Our current topic of interest is The Gathering Place. We’ve written a post about office designs that include social and collaborative spaces and we’ve also written about including social niches in senior living facilities. Now, we’re writing about designing residential spaces that incorporate comfortable areas for families and their guests to gather and socialize. These spaces could be considered the home equivalent of the office watering hole.
Design Intentional Gathering Places in Your Home
If you are building a new home, you may have to “observe” the gathering rituals of your current home’s native residents and then design future gathering places accordingly. If you are remodeling, however, you have the luxury of incorporating these niches for relaxing or socializing based on where your family and friends tend to do it now.
Here are some suggestions based on decades of residential design experience.
Create space in the kitchen. No matter how lavish and comfortable your living or family rooms are, the kitchen is like a magnet. People love to hang out while the cook is prepping, as food is coming out of the oven or after they grab something to drink or eat from the fridge. For this reason, we recommend designing a kitchen with plenty of space for both flow and loitering. It keeps the cook happy (no repeated, polite, “excuse me”s as you navigate kitchen duties) and prevents standing and raised-island or peninsula sitters from having to move or stop their flow of conversation.
Just add fire. Fires have drawn humans into their circle for much longer than kitchens have. Their warm, mystical, rosy glow is impossible to resist. For this reason, we recommend incorporating a fireplace, even in unexpected places. We’ve written about fireplaces in Florida, hospital waiting rooms and college dormitories because a fireplace always makes people feel more “at home,” so try to have at least one fireplace in your home.
If one is good, two is better, right? If you have room for it, add a fireplace or fire pit to your outdoor space. A well-placed fire pit or outdoor hearth, surrounded by comfortable chairs, provides a year-round gathering place regardless of the temperature and will keep guests socializing long after the sun sets.
An intentional sitting area. While we love the spaciousness and sociability of open floor plans, there is also a need for television-free seating areas where people can practice the art of conversation, card games or a good ol’ heart-to-heart over a steaming mug of tea. For that, we recommend designing an intentional seating area.
Chairs and / or sofas should all be oriented towards one another, a table in the middle can be a resting place for a few, simple accents (nothing so high as to block eye contact) and a window is always a nice touch. This same idea can be carried onto a porch or indoor patio, providing a quiet space to gather.
Where are the preferred gathering places in your home? Leslie Saul & Associates would love to read about them.