3 basic tips for successful hosting

Hospitality doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but a little thoughtfulness can make it easier to share your home and to create a place where friends feel welcome and laughter is encouraged.

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Andrea Schumacher Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Hospitality does not have to mean fanciness. It’s not about showing off or impressing people; it’s about sharing your home.

Growing up, my family struggled a lot financially. My mother cooked dinner on a hot plate. But even without things, she created a warm and loving home. She’s a naturally hospitable person.

Because of her example and my early experiences, my love for design comes not only from an appreciation of beautiful things, but from a desire to help others create and nurture the things that “home” signify to me: safety, love and support.

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Katerina Tana Design, original photo on Houzz

Great design can shift not only the way you feel in your home, but also how others feel when you welcome them inside. One way to become more hospitable is to set up your home in a manner that meets both your functional and emotional needs. When you love your home, you naturally want to share it with others.

Don’t have time to completely overhaul your life, and really just want some tips on being a great host right now? That’s fine. Make sure your guests’ basic needs are met:

1. Refreshments
2. A place where they can sit
3. A bathroom

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Alice Lane Home Collection, original photo on Houzz

Refreshments

No one should ever have to ask for a glass of water. You should either offer it or, even better, have it out and available. If guests are over, put out a pretty pitcher of water and some glasses. Want some fancy-looking but relatively cheap carafes? Repurpose Lorina Lemonade bottles by drinking the contents and scrubbing off the labels.

A bar cart is a great thing to have when entertaining guests. Mine is stocked with wine and soft drinks, as well as a bowl of snacks. You never know when someone will want a little nibble of chocolate (or a protein bar — I’ve got both on hand), and by encouraging guests to help themselves, you make them more comfortable. No one feels relaxed if they’re worried about bugging the host with too many questions.

By making snacks and drinks readily available, you’re also freeing yourself to enjoy your friends instead of being busy waiting on them. They came over because they want to spend time with you, not because they want you to be at their beck and call.

Extra credit: Send your guests home with a goodie bag of treats or leftovers from their visit. It’s a little gesture that goes a long way.

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The Happy Home Project, original photo on Houzz

A Place Where Guests Can Sit (and Put Coats and Bags)

Just as dinner with friends doesn’t have to be a big production to be particularly welcoming — a $20 meal of soup and cornbread can feed your 15 closest friends and fill your home with warmth and joy — your house doesn’t have to be white-glove perfect to be guest-ready.

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be tidy and relatively clean. But if you’re always worried about making your house perfect before anyone sees it, chances are you’re not having people over very much. And when you do, you may be stressed out about all the little imperfections that no one else notices anyway. Here’s the thing about perfection: It doesn’t actually make people feel that comfortable.

I’ve been in beautiful houses that have all the warmth of a mausoleum. People will feel more comfortable if they know it’s OK to toss their bag near the door or hang their sweater on the back of a chair. If your guests are afraid to touch anything, they can’t really relax and enjoy your company.

And if you’re always waiting for your house to be perfect before anyone comes over, you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to fill your home with a lot of laughter and fun.

I have two clients who now seem to have people over all the time. It’s great to see how open they are to sharing their homes and, in turn, how many cherished people they have in their lives.

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Moment design + productions, llc, original photo on Houzz

A Bathroom

Yes, 99.9 percent of you have bathrooms. But no one wants to feel like it’s required to raise a hand and ask permission to go. This rule is about anticipating your guests’ needs and making sure they’re met. “Welcome! Throw your coat wherever you like, grab a drink from the cart, and the restroom’s just down the hall on the left.” See how easy that is? But the gesture will immediately make your guests feel more at home.

Inside the bathroom you can make people feel even more welcome by having extra toilet paper and fresh guest towels on hand, and lovely soap and lotion on the counter.

Extra credit: Take a cue from restaurants and provide toothpicks and a bowl of mints.

When it comes down to it, hospitality is one of those intangibles that make the difference between a house and a home. And while I love great design for itself, it’s nurturing those intangibles that makes me love my work.

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