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How Well Does Your Dream Home Design Withstand Holiday Celebrations?

Design Your Dream Home for the Holidays

Home is where the heart is, and this is even truer when we welcome family and friends to celebrate the holidays. No matter where we find ourselves, our daily home, slopeside chalet, desert pueblo, or flotilla at sea, we have the opportunity to create a unique experience for our guests.

Thanksgiving table

Family Home for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again when we gather our family and friends to celebrate the holidays. You may be excited to have your children come home and naturally could be eager to decorate your house to make your seasonal dreams a reality. But can your home withstand the extra stress of having those additional people? Perhaps Ben Franklin captured it best by suggesting that “house guests, like fish, begin to stink after only a few days.” So are you designing or renovating your house to ensure it can accommodate all the guests you plan to entertain?
Here are a few things to consider to design your dream home for the holidays and other special occasions:

Design Flexible & Multi-Purpose Spaces

There are challenges when the family arrives. As the host, you want to be able to seat guests gracefully and encourage these loved ones to feel comfortable and happy. After all, your college-age daughter might not appreciate you placing her at the “kid’s table” in the living room. With a professional architect as your guide, spaces can flex or adjust, and leaves can be added to the table, allowing your family and friends to gather as one, perhaps expanding into the foyer adjacent to the dining area.
An open floor plan may combine adjacent spaces into larger entertaining zones. So long as rooms are on the same level, their combination is greater than the sum of their parts. It’s best to avoid missteps, resulting in the turkey landing on the floor or worse.
If your dream home design has no open floor plan, consider separating rooms with pocket doors or moveable partitions for flexibility during holidays and other entertaining events. This arrangement is often referred to as an “away room” by architect Sarah Susanka, author of the “Not So Big” series of books. One client requested this arrangement so he could host his twenty-four family members for their weekly Friday night dinners. With a flexible home design, he can close the doors and use the spaces individually or open them so the whole family can eat together at one long dining table.

flexible spaces

Create Separate Housing

In addition to flexible spaces, you might consider creating independent housing for your guests. For another client in Lake Geneva, I designed the “main” home for everyone to gather and a series of smaller cottages for the families and friends to visit independently. Everyone shares access to the lake, and each family has space of its own. This practice is known as “club living” around the lake. Having private accommodations helps make the holidays and vacations less stressful. Now, gatherings are no longer limited to the three-day rule. You can design your dream home for the holidays.
Depending on the size of your family and the number of guests you plan to entertain, your customized dream home might consist of one main house with a casita or coach house. This little guest house is set apart from the main home and is the perfect place for your mother-in-law to come and stay. In addition, the guest accommodations only need to be maintained while occupied and can be closed down for the rest of the year.

Consider the Sleeping Accommodations

Many guests prefer the privacy of their own space; often, kids look forward to the adventure of bunking together. Imagine children, cousins, and close friends grabbing their sleeping bags and hanging out all night long, sharing ghost stories in one ample space. Designing a bunk room above the garage for group sleepovers will ensure that tradition continues for generations.
No matter your traditions, enough bedrooms to accommodate your family is essential when designing your dream home. Often rooms like the library or study can double as temporary guest bedrooms with the addition of a murphy bed or pull-out sofa. Make your holidays less stressful by having a sleeping solution that satisfies your family’s need to be together and maintain privacy.

What are the Key Considerations?

Design your dream home for the holidays
Design your dream home for the holidays
Design your dream home for the holidays
Design your dream home for the holidays
  • Gathering spaces
  • Dining spaces
  • Parking
  • Sleeping
  • Storage
  • Games & puzzles
  • TV & movies
  • Quiet escape zone
  • Furry friends
  • Etc

A Home for Family Traditions

Dining together and group sleepovers for family gatherings are memorable traditions. My extended family’s Thanksgiving is not complete without Uncle Bernie’s punch. This bright and cheery treat includes bourbon, oranges, lemons, maraschino cherries, pineapples, and spices. This punch is ready to drink immediately or marinate for a week (or three) before the holiday. It only gets better with time. Countless life events are celebrated and marked with this family staple. I’ve included the recipe with this newsletter so you can enjoy it with me.
Family traditions often have curious origins and reflect the available accommodations. For example, our family enjoys a holiday ham recipe passed down for generations. The recipe instructs to split the ham into two pieces; an instruction blindly followed year after year. Finally, a new family member asked my grandmother, Madge Benner, the reason for the ham operation. Does the ham cook faster? Or remain moist? Madge replied, “No, we only had a small oven. The full-size ham didn’t fit.” Ham is now only split for posterity. Delightful traditions make the family gatherings in your home unique and something to cherish.

Give Back to the Community

Holidays are a time of generosity. As you plan for your family to visit for the holidays, remember those making do with less. Some struggle to afford the turkey dinner, much less the home in which to eat it. This mission is why we support building affordable homes for those in need. With each home designed for our clients, we support the construction of affordable homes and communities. As a result, more than fifty homes have been built and filled with loving families. Why not design your dream home for the holidays and help families in need to do the same.

Design Your Dream Home for the Holidays

As you experience the holidays this year, either as a host or guest, observe the struggles and successes. Keep in mind your day-to-day lifestyle and your plans for entertaining. With a flexible layout, you can accommodate meals, together time, and escape from the din. In addition, there will be plenty of sleep space for family and friends who visit for a few days or even longer.
Hosting everyone without the stress of close quarters and little privacy can make a difference and allow you to have a happy holiday. A professional architect can guide you to find the right solutions for your family’s needs.

If you are ready to design your custom home for enjoyable holiday celebrations, contact us at 847-412-0692.

Uncle Bernie's Holiday Punch Recipe

As promised, here is our family’s favorite holiday cocktail, Uncle Bernie’s Holiday Punch. It is not uncommon to double, triple, or even quadruple this recipe to accommodate any guest list. Be sure to treat your guests when you design your dream home for the holidays.

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 large can of pineapple chunks
  • 1 large jar of maraschino cherries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 pint of your favorite bourbon
  • 25 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
Uncle Bernie's Punch


In a large stock pot, prepare and combine the following.
Sliced and quartered oranges and lemons
Add pineapple and cherries with juice
Add cloves and cinnamon sticks in a cheesecloth sachet
Dissolve sugar in 1 pt boiling water. Pour over the mix with 1 pt bourbon
Refrigerate for three days (or 5 minutes in an emergency)
To Serve
Add one bourbon shot and one ice cube to a glass. Then, add a chunk of each fruit and a punch ladle to the glass. An additional shot of bourbon can be added when required.
The typical batch serves eighteen guests once or nine guests twice.
A Benner family classic. Now, your’s to enjoy.

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