Tag Archives: entertaining

The Improved Kitchen Experience

The Improved Kitchen Experience

With Thanksgiving just a week away, many of us are setting our sights on the kitchen. We are assessing our prep and storage spaces, reviewing recipes, and appreciating – or longing for – those new appliances that help optimize our kitchen experience during this busy holiday season.

It is said that “invention is the mother of necessity,” and today’s kitchen appliance and design trends are great examples of these innovations. With people pressed for time more than ever, creating efficiency in the kitchen is a key consideration for many of our clients. That means creating thoughtful kitchen storage and workspaces, as well as exploring faster – and healthier – cooking options.

Steam ovens are at the forefront of today’s appliance trends. By using pressurized steam rather than conventional heat, food is cooked much more quickly and maintains its moisture content without adding typical cooking oils. (Learn more about the steam oven in the video below.) However, because browning food is difficult with steam ovens, we often design a kitchen with either a combination steam-convection oven or include a separate steam drawer, giving clients the best of both cooking worlds. We also use drawers to more fully integrate microwaves into the kitchen cabinetry design. This storage option keeps the appliance handy, but pleasingly out of sight.

Refrigerators represent another key design consideration. Today, brands like Sub-Zero offer appliances sized in one-inch increments so we can carefully customize their integration within the kitchen. This flexibility, along with beautifully paneled door fronts, enables us to offer design solutions tailored to our homeowner’s needs. For example, clients with large families may require both a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer within the kitchen. In this case – whether we design them side-by-side, with an oven in between, or with storage up above – the appliances remain space-efficient and fully integrated within the kitchen’s cabinetry design.

This kitchen features a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer side-by-side.
This kitchen features two Sub-Zero over-under refrigerator/freezers separated by a workstation with a farmhouse sink.

Alternately, for clients with smaller households, a single, full-sized refrigerator may suffice for everyday use – while a secondary refrigerator/freezer drawer within an island or nearby pantry provides additional space when entertaining. For families large or small, this ancillary refrigeration space is especially helpful over the holidays for storing prepared sides or hors d’oeuvres, or providing self-serving beverage options for family and guests.

This smaller kitchen features a pantry close by with additional refrigeration and dishwasher drawers.

Over the holidays, meal preparation is always top of mind. Early prep is completed long before guests arrive, but last-minute prep inevitably occurs with a house full of people. For this reason, we are increasingly adding a second island to our kitchens, rather than designing a single, large island. Having two islands allows homeowners to control the space, ensuring each serves a distinct function: one provides a separate “work” or prep space, while the other is free to serve as a buffet or gathering area for guests.

These dual islands serve separate but equally important roles in the kitchen.

With preparation comes the impending kitchen clean up. While this task may be daunting, there are creative options – and appliances – to help make clean up more efficient. Today, we design most of our homes with two dishwashers – an enormous time-saver, particularly with holiday entertaining. For example, installing a full-size dishwasher in the kitchen, along with a second, single or double set of drawers for stemware (we like Fisher & Paykel) will help cut cleaning time in half, while ensuring barware and other items stay separated for quicker organizing and storage.

This island includes a microwave door, a dishwasher drawer, and two refrigerator drawers.
Optional paneling allows the appliances to blend in with the cabinetry.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we welcome family, friendships, and holiday traditions – and embrace efficient design solutions that optimize our time in the kitchen.

Pool Cabanas

Pool Cabanas

Beauty and Versatility

With August in full swing, many of us are enjoying our outdoor living spaces as much as possible. Last week, we discussed the ways in which a homeowner’s pool area serves as a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining. This week, we will focus on the pool’s essential companion – the wonderful and functional cabana.

Shingle-style pool cabana in Edgartown

Pool cabanas serve multiple roles within the outside living area. As a separate, nearby building, they offer convenient privacy and protection from the sun for swimmers (and loungers).

Additionally, they afford homeowners with easy, accessible storage and changing space for bathing suits and towels. This means fewer wet towels making their way into the house – and for people with young families, an end to wet kids running inside in search of dry towels.

We design our cabanas as small buildings that work in harmony with the main house and other outbuildings. Some are beautifully simple with limited adornment, while others are more detailed, mirroring specific architectural details of the main home.

The cabana’s interior layout and amenities are dictated by the individual needs of each homeowner. Some cabanas are designed with classic, cozy sitting areas and folding glass doors to create a seamless progression to the outdoors, while others include more elaborate amenities such as kitchenettes, fireplaces and half baths for convenient indoor-outdoor entertaining. No matter the layout, careful attention to details ensures that the cabana remains connected to the tone and history of the house, and effortlessly transitions to the outdoor living space.

While some New England cabanas are used strictly in the summer months, many homeowners take advantage of this inviting outdoor destination year-round. With a cozy fireplace and comfortable seating, where better to warm up after a winter hike?

Pool cabanas represent a wonderful marriage between beauty and versatility. Whether rustic or refined, the cabana is a relaxing poolside retreat offering protection from the sun and a harmonious connection between indoor and outdoor living.

Pool Time

Pool Time

The Summer Spot to Cool Off and Entertain

With New England’s recent heatwave, residential swimming pools have been a topical subject among our friends and clients. Not only do they offer convenient, inviting relief from the summer heat, they also provide homeowners with a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining.

There are myriad options for pool design, and we take our cues from several sources. Because the pool is an extension of the home, we first consider the building’s architectural character. We then look at the outdoor topography for any space restrictions, and whether the area lends itself to a certain shape or design. If we envision a more organic feel, the pool may take on a free-form shape to blend with the outdoor environment. Alternately, if the space calls for a more traditional or sleek look, we may recommend a rectangular design.

When appropriate, we may also include an infinity design where the water flows freely over the edges. These vanishing edges give the visual impression that the pool has no boundaries – or is magically connected to the nearby ocean.

If the homeowner has an extended family with children or grandparents, we often design the pool with a wide entry and gentle pitch for easy access.

For all designs, we recommend using gunite for its exceptional versatility. Gunite is a mixture of sand and cement shot through a hose and does not produce seams like traditional, poured concrete.

No matter the size or shape of the pool, it is important to create an inviting common gathering space to be enjoyed day or night. That means judicious consideration of hardscaping, lighting, and congregation areas. To merge the indoor and outdoor living space, we use bluestone edges or coping to blend in with the adjacent patio or terrace.

We also carefully select the pool’s lighting, which sets an important tone, particularly in the evening. Including fun and welcoming gathering spots – such as hot tubs and fire pits – helps transform the pool area into the optimal summer gathering space.

Water features are also meaningful elements – both aesthetically and from a functional standpoint. For example, within an urban setting or dense courtyard, the soothing sounds of waterfalls or jet sprays help create a sense of relaxation and privacy.

A well-designed pool area can transform any outdoor living space into a summer oasis. Whether lounging our entertaining, a pool and its surrounding outdoor space provide homeowners with a wonderful sensory experience – and a welcome relief from the summer heat.

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday

The Best Seat in the House

This Sunday, February 3rd, over 100 million people will tune in to watch Super Bowl LIII. This game may well very break the record for the most viewed show in America’s broadcast history.

While some fans will watch the game in their favorite sports bar, the majority of people still believe the best seat in the house is in their own home. It doesn’t matter if you’re a die hard, never-miss-a-game fan, or a casual fair-weather follower – chances are you will be watching the New England Patriots take on the Rams in a favorite viewing spot. After all, the game is a great excuse to gather with family and friends on a chilly winter evening to eat, drink and socialize.

If you’re entertaining a large group this year, one favorite spot to congregate is the primary gathering space – typically the central sitting area on the main floor of your home. This room can accommodate a crowd and allows for easy access to the kitchen and bar. Once relegated to the basement, many of our clients now have an upstairs bar to assists in the ease and flow of entertaining. Arrange a buffet on your kitchen island or dining table and your guests can help themselves to food and drink. Easy!

Did you know that after Thanksgiving, more food is eaten on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day in the year?

While having the kitchen close by can make hosting tasks easier, some clients prefer to have their kitchen a bit removed from the central entertaining space. However, a nearby bar is always an entertaining bonus.

Some of our clients may also choose to watch the game in their media room or in their downstairs entertaining space. A media room is a great option that provides optimal audio and visual technology (who doesn’t love having a single device to perfectly automate everything!) with the benefit of truly comfortable seating. Additionally, and possibly most importantly, this is where you’ll likely find the biggest TV in the house.

A large downstairs can also offer stellar entertaining space – especially if you have a bar and billiard or game area. With the added bonus a fabulous fireplace and a wine cellar, you may never want to leave.

However, not everyone likes a crowd. Perhaps this year you’re planning a smaller gathering in a more intimate space. Watching the game beside a crackling fire with your family may be just what you’re yearning for. Or, maybe you’re having a boys’ night viewing party in a separate space (or man-cave) where you don’t need the whole house, but you do need a great bar and TV.

So now you’ve found the perfect setting for game action – but what about the halftime show? Some fans can’t wait to watch the iconic halftime musical performances. Others prefer to use this time as a break from viewing to stretch their legs a bit…perhaps a quick game of billiards?

Whether you’re with a big group of friends or your immediate family, you are sure to be entertained this Sunday evening. So have fun, stay warm and celebrate the winning team from the best seat in the house. Go Pats!