‘How We created the perfect party space’
From grand dining tables to plenty of light, three readers reveal how they planned the perfect entertaining space…
Three readers reveal what they did to make their homes ideal for hosting friends and family
‘Having a separate cooking area encourages the flow of people away from the kitchen’ Stylist Philippa Mcfarlane lives in Surrey with her husband, Alistair, who works in telecoms and development, and their sons, Zack, eight, Indie, six, and Max, three
‘When we moved into our house, it was made up of small separate areas
– a kitchen, a dining room, and an unusable, leaky orangery. We wanted to create an open-plan living space all on one level. We knew we had enough room to create zones within one bigger area so we wouldn’t be on top of each other all the time.
‘We replaced the orangery and extended out by a metre. Because we have a Victorian home, we were careful about keeping the period feel of the property, so we chose a glass design similar to the existing orangery. We had no sociable outside space thanks to a set of steps leading to the patio, so we excavated the garden to create a courtyard and connect the indoors and the out.
‘Creating an open and sociable space was key, but we also wanted clear zones. Before, everyone would pile into the kitchen while I tried to cook. Now, the space is divided so that people can sit at the breakfast bar while I’m preparing a meal. Having the cooking area separate encourages the flow of people into other areas of the room, rather than circulating around the food.
‘I think comfortable seating helps. The breakfast bar means I can chat to guests while I’m cooking. We also have a table that raises up to become a bar – everyone loves it when they come round. It can change the feel of the room in an instant, whether we want to lay out drinks with ice buckets and gin glasses or have a sit-down dinner.
‘In the past we’ve hosted a supper club, and we usually have a New Year’s Eve party, too. As well as our social kitchen space, we have spare bedrooms for people to stay over – our friendship group has moved away over the years and we’re in the middle, so we usually all meet up at our house. The layout works perfectly for us now.’
‘The wine room has become a real feature of the space – and it means easy access to alcohol, too’ Serena Dobson and her husband Michael, who work in executive search, live in Lincolnshire with their children, Finn, five, and Beth, three
‘We came from a two-up, two-down terrace before we made the move into a bigger house. The space was a major selling point and we saw the potential to turn the kitchen into a family room, but the dining room was separate. That meant we never used it except at Christmas – it seemed like a huge waste of space.
‘I’d always thought I’d like to extend, so we decided to create a dining room extension off the kitchen and make the space open plan. That way, we’d be able to fit in a much larger dining table to accommodate more guests. We also installed bi-fold doors to open the room up to the garden and create more communal space.
‘The extension replaced a long strip of decking to the back of the house, so to avoid the room looking too narrow, we sectioned off part of it and turned it into a wine room with Crittall-style glazing. You can see it from the dining room and it’s become a real feature of the space – and there’s easy access to wine, too!
‘We had a 10-seater concrete dining table made bespoke with leather dining chairs, which is a lovely communal space with plenty of room for everyone. We also had a lantern roof put in, so the room is light and airy and it complements the other end of the kitchen, which has double-height glazing.
‘Having an open-plan space is definitely the key for us when it comes to entertaining. We don’t have to serve food in a separate room to the kitchen anymore, and if I’m cooking dinner I can still be a part of the group of people sat chatting around the table.
‘We’ll host Christmas this year with all the family and the in-laws, and in the lead up to that we’ll be having our neighbours round for a one-course meal as part of a “Safari Supper” event we do every year. We have plenty of room now, so when the house is full of people it’s lovely.’
‘The stereo is always on in the background and the kids love dancing around to the music’ Iseult Fitzgerald, a journalist, lives in south-east London with her husband, Patrick, also a journalist, and their children, Senan, four, and Imogen, one
‘The original Victorian layout of our house wasn’t well suited for entertaining. We had a small dining room and a galley kitchen, and there were two walls between the dining room and the garden. It needed bringing up to date.
‘We reconfigured the back of the house, knocking down walls and extending into the side-return. We used a lot of glass in the design because good lighting was our priority. We have a glass roof and went frameless with our sliding doors for a seamless effect.
‘We knew we wanted a social space but didn’t need another living room. Instead, we designed a room specifically for entertaining, with a big 2.5 metre island. When I’m cooking, it means people can sit around it and chat.
‘Our kitchen is a no-tv zone – we were adamant that it would be screen-free. We wanted people to talk to each other. We have speakers in the ceiling and an integrated sound system, which comes into its own when we’re hosting guests. The stereo is always on in the background and the kids can dance around to the music. We host loads of playdates because we can fit a lot of people into the room.
‘The layout was something we thought a lot about when we designed the kitchen. The fridge, dishwasher and hob are all in a triangle, which makes it easy when you’re cooking or clearing up. We’ve had no family over for the last two years – we haven’t even had an oven! But now we have a proper hosting kitchen, I can cook a big meal for everyone to celebrate.’