As the holidays quickly approach, the hubbub of preparation for impending festivities and celebrations goes into high gear. Holiday open houses, hosted in shops, offices and homes, speak to the sense of hospitality that accompanies the season.
I’ve been thinking about this hospitality lately, especially in light of a recent three-day workshop I attended in Chattanooga. Sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders and taught by Steve Hoffacker, the workshop was focused on Aging in Place and how we can make our homes more livable for longer. One of the concepts presented in the workshop was the “visitable” home. Aging in Place design has several design categories, each focusing on different priorities, including Universal Design, Adaptable Design, Accessible Design, Visitable Design, and Livable Design. And while the technical recommendations associated with each category varied, the simplicity of the term “visitable” home particularly appealed to my southern sense of hospitality.
How do we design and renovate homes so that everyone feels welcome, and not just during the holidays? This isn’t always an easy task: technically, the visitable home requires accessible paths into the home, meaning on-grade entrances, ramps or some sort of mechanical lift. Those aren’t always design features that appeal to homeowners and may not be feasible given lot or site constraints. However, we can work to provide clear paths to public spaces, so that our guests who use wheelchairs or walkers can navigate the party with ease, or that there are powder room facilities available to everyone, especially those who might have a hard time navigating the one tucked under the stair. We can think about how someone might approach the front door from the sidewalk and whether there is sufficient lighting for the dark afternoons of the holidays to illuminate a clear path. In some ways I think about these considerations not as obstacles, but just an expression of good manners. Hospitality is important.
What does the word “open house” mean to you? How can we help you design your renovation or new home so that it supports the hospitality you want to extend?