The festive party invitations are finally in the post. After Covid cancelled Christmas in 2020, and Omicron cast a shadow over last year’s revels, it’s time to spruce up the dining table, make up the guest beds for family and friends, and load the fridge with celebratory fizz. But what makes the perfect space for entertaining?
While we weren’t throwing parties, or even having friends over for tea, we had time to contemplate how we wanted to live. Initially that meant clever zoning to bring the gym, office, school and bar under one roof, but now it includes welcoming guests in style – something we value more than ever. “Covid made people who used to go out to socialise take more pride in their homes,” says James Ashford, head of interior services at Savills. “Suddenly you had to host barbecue parties because you could only see people in your garden. This has led to home improvements inside and out.”
For one of Ashford’s clients in London, that meant converting two subterranean levels into a space to entertain. The lower floor has a cinema complex, gymnasium, spa and pool – the base of which can be raised to create a dancefloor. The owners of this Chelsea property also moved the kitchen down a storey and installed a butler’s pantry with a dumb waiter in the ground floor. The mess and smells of food preparation are kept away from the main entertaining space, which has been knocked through so the dining and reception areas flow into one another.
This is an unapologetically fiesta-focused design. It’s also a house with room to spare. But it illustrates one of the key concerns in interior redesign today: multifunctionality. Switching your subterranean space between pool and dancefloor may be a dream too far for most, but building in flexibility so rooms can function as family and social spaces is something the Savills interior services team do often. “Social space for entertaining has become a key feature,” says Ashford. “In your standard London home, people have been creative with alcove joinery, for example, turning a small corner of the room into a bar area with a drinks cabinet and a wine fridge – which can then be shut away.”
Kitchens, towards which parties traditionally gravitate, have also evolved. More than ever they are the hub of the home, the place where all life happens, from homework to dinner parties. Unless, of course, you’re a two-kitchen household – whether you call them wet and dry kitchens, or catering and show, one is where the messy prep happens, while the other is for life around the table. “People are thinking carefully about their kitchen layout,” says Ashford. “They are putting in a large island unit with an overhang so you can get bar stools underneath. They’re also adding social seating – interesting window seats in a bay, for example, so there’s additional seating in places that otherwise might be a storage area. And some clients are adding a utility area for other entertaining needs.”
One thing we’ve learnt of late is that taking the party outside is achievable – and even desirable. The result? Outdoor “rooms”, including kitchens, where the attention to design detail matches that given to interior spaces. Garden design has evolved to accommodate this change, as have indoor-outdoor transitions – running the same floor tiles seamlessly from inside to out, for example, or glazing the partition with black Crittall-style doors. “We have been asked to put in timber semi-sunk hot tubs with pergolas,” says Ashford. “If you add to that an outdoor dry kitchen with a fire pit and communal seating, a wood-fired pizza oven and a barbecue area, then you have a cool entertaining space.”
Artful lighting installations and integrated wireless speaker systems can transform a space for social gatherings. “Lighting needs to be dimmable and from a variety of sources,” recommends Ashford. This might be a blend of ceiling, wall and feature lighting that combines to create a party atmosphere. “If you pay attention to lighting outside – lanterns, for example – you can use the space throughout the winter.” Hang up the mistletoe, the party is coming home.
Pictures from top: the ultimate dinner party (unsplash); indoor and outdoor entertaining space by Burbank Interiors