Ovens preheating, dishwashers humming, the clink of glassware being set at the table by helpful little hands, a glowing Fraser Fir in the window, and an illuminated wreath at the gate - these are the sights and sounds of our home in the hours and minutes before Holiday guests arrive. I love these cozy times and, while the fellowship and friendship happen organically, much of a seamless holiday is the result of thoughtful advance planning and home design.
When planning the construction of a custom home or the renovation of a classic, it is important to consider the special days as well as the day-to-day. For December’s blog, we’ve compiled some of our favorite holiday considerations to keep in mind during the design and construction process.
#1: Strategically place a few extra outlets.
My earliest memory of an independent Christmas decorating assignment was the year my Mother pulled the plug-in window candles out of the attic and charged me with their placement. The task was simple. As I approached each window, I found an outlet, fortuitously centered on the wall below the sill. This was my childhood impression of the Christmas decorating experience, a blissful and leisurely task accomplished with a mug of hot cocoa in one hand.
When I bought my first home in Columbia, SC, at age twenty-seven, I anxiously awaited the task of decorating for the holidays. At the end of the decorating day, I was pouring sweat and had spent several hundred of my limited dollars on extension cords at the nearby Home Depot. There was no hot cocoa that day. I called my Mother in dismay, and she reminded me that both of my parents were custom home builders and Master Electricians. Decorating in childhood was easy because they’d planned it that way.
Building codes set standards for outlet numbers and placement, but they certainly aren’t taking your window candles, Christmas trees, and shrubbery lighting into account. This is one of many reasons we recommend a walk-through with your electrician before a single wire is placed, ensuring a thoroughly custom result that accommodates every moment of your year.
#2: Consider the holiday table.
Once I’d mastered the art of placing window candles, my Mother charged me with setting the holiday table. My parents commissioned an enormous and impossibly heavy dining table in Hickory, NC, that required custom linens and probably a team of draft horses to get it in the house (I don’t know. I was at school). It felt a little excessive but, as our family’s default holiday host, my Mother needed the space and regularly used every inch of it.
In recent years, our team has observed the trend of clients electing to eliminate large, formal dining spaces in favor of small, casual eating areas connected to the kitchen. As we explore these design decisions, we ask clients about their role in family celebrations now and how that role might evolve in the future in order to plan for a dining space with enduring functionality.
#3: Design and plant a supporting landscape.
While it wasn’t one of my Mother’s requests, even ten-year-old Becky couldn’t set a table without a greenery-focused centerpiece. Table scapes were my Christmas craft of choice. I spent most of my holiday mornings collecting holly and evergreen springs from the limited sources in my childhood yard.
I still spend holiday mornings collecting flora, but the options are seemingly endless in our garden now. Our camellias produce beautiful pink blooms in Winter that are perfect for placing in bud vases and scattering around the house in spots like bookcases and powder rooms. The magnolias provide fantastic greenery year-round for garlands and centerpieces. Rosemary sprigs make perfect place-setting accents and gift-wrap embellishments.
When planning the construction or renovation of a home, it is important to set aside a portion of the budget for landscape. It is the single most neglected aspect of the construction budget. The built environment and the planted environment are intrinsically connected, and a thoughtfully considered landscape will immeasurably enhance your experience of home. We recommend planning the landscape in consultation with a professional landscape designer, who can help ensure that your selections meet your goals, whether that’s holiday greenery or a good spot for a tree swing.
#4: Create a thoughtfully-planned kitchen for hosting.
As I got older, my Mom would enlist my help in the kitchen. It is my firm belief that the two most dangerous places during the holiday season are the Costco parking lot and a poorly planned kitchen full of multigenerational chefs. Cutlery is flying. Boiling liquids are being transferred from one location to another. Counter space becomes increasingly scarce as the dishes pile up. All the cooks are bustling about trying to meet that perfect timing goal where all the warm dishes hit the table at the same time.
The perfect holiday kitchen may look different for each family. In my house it looks like two ovens, two dishwashers, two sinks, and a workspace tucked away from the circulation pathways through our home. These features reduce the holiday morning chaos and allow me to sit down for Christmas dinner with a (mostly) clean kitchen. If you’re considering building or renovating in the coming year, pay attention to your own kitchen workflow this holiday season and how you might address any pain points in your upcoming project.
Your custom home should serve your family seamlessly year-round. From the arrangement of space and circulation during the design process to the strategic placement of each electrical outlet and the coordination of landscape during construction, a design-build firm is well suited to help you plan for your every day and your holidays. Contact us this holiday season to discuss how our team can make your home work for you.