Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Parade of Homes, and Inspiration

I was invited to tour the Parade of Homes this year as a blogger, through the ever-connected and always active Renee Benda. Kerrie and I had planned to attend this year in order to gain some inspiration for our own home buying/building plans, and now I even had a mission.

Since I don't typically write--or know anything about-- design, I went into this event looking specifically for ideas for our kitchens and dining rooms. Those are the focal points of our life at home.

Throughout the eight homes this year I was looking for ideas on what features in a kitchen really work for me, and which ones do not. My wife has convinced me that an open kitchen is the way to go. I hope having one will help me meet my goals of being able to cook in relative peace while simultaneously appearing to be social. It seems to be standard in all new homes, in contrast to older homes like ours where the kitchen is much more closed-off from the rest of the house.

Granite and tile in the kitchen were certainly the order of the day, in every home we toured. One item of which I am not a big fan is the single large sink.

It may just be habit; I have had a double sink in every place I have ever lived, but I just can't see the one large sink being practical. They look nice, and the hardware and faucets that go with them are amazing, but I just want my double basin.

A feature I have fallen in love with is the pot-filling spigot above the cooktop. It is not something I'm going to use every day, but on those occasions when I have the big pasta cooker rolling, salt potatoes boiling, or four corned beef briskets stewing, I would love having it right there. It was present in two homes and is solidly on my "nice to have" list for the next house.

Another feature I was really pleased to see in several homes was the large walk-in or full closet-sized pantry.

For someone like me with a ton of kitchen equipment, a full-sized pantry would be a wonderful thing. Easy access to all of our equipment and ingredients, without having to hunt or move things around to get to an item in a cabinet, would be a huge labor saver. We have stuff stashed all over the place right now, and at times, it's a pain to find what we need.

I do love a full-size double oven. Thanksgiving is not the only day I max out my space, or want things at two very different temperatures. This is more on the "must have" list. Many of them were flanked by deep cabinets for everything that may need to go in to one of those ovens, which is very smart design.

I'm not such a fan of the smaller oven design, it's just not big enough to suit my needs. I get it for the occasional cook but I can't see it working for me. 

There were several kitchens that were beautiful and well-appointed but just not what I would consider a "cook's kitchen." Not having enough counter space, an inconvenient layout or a general lack of outlets is enough to knock a place out of the running for me. In the end there were two places that were, hands-down, amazing. 

Number one was "The Waterford" by Martin Custom Homes. This place had not one great kitchen, but two. The main floor had an open concept great room, kitchen, and dining room. A dining room large enough to accommodate our table, or with an wide open entry to allow for the addition of extra tables, is essential for us. The second kitchen was downstairs, in a finished walk-out basement, near the absolutely stunning home theater room. Outside of formal dining and sleeping I would be hard-pressed to find reasons to leave the lower level, which also had a wet bar and lounge area. It won our hearts as a dream home. 

The winner for kitchens was in "The Jonsten" by Smolen Homes.

While it didn't have everything (no double oven), the amount of counter space and number of convenient outlets were incredible. The built-in breakfast nook made spectacular use of space, and I could easily see serving most of my family meals there. It looked out into a bright, open family room that I loved and could envision entertaining in, especially with the addition of the wet bar. 

I may be drooling a bit as I type.

Every home on the tour had at least one highlight, and usually many more features that I appreciated. And the layout of the tour itself was excellent. This was my first visit to the Parade Of Homes but it most certainly won't be my last.