Traditional Rooms for Alaska Homes?

Some other rooms to consider when you are visualizing your dream home with a chef's kitchen, arctic entry and that 3-car garage. Some of these rooms are vestiges from another time and others are simply great ideas not often found anymore. Are they useful for Alaska houses? Let's review them.

Note: these aren't dictionary definitions. 

Keeping Room

Quite popular on real estate sites these days. Today it is a small room off of a modern kitchen, with a fireplace and some seating or a day bed and likely a television. Traditionally, it was close to the kitchen which housed a large fireplace or woodstove and a good place to sleep, knit, converse, etc. (Translation- it was warm). 

Butler's Pantry

Originally, a butler's pantry was just that- a storage space and prep area occupied by a butler in an era when larger houses required dedicated staff. Typically located between a working kitchen and the formal dining room. Today, it's a good place for a bar area for entertaining, pre-wash for dishes, storage for china. They don't have to be big to be functional, but work best when you can walk through them. These can also be combined with a food storage pantry. 

Potting and Cutting Room

An indoor room for potting plants, and cutting flowers typically adjacent to a cutting or herb garden. As the garden would typically be on an East or South side of a home, these spaces often had lots of windows and light. As a defined space these really didn't exist except in the most grandiose homes. In colonial times they might have started as a covered porch and been enclosed over time. Featuring rough and tumble counters and flooring they are great spaces to combine with a mud room, family entry or porch addition. If facing the correct direction they make great places for starting your Alaska garden while waiting for spring. 


Typically off of the front stair hall and entry foyer, these were used to receive guests in a formal atmosphere. Later this was the living room with a nice couch you weren't allowed to jump on as a kid. A good place for other things kids shouldn't be jumping on, like pianos. 

Sleeping Porch

Imagine living without air conditioning. Now imagine doing it somewhere other than Alaska. For those of us who have lived outside, sleeping in cool weather as we do was a luxury before the advent of air conditioning. When bedrooms were typically on a second floor, it was hot for months on end. Sleeping porches were typically screened and roofed, off a second floor bedroom or hallway. In Alaska these are great with a small woodstove for enjoying a spring or fall sunset. Face them North or West. Do not forget the insect screening!


Not technically a room unless you are a pigeon or dove. However, these also used to refer to attic spaces where birds were kept for food and fertilizer. French ones were known as pigeonniers. My dogs would love this room. We sometimes see vestiges of these in ornamental trim work high up in the gables of roofs on historic homes. Outside of Alaska these are where the bats like to live. 


Not technically a room either, though when sized appropriately these could be. The Shaker barn in New Lebanon, NY had a cupola the size of a two-story cottage according to illustrious artist, Eric Sloane. If you've ever sat in a caboose's cupola you can understand the appeal of being able to occupy them. I like to put lights in them and typically use them to break up a large roof line. A good rule of thumb to size a cupola is for every 1 foot of roofline the cupola should be not less than same width in inches. I typically like a ratio of 1.25 to 1.5. 


Not a room, but a whole structure, typically out in the landscape. These where often whimsical and expensive structures designed for beauty and amusement rather than a specific usage. In Alaska we would call them poolhouses. 

Summer kitchen

If you've ever read books about colonial times you know the meal prep literally took all day, every day (try the descriptions of food in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy). Now imagine cooking over a large walk-in fireplace radiating heat when it's a 90 degree summer day. We don't have that weather here in Alaska, but most of the East coast does in the summer, making kitchens almost unbearably hot, which also meant the rest of the house too. A summer kitchen was a second kitchen detached from the main house and kept the heat of the kitchen from roasting a house's inhabitants on summer days. Useful in Alaska? It's more likely our summer kitchen is a grille, a smoker or outdoor pizza oven that are located outside due to smoke, smell and cleanliness rather than heat. 


Literally a small alcove or nook next to a fireplace. A good place to stay warm and read a book. 

Dressing room

Not the bedroom, bathroom or your walk-in closet. Once used when getting dressed required help from assistants- think lords and ladies. Now a good place for a built-in dresser, a chair to sit while putting on shoes or a makeup table and mirror.  I like to utilize a hallway that would otherwise be underutilized circulation space. A good idea when a couple's works schedules don't always align or if you have a walk-in closet in name only. 


Self-evident it seems, but bookshelves aren't necessarily just a luxury item in a room you will never use. Libraries are magical places for kids- think Harry Potter's first visit to the bookstore on Diagon Alley. I like the texture that books as objects provide- when they are placed on a shelf they can be artful and playful. I don't ascribe to the perfect look of only leather bound volumes in neat orderly rows- books should be chaotic, loved and used. Amazon and used bookstores make having a room full of books more accessible than at any other time in history, plus a lone kindle on a shelf is pretty uninspiring.  I like carving bookshelves into hallways, corners, stairways or circulation spaces rather than designating one room for their sole purpose. Can be combined nicely with an Inglenook (see above).

Wrapping Room

My first project out of Architecture school had a wrapping room- literally for the wrapping of gifts. With enough space for nearly 100 rolls of wrapping paper, ribbon, string and a large table it served it's purpose well. Anyone that needs a dedicated room for the wrapping of gifts is exceptionally generous and is a good person to have in your life. These rooms are now quite popular according to the Wall Street Journal. In 15 years of Architecture practice, I've only ever done one. Combined with a crafting or sewing functions however, this could prove a useful room for long Alaska winters.