If you're getting excited for the upcoming festive season, hosting is probably at the forefront of your mind. Our homes have to work hard during the holidays, transforming into welcoming, warming, and vibrant spaces that are guest-ready at all times.
To make sure you're primed and ready to host those unexpected visitors who come knocking at a moment's notice (the type that visit to drop off a Christmas card but end up staying for a drink), we've come up with a handy checklist from the designers. These are the top things people with entertain-ready living rooms and kitchens have (and if you don't have these things, we offer some great solutions for how to recreate the feel in your home).
1. A great kitchen island
The kitchen is the place where all the action happens, especially this time of year, and this busy vibe makes this space feel less soporific than the living room where cozy seating might encourage your guests to drop off to sleep. A kitchen island is the ultimate addition to this space, providing a natural destination where people gather while enjoying watching their host rustle up a festive feast or Christmas cocktail. There is something fun about sitting high up on the island too - almost creating that home bar vibe.
'Oversized kitchen islands are ideal spaces where entertaining can take place,' says Marc Bherer, owner and principal designer at Montreal-based Desjardins Bherer. 'Either during the cooking preparation or simply to chat with a glass of wine while eating some hors d'oeuvre before the main meal at the table. Nowadays, we always end up in the kitchen because it's where the action is! We want to be together; we want to help and learn from the cook!
'We believe that the oversized Island is a must in the kitchen for the ones who love to create a dynamic environment, at any time of the year,' says Marc.
Granted, the dream kitchen island might not fit ibn your space or budget for that matter, but there are also clever design ideas to help you recreate that coveted island vibe, using pieces of furniture you already have as alternative kitchen islands.
It's about creating a focal point in the kitchen, so a high console table sitting flush against a spare wall, complete with a pair of bar stools could work, or try a simple scullery-style sideboard with wheels that can be moved in and out of your kitchen as and when you need to entertain at a moment's notice.
2. Convivial seating
Whether you're hosting in the kitchen or the living room, seating that stimulates conversation and helps your guests feel relaxed is crucial. Whether that's the perfect bar stools propped up against your kitchen island, or a snug sofa in a cozy living room, comfortable seating is only going to make your guests feel more welcome.
Think about the direction your sofas face too. One of the biggest trends in interiors is to create pools of seating to help bring people together. Chairs that help aid conversation by the way they’re positioned and shaped can bring a real feel of intimacy, a sociable space for friends and family. Firstly, think about where in the house you want this kind of ambiance. Adding a pair of small armchairs with a coffee table in a bay window looking out onto a garden, or in front of a fireplace can create a reflective space for conversation with a natural focus to draw the eye.
Conversational seating also works well with three or four small chairs dotted around a central sofa, making sure the focus is on group conversation so that everyone feels included. Think carefully about spacing and distance between the chairs. Generally, you want to avoid spacing seats too far apart. Seven to nine feet apart is a good rule of thumb to aim for if you have the space.
When picking your chair, a statement design makes the area stand out from the rest of the home’s design. A cloud-like armchair upholstered in bouclé, a cozy loveseat to sink into, or a pair of small Chesterfield-style chairs will beckon your guests to take a seat. A multidirectional sofa might even be the answer to creating a home that is perfect for hosting too, fostering a feeling of togetherness and versatility.
3. A cool home bar
A stylish home bar is a home essential for anyone who loves to entertain. Their form can take many shapes. It can be anything from a fully functioning wet bar to a small bar cart on wheels that can be moved around the home. Whatever style you go for depends on your budget and how often you plan to be hosting. On a larger scale, a cabinet with a fridge and plumbing can work fantastically, but a small bar cart sat flush against the wall and accessorized with your favorite drinks bottles also looks great and encourages your guests to feel welcomed.
'A separate drink and bar area is a must,' says Artem Kropovinsky of Arsight, an interior design studio based in New York. 'However, it goes beyond drinks being readily accessible, they must be presented and displayed in a captivating manner that motivates customers to sample them.'
'To elevate the design of your entertaining space, consider incorporating a well-stocked bar or drink station,' says Rayman Boozer, designer at Apartment 48. 'You can even transform a simple bar tray into a stylish focal point by curating it with essential elements such as a selection of premium liquors, a variety of glassware, decorative cocktail picks, and unexpected embellishments that are sure to captivate and impress your guests.'
4. Perfect lighting
Homeowners with homes that are ready to entertain at the drop of a hat all have lighting schemes in common. Living room lighting is layered and flexible to varying moods and activities. The key to getting your entertainment space feeling just right is all about having control of the light. 'Thoughtful lighting control is crucial,' says Artem. 'Dimmers and a smart lighting system enable one to create the appropriate atmosphere depending on the event.'
If you have full control of the light, you have full control of the ambiance. 'Install dimmers, install dimmers, and install dimmers,' agrees Jonathan Adler, potter and designer. 'You'll look even more glamorous than you already are!' A dimmer switch can be installed with ease, as long as your bulb is compatible with a dimming function. It's such a simple switch that can pay dividends.
5. Statement art
OK, it might not have a direct link to entertaining, but there is certainly a correlation with homeowners who showcase living room wall art that is vibrant and bold with spaces that are prime for entertaining. Creating a focal point, and even a talking point, going big and bold with your art is a way to make a statement and create a space that feels full of energy and character.
'Art which represents the character of the owner,' says Artem. 'The space becomes focused on art becoming a subject of conversation which contributes to its distinctiveness.'
6. Clever storage
Innovative living room storage solutions are also important for a homeowner who likes to entertain. Whether you are entertaining in the kitchen or the living room, keeping the space uncluttered by using hidden compartments and smart shelving solutions helps not only make a space feel more relaxing (no one wants to hang around a home that feels cluttered and stressful), but it's about smart shelving that makes the access of essential entertainment elements convenient.
In the kitchen, this might take the form of hidden trash cans to conceal the unsightly or all your cocktail-making accouterment. In the living room, spaces for those extra blankets and cushions to help your guests feel at home are important, or even a handy credenza table to hold all those board games that come into their own this time of year.
7. Quality sound
Last but not least, what is important in your entertaining space is that it is fitted with quality sound solutions. However, this doesn't mean a giant boom box or overwhelming speakers that take up a whole corner. 'Quality sound must be subtly integrated and concealed,' says Artem. 'Provision of good background music that ensures guests communicate effectively.'
At the same time, don't overstep the mark with too many gadgets and the latest gizmos. Sometimes, interrupting the flow of conversation to talk to Alexa isn't the best way to make your guests feel at ease. Instead, go for Sonos, which brings a rich and enveloping surround sound to every room in the home, some of which come without wiring. Alternatively, choose one of the best Bluetooth speakers around that connect to your phone or TV. Luxury brands like Marshall and Roberts Radio double up as functional as well as stylish.
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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