News & Observer, By Christa Gala
Bill Leland and Sara Lundin are heartbroken. They’ve spent more than two years remodeling their home near Cary, and now it’s on the market. A great career opportunity for Lundin is taking the couple to New Jersey.
But York Simpson Underwood REALTOR Jodi Bakst, of Chapel Hill, is thrilled. She calls her new listing A Tuscan Retreat. It’s one of the best examples she’s seen lately of homes designed and built to entertain. In addition to a veranda that spans the entire back of the home, it also features an expanded kitchen with granite countertops, a spiral staircase, stacked stone fireplace and a wall of windows facing an outdoor pool and fountain.
These features are part of the reason Leland and Lundin are sad about leaving. After all, they’ve had a lot of fun here.
Indeed, the desire to entertain at home has grown over the years, according to Bakst. And the features homeowners look for when choosing a home to accommodate gatherings are as varied as the events themselves.
“A lot of people like big open spaces,” says Bakst. “But it really just depends on what kind of entertaining people like to do. This house has a beautiful blending of the interior of the house working with the exterior because the whole back side of the house is windows or sliding doors opening to a veranda or a deck and then a beautiful pool.
“Other people like basements and will add beautiful bars with wine cellars, like a “Cheers” kind of entertaining where you can have a bar and a pool table,” she continues, referring to the popular 80s sitcom.
Builders are noticing an increase in customers wanting to design homes for entertaining. After 19 years in the industry, Rex Bost, president of Bost Custom Homes in Cary, says people don’t just look at homes anymore for square footage, but also consider floorplans and home a home can accommodate their lifestyle.
So what room has changed the most? Bost says it’s the kitchen, which he calls the people magnet. “When you’re at a party, where does everybody seem to gather?” he asks. As a result, he’s designing and building rooms on the first floor to accommodate a lot of people.
“We’re opening the family rooms into the kitchen spaces or building what we call hearth rooms, which are really just an extension of the family room and kitchen.”
Bost says homeowners, especially those building high-end homes, are also interested in installing whole-house audio systems to play music throughout the house, even outside on patios and screened porches. He’s also building spaces for large entertainment systems, including plasma screens, and has seen an increase in outdoor cooking areas as well.
“Another trend that we’re seeing is that people are moving away from doing the dedicated home theater rooms and are actually building recreation room/home theater room combinations,” Bost says. “What people are finding is that it’s a little too much of an event to plan to go watch a movie in a home theater. Most people are finding they want the wet bar, the pool table, the card table and the theater room all rolled into one big room.”
Over the years, Bost has seen many home entertainment features come and go.
“I remember when I first started, whirlpools were a big deal and everybody was putting in these great big hot tubs,” he says. “It didn’t take long to figure out that if it takes you 45 minutes to fill the tub up, it becomes too much of an event and people just don’t use them. So we started putting in smaller garden tubs and hot tubs.”
A GROWING PROJECT
Built in 1994, the home wouldn’t typically be a popular candidate for the major remodel it’s undergone. But, like most projects, one thing led to another. When Leland and Lundin first bought the house four years ago, the couple initially just wanted to add a screened porch to enjoy the outside areas during the summer months.
But the idea of a small porch turned into a veranda that spanned the back of the home. And then it seemed a shame not to open the living room to such a beautiful view, so a wall of windows was added in the family room. Other changes followed, including converting the formal dining room into a media/sitting room.
Leland, 48, and his wife Sara Lundin, 50, frequently entertain, which is one reason they love the house so much. “It’s an empty-nester, entertainment-type house,” says Leland. Often, the couple’s parties are orchestrated on the spur of the moment, with phone calls made late in the week, with anywhere from 40 to possibly 100 people showing up for a Saturday night gathering.
“People sit outside, depending on the time of the year,” Leland says. “We have a little bar down the steps outside the veranda. People also sit in the media center, which has a fireplace. Most people hang around the kitchen. People love the kitchen. You could have 20 people in our kitchen without it being too crowded.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Bost says entertaining at home is becoming the norm, even if the home in question doesn’t come with the price tag of the Tuscan Retreat. “Lots more people are interested in homes geared toward entertaining than in years past,” he says. “And it’s not just about entertaining outside guests, but also for the way families live together today.”
He compares homes today with cars. Twenty years ago, Bost says, people simply wanted a car with a radio and air conditioning. Today, climate control, power windows and power locks are often standard features, even in economy models.
“It’s kind of been that way with homes,” Bost says. “Ten years ago, solid surfacing would be considered an upgrade for a kitchen surface top and now people expect granite, which is a step up from that. It’s like everyone’s expectations have gone up. We’ve become spoiled. Our Parade of Homes event is a huge event here in this marketplace compared to many other places in the country. Everyone goes out, and they see the latest and greatest stuff of the year. Our buying public is just so much more knowledgeable about what’s out there.”
For those of us on a budget, Bakst encourages homeowners to keep in mind entertaining others; it could help the resale value of the home in the future. “A screened porch is a luxury and if you can find one in a good price range, it’s a wonderful thing to have,” says Bakst.
Aside from that, it’s important to remember the true benefit of entertaining, spending time with family and friends.