. Granite needs to be sealed a couple of times a year, while quartz counters come pre-treated and don’t require upkeep. Granite is also more porous. Spill a glass of red wine on anything but black granite and it will get into those tiny pits and stain. Red wine will not penetrate quartz materials.
A hardwood floor with four coats of water-based acrylic finish will wear well and it is fairly easy to buff and refinish. But for frequent entertaining, ceramic tile is the preferred choice. Hardwood will scratch and discolor with a lot of spills. Ceramic tile can be costly, but it’s nonporous, so it resists stains and wears like iron if installed properly. This means laying tiles directly onto subflooring. Installing over older vinyl can leave a void beneath, causing the ceramic to crack with the first dropped jar.
One of the merits of creating flexible spaces is that you don’t have to keep everything in one spot. If you have multiple people cooking, you may need more than one workstation. The way we buy groceries has also changed. People use home delivery services more now and shop in bulk at mega stores like Costco and Wal-Mart, which tends to demand the older-style pantry storage in an adjacent or secondary area. Installing a butler’s pantry is a good way to store items ordinary cabinets can’t accommodate – and comes in mighty handy when you’re stocking up for company. Another great storage option is the appliance garage. They’re great for hiding bulky appliances like blenders and mixers – big things you need to access easily.
Bring in Backup
For homeowners who do serious entertaining, consider installing extra-large, professional ranges or ranges designed for specialty cooking with woks or grills. Also think about adding a second sink to use as a serving bar or quick rinse for wine glasses and, possibly, a second dishwasher and mini-refrigerator combinations. We see a lot of under-counter wine cooler/refrigerator combinations. While ice machines come standard in most refrigerators now, you might want an under-counter ice maker placed where it’s more convenient. Full-height wine coolers are particularly popular, and are handy for cooling pots and serving drinks at large dinner parties. Another great idea is to add a warming drawer if you plan to bring in caterers or have multiple types of food, some warm and some cool. A warming drawer can also be used to warm towels.
Turn Up the Party Lights
A well-planned lighting arrangement allows for function as well as ambience. Consider putting your lighting on dimmers so it can be adjusted for brightly-lit work areas and a quiet, intimate meal at the same time. Recessed overhead lights provide an even wash over the entire room, while under-cabinet lights illuminate food prep and cleanup, and decorative pendants cast a romantic glow over the island.