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Do you have a 'keeping room'? Is it allowed?

Have you heard the term “keeping room”? If you checked out our latest Home of the Week on BuffaloNews.com, you saw one. There is a keeping room in the East Aurora home of Arno and Susan Tapani. Photos of the interior and exterior of their house appear on our weekly online feature.

We won’t mind if you call it a sitting area or even a small family room. But this extension of the kitchen has an interesting history. I did some research and found out that keeping rooms date back to the days of cooking on the hearth. The fire was also the primary source of heat in the home. People gathered around it to keep warm.

Realtor.com, which noted that keeping rooms in America can be traced back to Colonial times, wrote this: “Since this was the warmest part of the house, family members were drawn to the kitchen; but to avoid being underfoot and annoying the chef, they gathered in the next closest area: the keeping room. It was typically furnished with a comfortable couch, where they could lounge and accomplish small tasks such as sewing or writing letters.”

Writing letters, mind you. Not texting.

Patricia Bailey of Bailey & Harris Architects offered her modern-day take on the keeping room. She worked with the Tapanis on a major renovation of their home soon after they purchased it in 2001.

“My translation is that it is still a warm and cozy place that invites people into the kitchen to keep the cook company. It doesn’t have to be a big space - such as a family room that opens to the kitchen. It can be a couple chairs and a table, a little nook, a banquette, a soft upholstered spot where someone can sit when the cook is slicing and dicing on the kitchen counter,” she said.

Soft seating is key. You can incorporate comfortable features without necessarily having it be a whole room, she said.

When Bailey works on an addition or renovation for clients, she said she tries to carve out a keeping room - or a smaller “keeping space.”

It’s practical in today’s homes - whether it’s for family members who come together when dinner is being prepared or for seniors who want to be in the kitchen but don’t want to sit on a stool at the counter, Bailey said.

Susan Tapani said she grew up in a home in Amherst that had a keeping room – but they didn’t know what a keeping room was back then. It had a little kitchen table but also a couple upholstered chairs.

“We hung out there. I have great memories and wanted something similar in our home,” she said.

At the Tapanis’ home in East Aurora, the keeping room is an extension of the kitchen with two sofas, an upholstered chair and a little corner nook where they can eat. Their three daughters are now ages 16 to 21, but their childhood artwork hangs on two walls.

“It’s a casual place – a very personal, warm and inviting space,” Tapani said.

And it is exactly where she was sitting for our phone chat Wednesday night, while husband Arno was nearby loading the dishwasher.

Home of the Week: From 'summer house' to their house

Email: smartin@buffnews.com

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