Friday, November 04, 2005
Great rooms are gathering places
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
It's fall and just think of all the gatherings: college football in front of the big screen; Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends; the neighborhood Christmas party held at your house; pot roast and potatoes on a Sunday afternoon with the grandkids.
One of the most important and central functions of our homes is gathering. Every home needs space for the gathering that happens in everyday life and on special occasions.
Traditionally, homes have been built with a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the main floor. The trend in newer homes is to combine these spaces into a great room — a large, open room that includes the functions of a kitchen, dining room, and sitting area. This open space is also a natural draw for gathering as the kitchen is often the heart of today's home and the center of a family's activities.
Many owners of older homes are undertaking renovations to convert their homes from more traditional layouts to the newer great room concept. This involves removing walls to open up the different functions of each room to each other and may involve rearranging to create the right kind of space. (See last week's column.)
While great rooms do tend to fit well with a less formal, more interactive lifestyle, there are things to consider to ensure that your great room really will be great for the way your family lives. For instance, if you have young children, you have toys—which likely don't sit neatly on a shelf most of the time. If you have teenagers, they may not always want to "gather" with the family.
Even if you have an "empty nest," your spouse may want to blend up a smoothie while you are trying to talk on the phone. And your kitchen, no matter who you are, is not always immaculate with a vase of fresh flowers sitting on the gleaming granite island.
Good design can provide solutions to these issues. One answer may be to design the great room in such as way that the messiest areas, such as the kitchen sink or the toy box, are screened from the entry. Another possible solution is to maintain a smaller, enclosed area—like an office or study—on the same floor, where a family member can go if they need privacy or just relief from the bustle of the gathering place.
You may also want to consider having a secondary gathering area, such as a family room in the basement, where young children can make a mess or teenagers can hang out.
If you're considering a great room to increase your gathering space, begin by analyzing how your family functions and allocate and arrange the space accordingly. A renovation that enhances and supports your lifestyle will embrace those who live in the home, as well as family and friends who gather there. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.