My husband and I love hosting gatherings in our home. We're always up for throwing a Christmas party, putting together a wine and cheese night for church, or having a cookout with friends. Hospitality and fostering community are really important to us, and having a house that is equipped and ready for action is a huge part of that. I've thought a lot about what it looks like to create an environment that feels welcoming to folks in both my home and my e-design clients' spaces, and since we're entering a season where entertaining is a big focus, I wanted to pass along a little bit of what I've learned that works well in hopes that it will spur you on to create a cozy and welcoming home for your guests as well. So if you've ever felt like you're at a little bit of a loss as to how you go about doing that or you're a seasoned hostess looking for some new tips, this post is for you, my friend!
Allow me to let you in on a little secret - creating a cozy, inviting space isn't about being overly fancy, having a large house, or spending a lot of money. It's more about your mindset, having some systems in place, and being practical. If you put all of those things together, you'll be in good shape for gatherings large and small.
It really comes down to one simple formula:
Atmosphere + Invitation = A Cozy Home For Hospitality
Atmosphere is about creating the right environment to fit the occasion. Invitation is the idea of helping folks feel at home and comfortable even if they're stepping foot in your home for the first time.
Keep that formula in mind as we walk through some of the practical ways to put together a home that's made for hosting.
Declutter, then decorate
Hosting a gathering is a great excuse to decorate (or finally finish off!) that space you keep meaning to get to in your home. Before you do that though, I highly recommend decluttering and clearing out those pieces that no longer make you happy or don't work well for your space. Starting with a clean slate and a good foundation are the keys to success. This is true whether you're decorating seasonally, specifically for a party, or for the way you live day-to-day.
Then, set a budget for yourself and get that room ready to go! Whether it's a new set of dining chairs, a few throw pillows, a bar cart, or some accessories for your bookshelves, decorate with the vision of creating a cozy home that is welcoming and inviting to others. Make a plan and get to work! Having the deadline of a gathering of people in your home might be just the motivation you need to complete that project.
Set the Tone
Think about how you want your guests to feel when they walk into your home. What's appropriate for the occasion? Are you hosting a swanky cocktail party, an intimate gathering for a few friends, or an epic dance party?
The key elements to keep in mind to create an amazing first impression have to do with your senses: what you see, hear, and smell. So think about things like lighting, music, and scent - the combination of those has a powerful effect on the mood of the event, which truly begins with the opening of your front door!
For example, if you're throwing a festive Christmas party, have your playlist going before the first guest's arrival, light a Frasier fir candle (that one is my absolute favorite!), and put a pretty wreath on the front door.
If it's something less formal like having a few friends over for dinner, maybe it's more about having some relaxing music going in the background and maybe even dimming the lights a little bit.
Think about flow
No matter if you live in a sizable house in the suburbs or a petite one-bedroom apartment in the city, you have to think about flow. How are folks going to move around a room and/or into an adjacent one? The smoother the flow, the more comfortable your guests will be. This may mean moving furniture around if you're anticipating a crowd, being strategic about food or drink placement, or creating "zones" for certain activities.
Remember that epic dance party I mentioned above? If the plan is for it to happen in the living room, it'll probably be a whole lot easier to get people out on the floor if you move your coffee table and chairs out of the way in advance. People will naturally gravitate toward that area when the time comes to break. it. down. :)
On the other side of the spectrum, if "swanky cocktail party" is the name of the game, having several gathering spots and comfortable seating that's set up for conversation will be important. Also, think about the places that typically get crowded, like the bar/drink area, and ensure there's plenty of room to mill about and encourage folks to shift to another spot once they have a drink in hand.
Encourage a "help yourself" attitude
This is something I learned from my parents, who are amazing hosts and have a way of making people feel at home right from the start. If you invite folks to take initiative to do a few things on their own without having to ask how or where, like grabbing a glass from a cupboard for water or hanging their coat on a rack by the door, not only will they feel like they're almost like family, but you as the host will be more free to enjoy your guests. Make it easy for them to embrace that "self service" attitude by pointing out where the water glasses live and freeing up some hooks on your coat rack.
Of course, if a person is a guest for the first time in your home, it's a nice gesture to serve them initially, but communicate to them to let that they are welcome (and encouraged!) to help themselves after that!
Simplicity often wins the day
When in doubt, simple is usually best. After all, you threw a party or planned a gathering so you could have a great time with the people you invited, right? Sticking with low maintenance food, easy-to-make drinks, and uncomplicated decor is probably going to keep you more even-keeled and increase your overall enjoyment. There are certainly times to go all out (and for some folks, that's the only way to do it!), but I'd say that in general, it's more about getting the little things right and spending time with your guests. Life is all about relationships, and creating a home and gathering that's conducive to building them goes a long way!
Those are my tips for y'all today! How do YOU create a cozy home that's made for hospitality?
P.S. Hosting overnight guests in the near future? I've got a post about that too! Head on over here to see if your guest bedroom is in tip top shape!
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