A line we use with most clients is, “We aren’t going to design for Thanksgiving!”


(Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)

When designing with the holidays in mind, it is hard not to consider the kitchen and food preparation when so much of the holiday experience is centered on food.

Meaning, we typically don’t need a dining space that will accommodate a very large crowd. However, there are some design lessons we can learn from considering a gathering such as our annual turkey feast.

The first design priority for a home is that it will meet the needs of the immediate family or those who permanently reside there. Each person involved needs to be able to function comfortably relative to basic housing needs (shelter, food, clothing). Beyond these basic physical needs, our homes serve many other roles in our lives in terms of psychological, social and emotional requirements.

Gathering extended family and friends together is critical for meeting these higher-level needs for many families, so let’s talk about design elements that will make Thanksgiving a great day for all involved.

Storage: Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner begins with shopping. While your home cannot help with crowded parking lots and big box stores, it can provide an organized space to deal with everything you haul home. This means pantry storage, along with refrigerator and freezer storage. With today’s open-concept kitchen designs, walls are disappearing. Therefore, cabinetry in the actual kitchen is at a premium, especially upper cabinets. The more open the kitchen, the more critical it is to have adequate pantry space.

Walk-in pantries have the advantage of storage space on the floor, meaning you can put all sorts of things into this magical room and shut the door. This can be very handy when expecting guests. (Mud rooms and laundry rooms can also serve the purpose of a guest-free storage zone.) Reach-in or cabinetry pantries can store a lot of supplies when equipped with pull-out drawers and baskets. Enough pantry space in the kitchen for everyday needs is critical; capacity for special event storage on the main level is a bonus and in some cases may have to be relegated “off site” to the basement.

When planning a kitchen, consider refrigerated storage carefully. Many homes have additional refrigeration in the basement or garage in the form of another refrigerator or freezer. Today, the combination of a full-size refrigerator paired with a full-size freezer in the kitchen can eliminate the need for auxiliary appliances outside of the kitchen.

Events such as Thanksgiving often require storage for non-food items as well. These may include items such as turkey roasters and serving platters or special china and silver. In addition, some families need additional tables and chairs. In any case, your remodeling plan should account for adequate storage for objects associated with your family’s entertainment activities.

Let’s not forget that Thanksgiving occurs in November, so coats are likely to be involved. This may be one of the few times in the year that your coat closet gets a workout. When planning your remodel, if you can use this area for a higher purpose, we say go for it. A nice coat tree in the entry, or a bannister or bed will do nicely for the few times a year you might have to store a number of guests’ coats.

Food preparation: Preparing the food for your guests goes more smoothly and is more enjoyable if you have a well-planned kitchen and appliance layout. Just try preparing a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a single oven! However, today your second oven can be a combination microwave/convection oven that will be used on a daily basis, rather than just a few times a year. Besides having modern appliances that work efficiently, adequate counter space is critical to executing a well-planned dinner for a crowd.

You also need to plan your kitchen so it is not in the middle of a major circulation path — from the front door to the family room, for instance. We always want people to pass by the kitchen, not through it. No matter what we do, people will still gather in the kitchen, but by replacing the peninsula with an island we can at least get rid of the dead-end kitchen of years past so the cook can press forward even with Aunt Mildred and several cousins hanging out with us.

We hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving and happy hosting. In our next column, we will continue our discussion on renovating for the holidays and maybe spark some ideas that will be on your remodeling wish list for next year.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

Renovation Solutions: House design elements to consider for holiday entertaining