I once attended a house party that was so fun, so rocking, so friendly that it was a full 30 minutes before I realized I was at the wrong wedding reception. Truth.
Now, this was before phone GPS and—in my defense—it was a very crowded and unfamiliar neighborhood. I was on the right street, just in the wrong house…which I realized when I finally got around to congratulating the bride. We toasted to her happiness and I dashed off to the correct shindig. Good times.
And that’s the kind of party we should all aspire to host, isn’t it? You know what I mean: the vibe, the ambience, the front-door mood that calls out to every guest, “Come on in and stay awhile.”
So how do you achieve that?
I think it starts at your well-lit entrance. Your porch should have a welcoming glow—not searchlight bright, not horror-film dim. Just a nice, pleasant glow…like the inside of a carved pumpkin. That way, when you open the door to your guests you’ll know exactly who’s standing there and—bonus!—they’ll know they’re at the right house.
After that, it’s all about comfort and pleasure. Have a designated place for coats and handbags. Clear some counter space for gifts of wine, desserts or side dishes. Introduce the latest arrival to the earliest, then listen for the next doorbell.
Music should be just loud enough to be recognizable, but not too loud for conversation. Interior lighting should be soft and—hear me on this—NOT overhead. NOT glaring. NOT fluorescent. In fact, get that fireplace going and light every candle in your house…that’s beautifully intimate.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, resist the urge to get everybody seated immediately. Let them chat as guests trickle in. Freshen cocktails. Clear appetizers. Then, when it feels natural, invite them to the beautifully-dressed table—where the evening will undoubtedly linger and end.
Before long, you’ll get really good at these gatherings. People will speak fondly of that cocktail hour, that Super Bowl party, that ladies tea you hosted. They may not even mention the food, but they’ll remember how welcome you made them feel.
I remember precisely when I became a yard scavenger.
I’d made a risky move from a large Midwest town to an artsy mid-South neighborhood just in time to roll my eyes at residents planting Fall pansies. (Newsflash: They bloom through the winter here!) And then, suddenly—like overnight—nearly all the mailboxes on my street were covered in fresh evergreen garland and bows.
But not mine. My mailbox was naked and cold and definitely the odd man out.
I put my journalism degree to work and discovered a local private school held an annual Christmas fundraiser by selling mailbox garlands. These garlands were stunning. They were lush. And they were waaaaaaay out of my price range.
So I gathered some pine boughs and holly from my yard, pulled some festive ribbon from my stash, and created my own, free mailbox garland. It was not an unmitigated success.
I wish I’d taken pictures of it, because you’d probably shake your head in pity. Pieces started falling out the first week. I think the ribbon came untied in a high wind. But I was not deterred! And I got better at it each Christmas.
After that scavenging revelation, I started noticing the pinecones scattered over the lawn and collected baskets of them before the mowers blew through. I found forsythia along a fence line and clipped some branches for a spring vase. I came upon a rogue tulip along the canal. Volunteer daffodils beside a storage shed. Tiny crocus near my back steps.
And I officially became a scavenger-forager.
Before long, I was asking friends if I could cut a few wayward branches from their magnolias and euonymus. In exchange, I could provide pine and holly. I grew some roses and traded those for hydrangea blooms. I became unafraid to ask for blooms because most gardeners simply loved to share.
So I encourage you to start really investigating your yard. Explore your friends’ yards. Walk slowly along the edges in all seasons. Look up into the trees. Chances are you’ll find some wild beauty out there just waiting to come inside and adorn your home.
Christmas has officially “left the building” and, boy, does my house look…blah.
This happens every year, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the end result. But every January when the last container gets hauled up to the attic, I look around and think, ‘this is boring.’
Now, keep in mind that my level of “boring” may not be yours. I have vintage photos resting on bookshelves and hanging on walls, dried hydrangeas in vases and bowls, ceramic/pewter/stone birds on tables and windowsills, and yet…boring.
I think the mind game involves the muted colors of winter design. Once the bold Christmas hues of rich reds and green plaid and metallic golds are stored away, I’m left with wood and cream and perhaps a spot of blue. *yawn*
But then I look outside, and guess what? Winter is rife with leafless wood-toned branches, a sprinkling of evergreens, spots of tan hydrangea blooms. And that bland landscape makes it easier for me to delight in spotting a shockingly red cardinal, an orange holly berry, the purple-white blooms of a winter hellebore.
So, I’ll take it a little easier on the blah of winter interior. It’s rather peaceful, now that I’m settling into it. And when spring erupts in late-February, and visions of Easter dance across my mind, I’ll delight in those pastels…maybe bring some inside. And the interior landscape will change anew.
A Michigan farm girl transplanted to the South offering hospitality hacks.