We like to entertain. I mean really like to entertain. Book club, supper club, Sunday family dinners, mystery dinners, barbecues, late night on the Lundak lanai, dinners for eight, happy hour. So being out of commission for six or seven months during the house remodel left me in a funk. Not just because we were cooking mac and cheese in the bathroom, but because there was something big missing in our lives.
Cooking for others has been a hobby of ours since before we were married. We didn’t always have room for large groups, but we always found a way to create spaces for memorable meals in our house and in our schedules. We once cleared out the basement and added low tables and floor cushions for a Chinese New Year supper club. One Valentine’s Day Dan and the boys surprised me with dinner in our living room surrounded by dozens of candles and a crackling fire. There was the summer we hosted two different families for dinner every Friday night. The next year we hosted a monthly dinner for eight – no kids allowed. You get the idea.
(Side note: I score high for hedonism on leadership personality tests. I need to eat, drink and host parties like some people need to nap.)
If you know me, you won’t be surprised that the paint wasn’t yet dry on the house project and I was already filling the calendar with a few months worth of parties. We had to make up for lost time, so it seemed only right to get back into the groove right away. It also had the added benefit of creating a true deadline for our contractor and ourselves.
If I was going to host a progressive dinner on Saturday and then a Noonday Collection jewelry party for 50 people the next day, we couldn’t have missing baseboards or cabinet doors. And we couldn’t have bare walls and floors. We wasted no time ordering furniture (prioritizing quick delivery over custom fabrics) and rugs and hanging artwork and buying plants, since we wanted to be open for business again. Window treatments are another story; we’re still living in a fishbowl.
When you’re planning a remodel or addition, you think about how you’ll spend time in your “new” house. You think about how you like to live and entertain. You plan the details around these characteristics that are unique to you and your family.
When we got to test drive our house for entertaining the first few times, and all the planning and details worked just like we envisioned, it was the greatest satisfaction. Here are a few of the details we think we got right.
Butler’s Pantry/Bar: The hardest working “room” in the house. We designed it to be a bar area, but with ample countertop space for a dinner buffet. The cabinets are high enough and not too deep, so it’s easy to use the counter for food service.
It has a small bar sink on one end (out of the way), which is useful as a second station for serving drinks or ice. Also comes in handy for hand-washing crystal stemware, which is conveniently stored in the glass-front upper cabinets.
Instead of a wine fridge, we opted for a drink fridge which could house wine and other kid and adult drinks, too. It can rotate between soda and LaCroix to Guinness and Fat Tire quite nicely.
Kitchen Design: The cooking triangle (sink, stove and fridge) are key to an efficient kitchen. But the actual space between counter and island (or counter and counter) is key to not getting a traffic jam in the kitchen when entertaining. Our counters have 48″ between them. Close enough to quickly get the dripping pot from stove to sink, but big enough that during a party (when everyone congregates in the kitchen) you can still get the work done.
I tested this during a cocktail party we hosted for 80+ people. Guests were hovering in the kitchen in front of both ovens (it was really hot and they didn’t move, instead complaining about heat. Duh.), but I could still get the appetizers out without incident.
The refrigerator is also located at the end near the butler’s pantry and dining room, so you can easily get what you need without being in the “chef’s” way. The hutch full of dishes and glasses is also conveniently located at the end for easy access to the dining room.
Porch/Extra Dining: One of the best last minute decisions we made was to take back the front porch. When we bought the house four years ago we split the porch in two, installing a wall so we could have a TV room. The porch has full radiator heat, so it’s usable year-round. It served its purpose, but with the addition it simply wasn’t necessary anymore.
A few weeks before we were ready to move into the new space, I asked our contractor to take down the wall and redo the floor. We installed pine wood in place of the hideous old linoleum, which I painted with Annie Sloan chalk paint and varnish. The result is a serene entry with a coastal cottage feel, and a bonus room for extra dining or for storing coats for large parties. It’s also Rocky’s new home at night.
Made for Fun: Last month we hosted Dan’s family over St. Patrick’s day weekend to celebrate his mom’s 80th birthday. It was one of those rare occasions when everything turns out just right. Luck of the Irish perhaps. The time spent together, the meals, the memories, the limericks, the silly Irish decor were even more special because it was one of the first celebrations in our updated house. I’m sure we would have had fun no matter what, but the updates to the house allowed us to plan and host this special event. It earned us the official “Fun” stamp.
Someone once said, the fondest memories are made when gathered round the table. We’ve had many, and can’t wait to have many more. After all, if we’re going to be called the “Fundaks” – we need to live up to it.