As we are in the thick of the holiday season, many buyers who shop for a home during this time of year naturally have entertaining at the top of their mind, with visions of festive parties dancing through their heads. But for some homebuilders, the design of a home and its ability to help buyers entertain family and friends in a fashion that suits today’s lifestyles is not just contemplated during the holidays, but all year long.
“It’s only natural for buyers who are shopping for a home during the holidays to look for features that will help them entertain large family gatherings, as for many it’s a right of passage – hosting your first holiday dinner means you’re all grown up,” says John Wozniak, president of Wheaton-based J. Lawrence Homes. “But for us, we’re constantly listening to buyers and thinking of ways to improve our home designs so buyers can entertain effortlessly all year long.”
Still, Wozniak notes certain features of a home do get extra attention during the holidays, and with good reason. While it’s no surprise that kitchens are the workhorses of a home during the holidays, some are better suited for entertaining than others.
For example, the kitchens at Midlane Club, a clubhouse community of single-family homes in Wadsworth by J. Lawrence Homes, are all designed for busy cooks with lots of mouths to feed, says Wozniak.
“Each kitchen features a double oven, GE appliances, 42-inch upper cabinets, roll-out trays in lower cabinets and an island, which is great for meal prep or serving drinks and hors d’oeuvres,” he says. “Best of all, every kitchen has a double oven, which really helps with the multiple dishes that come with holiday celebrations. This is especially true for the growing number of people with restrictive diets or food allergies as they need alternative meals.
Another home design that comes in handy during the holidays is the dual family room. “Having a first- and second-floor family room is useful all year long, but it’s a complete lifesaver during the holidays,” Wozniak says. “As shown in our Pinehurst plan, adults can be in the first floor family room, which is open to the kitchen, while kids can go up to the second floor family room to play with toys and video or board games.”
Midlane Club offers eight floor plans, including ranch and two-story designs. Priced from $249,900, homes range from 2,019 to 3,354 square feet and have two to four bedrooms, two to three baths, basements and attached two- to three-car garages.
While great kitchens are key to preparing holiday meals, functional and stylish dining rooms that accommodate large groups are also vital to successful holiday entertaining, notes Jim Chittaro, president of Wheaton, Ill.-based Smykal Homes.
“For many homeowners, the dining room is the showpiece of the home during the holidays,” says Chittaro. “They break out the china and crystal and really set the stage for a great meal. So we made sure all our homes at Ashford Place in Joliet had generously-sized dining rooms so buyers could easily set up a large dining table, plus have room for a buffet or china cabinet.”
Buyers with large extended families or lots of children will also be pleased to know that all dining rooms at Ashford Place open up to a living room, so owners have plenty of space for extra leaves in the dining table or space to set up multiple kids’ tables.
Chittaro adds that the living rooms at Ashford Place can do more than handle the overflow from the dining room during holiday gatherings – they also can provide plenty of dramatic decorating potential.
“Our plans with two-story or vaulted living room ceilings already catch buyers attention because they let in so much light and make the space feel twice as large,” says Chittaro. “Just imagine walking into a home and seeing a super-sized Christmas tree in that space all lit up with garlands running up the staircase. It’s a definite ‘wow’ factor and something that our buyers take into consideration this time of year.”
Buyers at Ashford Place can choose from seven two-story floor plans ranging in size from 1,815 to 2,981 square feet with three to four bedrooms, 2½ baths, two- or three-car garages, and lofts or dens, per plan. Homes are priced from $189,900 to $249,900.
Fireplaces are another year-round feature that make most homebuyers’ wish lists, but also strongly come into play during the holidays.
“We live in Chicago, so people could be using their fireplace in May to ward off cold weather,” says Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes, which is developing Lexington Square, a community of single-family rowhomes in Bridgeport.
“But hands down, our buyers use their fireplaces during the holidays more than any other time of year,” Benach continues. “A fireplace is a huge focal point of the holidays, whether homeowners use it to hang stockings or display holiday cards, a menorah or other holiday décor.”
Lexington Square’s three levels of living space are also a plus during the holidays, notes Benach.
“The benefits of having a functional lower level are not lost on our buyers, especially during the holidays,” says Benach. “For most of the year, our buyers use the lower level as a family room, but during the holidays that space has incredible flexibility to be used as whatever they want – a great napping spot away from the noise of the main living area, a place to watch football games, a play area for kids or a makeshift fourth bedroom for out-of-town family.”
And if buyers choose to add an optional powder room or full bath to the lower level, the space becomes even more conducive to hosting overnight guests, Benach notes. All lower levels at Lexington Square also include large walk-in storage closets, plus a coat closet.
Lexington Square is located at 3704 S. Sangamon St., eight blocks west of U.S. Cellular Field. The community offers two floor plans ranging from 2,216 to 2,507 square feet. Base-priced from $379,880 to $429,800, the three-story homes come standard with three bedrooms, 2½ baths, rooftop decks (most with complete views of the Chicago skyline) and attached two-car garages.
For more information about J. Lawrence Homes’ Midlane Club community, call (630) 281-4730 or visit www.JLawrenceHomes.com; for Smykal Homes’ Ashford Place community, call (815) 609-5151 or visit www.SmykalHomes.com; and for Lexington Homes’ Lexington Square community, call (773) 523-5900 or visit www.LexintonChicago.com.