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The Ultimate Entertaining Home

What would Food & Wine's dream house look like? It would need to have a truly amazing kitchen, of course. And it would have to be ideal for entertaining—everything from dinner with the neighbors to cocktail parties for 100. The Ultimate Entertaining Home, envisioned by F&W in partnership with Kohler, makes that fantasy a reality. We asked architect Stephen Fuller and Brian Gluckstein of Gluckstein Design to create our dream house in Kohler, Wisconsin. Then we invited three pros from the Chicago area—chef Shawn McClain of Spring and Green Zebra, Master Sommelier Alpana Singh of Everest and event planner Kim Merlin of Ex Floreus—to put the house through its paces, testing the party readiness of the great room, kitchen, porch, wine cellar and media room. Entertaining Central

Because it connects to nearly all the rooms on the first floor—the foyer, the kitchen, the master bedroom, as well as the back porch—the great room is an entertaining hub. "It's perfectly put together," Kim Merlin says of the room, which is filled with Baker furniture: two "Moderne" sofas flanking a Japanese black-lacquered cocktail table; two "Salon Chairs" by Bill Sofield, inspired by 1920s and '30s French designs; and an upholstered maple bench. The muted reds and browns in the Tabriz carpet from Silk Road Oriental Rugs hides dirt well in this high traffic area—plus, the colors echo the earth tones in the furniture and on the walls. The paint is by Sherwin-Williams: "Roycroft Suede" with a satin finish on the walls and an eggshell finish on both the trim and the double French doors leading to the back porch and outdoor kitchen.

Cooking with Friends

Because party guests always hang out in the kitchen, this one is built to keep them comfortable—and encourage them to help out. The symmetry of the space makes it easy for multiple cooks to work at the same time. On each side of the sink is a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawer, so two people can load the machines simultaneously. Two Sub-Zero refrigerators flank the counter; Shawn McClain suggests storing different types of ingredients in each—the fridge near the 48-inch Wolf stove could hold everyday items, while the one near the pastry table could hold specialty and pastry-related ingredients. The cooks can use the four Wolf ovens at the same time—two in the stove and two in the wall, including one that's a combination microwave-convection. A Wolf warming drawer under the wall ovens keeps finished dishes hot without drying them out. There's even a fifth oven, a Miele steam oven—great for baking bread and low-fat cooking—and a Miele plate warmer.

The Nook and the Cook

The kitchen's eat-in area is surprisingly elegant, thanks in part to a Dapha settee that looks like a built-in banquette. Add the three sable-colored upholstered dining chairs by Thomas Pheasant for Baker, and there's enough seating for at least five. The McGuire chestnut dining table has a glass top, which makes it easy to clean. "You could use the table as extra prep space or as a buffet station for a party," McClain says. Small details help this area blend in with the rest of the kitchen. Rings on the back of the dining chairs echo the drawer pulls on the cabinets; the bookcase, with a sliding frosted-glass panel that hides clutter, matches the cabinets as well. On the opposite wall, a built-in ladder helps put the top shelves of a dish cabinet within arm's reach.

The Sociable Cellar

The wine cellar is set up not just for storing wine, but for drinking it as well. The main room has wine racks and wine refrigerators, while a separate tasting room includes a dining table. In the anteroom between the two spaces is a sink with two dishwasher drawers, which are perfect for rinsing glasses and decanters after a tasting party. A 15-inch electric cooktop, a microwave and an undercounter refrigerator in a side nook of the anteroom are useful for any last-minute prep or cooking.

Inner Wine Sanctum

Equipped with wood shelves and a pair of leather chairs from Baker, the cellar feels like a library—but one full of bottles instead of books. There are three different types of storage in the room. Alpana Singh recommends using the four 6-foot-8-inch Sub-Zero wine refrigerators—two pairs sit on opposite sides of the room—for keeping special bottles at the optimal temperature for aging. Rows of Canac oak cubbies hold individual bottles ready to drink within a year. Shelves below the cubbies are large enough to hold cases.

"The earth tones evoke the spirit of nature," Singh says of the reclaimed-oak tiles on the floor, which echo the wooden cabinets and also subtly reference wine barrels. Oak is also used for the cabinets in the anteroom just outside the cellar. The "Constellation" mirror from Baker is a focal point; the copper sink and faucet from Ann Sacks rest on a travertine countertop above two custom-paneled Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers.

Screenings in the Cellar

The tasting room near the cellar is a great place to throw an intimate dinner party. For a unified look, the two rooms use "Camelback" paint from Sherwin-Williams and reclaimed-oak floor tiles from Vitruvius. In the tasting room, a bronze chandelier by Jacques Garcia for Baker hangs above a round chestnut Regency-style table surrounded by leather-upholstered armless dining chairs with comfortably curved backs, all from Baker's Milling Road collection.

In the media room down the hall, oversize suede loungers by Coach for Baker sit two steps above a pair of six-foot-long custom sofas, so everyone in the room has a clear view of the TV screen above the fireplace. A wet bar, with a sink and a pair of refrigerated drawers, is hidden behind doors on built-in bookcases.

The Outdoor Advantage

Connected by French doors to the kitchen and the great room, the back porch and flagstone patio are ideal for parties. A few steps down from the "Portico" teak dining table and chairs by Orlando Diaz-Azcuy for McGuire is an outdoor kitchen: a Wolf 36-inch gas grill with a side burner, a Sub-Zero undercounter refrigerator that can hold food that's ready for the grill and a 20-inch-square Kohler sink for cleaning up. On cool nights, guests can linger on teak couches and chairs, which match the dining set in front of the gas-powered outdoor brick fireplace. Another door connects the porch to the master bedroom, making the porch a lovely place to enjoy a private breakfast too.

Published March 2005
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