The social home

By Jasper van der Lingen


Designing a house suited to entertaining can raise many questions for the new home owner.

How can the design of your house accommodate and enhance the sort of entertaining you may enjoy hosting?

“The design of a house that works well for entertaining is therefore one that does a number of things well. It is a place where you accept and welcome people into your inner home.

Houses are fundamentally places to shelter and retreat from those aspects of the world that may threaten us. From extremes of temperature, adverse weather, threats of wildfire and nature and threats from others that may wish you harm in some way.

It is your secure haven in an indifferent universe. Inviting people into your world is an act of generosity, one where you open yourself up and reveal yourself to an extent to others.”

We are a social species though and enjoy the interaction and sharing with others that goes with being human. It is this tension between the impulse and desire to be with others we like and inviting them into your private, personal world, ‘your home’, that can make entertaining in your house such a special and rewarding thing.

Trends in home design over the years have moved from a more formal style of entertaining dominated by rules of etiquette and manners, to a more informal style less driven by protocols and where people can be more themselves.

This is reflected in house design. Previously there was a stricter separation of functions, with a room for the kitchen and a separate formal dining room for example. This is in a way a hangover from the days when servants were more common certainly in the middle and upper classes where the interaction between classes was minimised by the layout of the dwelling.

Nowadays though with our labour-saving devices and changes in societal attitudes these separations have largely disappeared in today’s home.

Open plan living where the kitchen, dining and living areas are essentially one is a reflection of this change and also sets the stage for entertaining in the 21st century.


Now it is often the kitchen that becomes the hub of the entertaining focus with visitors hanging around the kitchen bench for a chat. Also, the dissolving of separation between inside and out makes it common for parties to easily spill in and out, often gathering around the outside BBQ.

This lack of separate rooms and seamless flow accommodates today’s informal style of entertaining easily. It provides multiple stages for people to gather in smaller groups while still being able to see and interact with all.

The design of a house that works well for entertaining is therefore one that does a number of things well. It is a place where you accept and welcome people into your inner home.

It is a place to display to an extent who you are to others through the layout, your choice of furniture, artwork, mementos, or whatever tells a story of you. A bland place without character and the personality of the homeowners on display is the recipe for a bland place to entertain.

Secondly, today’s modern, open plan layouts with no strong divisions between kitchen, dining, living, and outdoor areas eminently suit our contemporary informal way of entertaining.

It should not be a featureless, open barn-like space however. Having smaller spaces, seating areas, places under cover or open, varied, characterful pleasant spots to be with others is important as long as you can get a sense of the larger space and what is happening elsewhere, not feeling totally cut off.