Entertaining: Creating a Serene (& Suberb!) Experience for Overnight Guests...

We often identify entertaining with raucous parties and festive dinners. But holidays are prime time for opening our front doors and guest bedrooms to friends and family visiting from out of town. Entertaining overnight is a far more complex endeavour than greeting them for a meal then ushering them out the door. While it might seem simple (offer a fresh bed & say goodnight) the reality is that having someone under the same roof poses opportunities to demonstrate the true depth of your hosting skills (and patience). 

Before we dig in to what to do and what you need, let's consider the facts. You are offering up space in your private home to a loved one of friend. In doing so, we are inviting them into a bit of our private lives just as they are giving us a glimpse of theirs. The details will vary based upon the closeness of the relationship. Little sister in from college? A much more intimate affair than new in-laws visiting you for the first time. Consider the situation and the necessary formality and plan ahead. 

Now... let's dive in an prepare for an exceptional experience regardless of the guest. 

DEDICATE A SPACE TO CALL THEIR OWN

Ideally, a separate bed & bath are available for guests. No one wants awkward conversation with their father-in-law before that morning espresso. And it's not just about you. Your guest (or guests) will have their own rituals, their own set of needs and expectations. Get your guest area in shape prior to arrival and remove all clutter & storage from the space. A fresh coat of paint, updated lighting (or at least fresh bulbs where needed!) and a lovely rug all help to establish an area as a designated space for visitors. Think "hotel suite chic" and you get the idea. There's no shame in rolling out the red (or shaggy ivory!) carpet for those we care about. 

INVEST IN CRISP WHITES

Honestly, nothing beats a freshly laundered set of high quality sheets. I've tried many brands, I personally prefer percale most of the year and sateen in only the coolest of months. You'll find that most people prefer the feel of percale, so I suggest you invest in a high quality set of classic whites. A mattress pad is crucial or protecting your bed.  And pillows, dear pillows. Please invest in high quality and offer at least two per guest, preferably of different densities. I love them feather filled and almost flat. My husband loves to layer two fluffy pillows under his head. To each his own, right? While you don't have to recreate the Westin Dream Bed, at least offer sensational sheets. They will definitely appreciate it. 


CREATE BEDSIDE NIRVANA

An accommodating table, a conveniently placed lamp and a convenient plug for recharging devices. These are essentials for hosting anyone. Those going the extra mile might wish to offer a candle, a water carafe and a best seller Tip: if your tables have wood tops you should consider having a local glass shop create a custom cut piece to place on top. No one - neither host nor guest - likes a water ring to deal with after the fact. 


STORAGE IS KEY

Never underestimate the small touches like a luggage rack (hello, bonus points!), an empty set of hangers (praise Jesus) and a small dish for personal effects such as jewelry & keys. It's the little things in life, and these small details will make anyone's visit that much more pleasurable. 

BATHING BEAUTIES

It goes without saying that the bath should be sparkling clean. Polish the hardware, Windex the mirrors and make sure the tile is sparkling. Even the most spartan of spaces can look glamorous when cleaned to perfection. Beyond that I love offering a fluffy stack of towels (white is always right, in my opinion, for keeping the hotel chic vibe front and center), luxe soaps and good lighting. Cleanliness in this case really is king, so don't hold back when the urge to scrub overcomes you. 


LUXE LITTLE TOUCHES

Offer guests your wifi password and make their little sanctuary a place they love spending time. A faux fur throw, a seat by the window and a stack of magazines might be all you need to take a spare room from dull to dazzling. If you can, make their stay an exceptional one. You'll feel great, they'll feel loved and everyone wins. 

PRIVACY IS KEY

This is the most challenging amenity to offer, isn't it? Regardless of how grand your home, it's a simple fact that you and your guests are sharing the same roof for a night or two. Brace yourself for the inevitable! By preparing the guest areas with all they need, you are less likely to be bumping into one another at the bathroom sink at midnight. But be forthcoming about any house rules or scheduling issues and try to be accommodating of theirs. If you're a night owl and they rise before dawn, it's best to set expectations early and show them how the coffee maker works so you can sleep in. Communication (and a little flexibility) will be key. The golden rule of gracious hosting: once they are in bed or in the bath, respect their privacy and let them have their space. Tip: coffee accoutrements in their bedroom or nearby are always a very nice touch! 

Take care of things ahead of the stay and ensure you have time to enjoy your guests. Relax. Host with enthusiasm and open arms. Delight in spending up-close time with those who have traveled to see you. Enjoy them. Celebrate them. Welcome them. It will show. 

Happy hosting, friends!
xoxo

{images via 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6}

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Entertaining: Clever Uses for The Impossibly Versatile Bar Cart...

cart_one.jpg

Even those of us not sipping cocktails on the regular can see the myriad virtues of the movable feast that is the bar cart. For some it's about moving it front and center for a festive soiree. For others it's a sophisticated spot to decant wine. Still others might find this do-anything, be-anything, go-anywhere piece of furniture to be the perfect bedside table. 

 

It does not get more versatile than sleek shelves on a
chic rolling cart. Cocktail enthusiasts may love the intended
purpose, but these multi-tasking beauties can live in
any room of the house. Think: posh towel & toiletry stand or a glam
way to store handbags. Yes, handbags. Perhaps a stunning office supply
area or fab bedside table? The right cart does it all. The choice... is up to you.

 

I'm showing you my favorites in every conceivable style. Whether you're classic or avant garde, there's a cart here for you. Here's what to consider when purchasing: 

  1. Purpose: what's your goal? Drink serving station or mobile bookcase? As in most things, go in knowing your desired outcome. 
  2. Style: with options in every size and shape, determine your desired look and hunt for pieces that pull that look together or make an otherwise "done" space really sing. 
  3. Size: it matters. And in this case it matters a lot. Bar carts are opportunities to fill that tiny niche in your hall or nestle in the corner of your bath. Know the exact scale you need. 
  4. Function: If you're investing in this chic piece as a destination for those bath towels, measure them and make certain they'll fit. Likewise, if you intend to load it up with bottles of bubbly, consider how the construction and design support those goals. 

Let's face it... what you also want from this is wow factor. This is a FUN purchase! Invest in a bar cart that makes you excited every time you see it. You'll be using this and seeing it all the time, so seek out one that you adore. This single piece of furniture will garner more compliments and be put to great use. This is one home accent piece that pays you back tenfold in compliments and years of use. Select one you absolutely love. Ready to jump in? Me too! Let's find your perfect piece...

 

SUPER-VERSATILE BRASS BEAUTIES

 

I'm a classicist at heart, so a brass rectangular cart will always win me over. I love the idea of using these as a super chic way to store towels & pretty toiletries in a master bath. Love to entertain? Push this baby out to the party area and serve up cocktails until the sun rises again. 

PAIR THESE WITH...

 
 

ROUNDED BEAUTIES

Those smoothed out edges are ideal for niches, tight corners or high traffic areas. Design tip: don't be afraid to use these as unexpected (yet wildly useful) bedside tables for guests. The glass tops make them ideal for resting water glasses. 

TOP THEM OFF WITH

 
 

I love the idea of having a dramatic piece - perhaps the dramatic chrome modern cart or that bold brass circular version - to stir up curiosity and intrigue at your next fete. 

TOP THESE STYLE MAKERS OFF WITH

 
 

COOL CARTS FOR OENOPHILES

ACCOUTREMENTS FOR WINE LOVERS


Which cart would you choose and how would you utilize it? I love seeing new, innovative purposes for classic pieces. Although designed to move the party about your home, I really, really love the idea of not using them for cocktails at all. Nightstands, toiletries & glamorous towel racks are perfect uses for these expertly crafted pieces. How will you use yours? 

{images via 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7}

Entertaining: Set the Table, Set the Tone for Successful Al Fresco Dining...

Can I tell you a secret? It is H-O-T here. I mean hot. Majorly hot. But after being trapped in side for a severe winter and a bizarrely wet (read: flash-flood emergency situation) spring we simply don't want to stare at the inside of our homes any more. As long as there's a patio, iced tea and a tiny speck of shade (hello, umbrella!) we are headed outside - especially for meals. 

The key to making this work is making the entire area around you look enchanting. It needn't be much in terms of food (simple is often the best approach) but it pays to have an inviting tablescape and a few accessories around to lure your guests outdoors. And don't worry... I have a sparkling lemonade recipe to help you with even the most jaded (and overheated) guest

SET THE TABLE, SET THE TONE

Bead-Rimmed Placemats & Napkin Rings // Byzantine Dinnerware // Hemstitch Linen Napkins // Valencia Etched Goblets // Cashmere Throw // Malibu Medallion Pillow //  Nickel Hurricane // Sonos WiFi // Frog Rain Drum Table

PRO TIPS FOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING

  1. Set the mood: background music is key. Keep it subtle and soft (think Buddha Bar or Hotel Costes style tracks (type Stéphane Pompougnac into Pandora and let the app do the rest of the work). We love our bluetooth Sonos sound system for music anywhere we want. 
  2. Keep it simple: a few great guests, a simple grilled menu, a signature drink. You're done. Don't overcomplicate with fussy menu items and complex presentation. A grilled vegetable, a grilled meat and a fresh salad - you're done. 
  3. Doll the place up: bring out a few toss pillows, sweep off the patio, windex the windows, rinse off the patio furniture and ready the place for guests - even if you're the only one enjoying the space. You deserve it! 
  4. Keep bugs at bay: Bay leaves will repel ants. Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint are all herbs and aromas that mosquitos will loathe. Mix up this concoction and don't be shy about spraying it around your perimeter. 
  5. Safety first: consider shatter-proof glassware and Melamine dishes for those al fresco meals. Why let one mishap ruin a night or cause you to need to drain the pool to fish out the glass?  
  6. Be prepared: have as much done ahead of time as possible to allow you to be a guest at your own fete - even if the guest list is limited to two. It's never fun when one person is slaving over a meal while others patiently (or impatiently) waits outside for them to join. 
  7. Mix it up: Consider a bar cart with an easy recipe printed up and a DIY approach to a simple cocktail. Empower your guests to serve themselves a drink to keep the hydration (and the conversation) flowing. 
  8. Light it up: the sun will eventually set. When it does, be prepared with lanterns and string lights. The change of scenery will enhance the mood and keep the fun going. 

Now... about that lemonade. Recipe here (and it's easy to sub stevia or xylitol for sugar to achieve that signature southern sweetness everyone loves). 

Happy al fresco dining, everyone! 

Entertaining: Chalking It Up to Experience...

While some of us keep expecting the global love affair with chalk to fade away (no pun intended), love of this forgiving medium only seems to be growing stronger. Call it the cafe effect if you will, but hostesses everywhere are having fun discovering myriad uses (and surfaces) for those useful custom identifiers and personalized messages. Put frankly, guests love seeing their name on pretty handwritten cards and savvy entertainers love the flexibility of the last minute menu changes this style of display affords. 

My secret weapon? Chalk Ink markers with what they call a chisel tip. Being a classic girl, I adore the white and metallic gold & silver versions. But don't limit yourself to my preferences. These handy tools come in every color from neon orange to pastel pink, giving you complete control over design and the mood you wish to project. And that chisel tip gives you the ability to lend a calligrapher's look to the most simple of applications. All while keeping your hands clean. As you might guess, I love that! 

Since chalk designs and the handwriting styles that accompany them have become a sub-genre of the art world, myriad options abound to aid you in improving your skills in this area. Skillshare offers lettering classes that will put you on your journey to developing an artist's flair regardless of the medium. YouTube is loaded with similar lessons. Don't overlook the power of Pinterest to lead you to inspired (and easy) skill honing sessions to improve your handwriting and mature your chalk-specific talents. 

Believe it or not, the use for chalk has gone beyond those French hens bearing a menu around their neck (although I do have a soft spot in my heart for those) .I love the idea of small chalk-friendly place cards at the table or with a bar cart listing out the available drink options.

Starbucks has trained us that menus and signage need not be boring or restricted to just text. Perhaps a little artistry is just the thing for the dinner table. Placemats that wipe clean might make for great entertainment for creative guests or little ones while you're whipping up a feast. It makes the time fly by and gives guests (or family members) something fun to do.

One thing I have certainly learned: personalization is something everyone, old or young, enjoys. From their name to custom illustrations celebrating their individuality, it's the small touches that transform simple parties into fabulous and fêtes. Details matter, and seeing your name on a napkin ring is a small touch that warms the heart. Lesson: make it personal, make it memorable.

A FEW FAVORITE CHALK PRODUCTS



The key is to use the tools at your disposal and exercise those creative muscles. Take a cue from glamorous weddings and the many ideas offered by pinterest. I love keeping it simple, but don't be afraid to demonstrate your creative freedom. After all, the best part of chalk is its impermanence. If you decide to make a change simply wipe away the design with a damp cloth and... voila! A blank slate is born. 

A FEW MORE CHALK-FRIENDLY OPTIONS


Remember, with a quick spray or brushstroke almost any surface can be transformed into a chalkboard. From and old picture frame to an entire wall. Those of you with an "I can do it" streak in your soul (you know who you are!) can feed your need to create with these easy products below: 

FOR THE DIY-INCLINED


Boutiquing: Fine Luxury Linens from Kimberly House...

{Photos via yours truly, Franki Durbin}

{Photos via yours truly, Franki Durbin}

Easter is behind us, so it's on with summer decorating for me. Gone are the pastel objects that make egg hunt season so fun, and onward with colors and accents that remind us that summer is coming. 

Over the years I've developed a lovely selection of coral and shells that make tablescaping so much easier. This year I've added a few new linens to the mix in an effort to up my entertaining game. Embroidered linen pretty much makes me weak in the knees, and when I spied the Ornament collection from Kimberly House my eyes lit up like fireflies. Hand embroidered table runners and napkins just give a dining table that special vibe that shows your guests you're thrilled they came. It's the smallest of details that make the difference, and this is where these hemstitch accents really shine.

SETTING THE TABLE

On my table: Kim Seybert Placemats (similar above) but all are gorgeous! // Williams Sonoma Water Goblets // Bianca Dinnerware // Mini Starfish // Assorted Coral & here

I'm using the Ornament Runner & Napkins to set the stage for summer dining. Frankly, the site offers so many beautiful creations you might be challenged to find just one design you like. But for me, a medallion type design always steals the show and looks timeless. 

The overall vibe of Kimberly House is one of finely made goods crafted from natural, high quality materials. Think: beautiful living with simple, elegant details. Products range from linens and towels, to purses and candles, table runners, napkins, and even a baby line which features quilts, sheets, sleep sacks, clothing, and adorable bib and burp cloth sets. With baby shower season quickly approaching (is it ever really NOT baby shower season?) I thought you'd love knowing these amazing gifts options were available. Bonus: these selections are so uncommon you'll be the only one at the fete with your special gift in tow.

About my images: Pardon the poor lighting, it's a hideous day here and I was eager to get my styling done today. Clearly there's more to do to set the stage for my summer-inspired table, but the sweet team at Kimberly House has been gracious enough to create a special offer just for you. 20% off your ENTIRE purchase. An elegant discount just when you need it - tax time! 

A FEW KIMBERLY HOUSE FAVORITES

Simply use code FRANKI20 at checkout April 15-May 1 for 20% off the entire Kimberly House site. Amazingly generous, of them! I hope you'll enjoy topping your table and adorning your home with these supremely fine linens. I can't wait to choose a few more. 

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Entertaining: Stress-Free Tabletop Glamour...

While we can thank magazines, blogging, instagram & pinterest for inspiring us to up our entertaining game, the truth of the matter is that most of us feel intimidated by the competitive sport of tablescaping. Yes, we know we need layer upon layer to make the dinner table sing a festive tune, but most of us aren't boasting a cabinet full of tabletop accents. It's the details, after all, that set the lifestyle gurus apart from us mere mortals. 

While I've always fancied myself as a glam entertainer, I can identify in detail the missing pieces in my tabletop repertoire. Chargers, for one. I'd love to have a few sets on hand. A wardrobe of coordinating napkins & table runners are another missing link. Vases & place markers are other elements I could use more of in my arsenal of decorative weapons. 

As if reading my mind (or perhaps just the market) Sparkle & Dine launched their "tabletop in a box" concept last year. They take all the guesswork out of your decor planning by offering coordinated kits in a range of styles making you look like the belle of the entertaining ball. 

SHOP THE TABLESCAPE

Bianca Place Settings // Sparkle & Dine "Glam" Linens & Chargers // Waterford Vase (or try these Pottery Barn options) // Shiny Hammered Flatware // Stemware here or here 

Other entertaining essentials I hope to add to my collection this year? I've been working on a mental list and it's time I formalized my acquisition plans. Frankly, I think I'm a little obsessed with Lisa Vanderpump and her rosy (or should I say rosé?) filled home and enterprises. Thanks to all those RHOBH scenes filmed at her flawless home and Villa Blanca restaurant I'm craving more silver (real silver, mind you) in my life and a host of other elegant French inspired goodies. 

MY 2015 ENTERTAINING ACCESSORY WISH LIST

  1. An impressive champagne bucket (or two!)
  2. A collection of silver platters (and on my more aspirational days, a butler to fetch them for me)
  3. Stemware!!! Although I personally don't drink the vino, it's clear I need to up my wine glass & water goblet game. 
  4. More table linens. You know by now I love me some Kim Seybert embellished goodness, but I'm craving simple white linens. Soft, fabulous white hemstitched linen runners and napkins sound just dreamy. 
  5. This magnificent piece for storage in my dining room. (I die!) 
  6. More flatware. Seriously... who keeps stealing my forks???
  7. More tiered serving pieces. These instantly make your surfaces look more magical and your food more enticing. Trust me on this. 

What about you? Do you have entertaining tricks up your sleeve? Are you of the "invite eight strangers to dinner and see what happens" variety? I'd love to hear (read?) your finest hostess secrets. 

xoxo
Franki

Entertaining Essentials: Serve Up Kim Seybert Glamour...

Tabletop glamour is THE BEST, isn't it? It's an easy way to make a simple meal a spectacular experience. No one - and I mean no one - serves up style like Kim Seybert. Her exotic accents and beaded creations are simply magnificent.

Even the most stone-faced guests will find themselves gushing over the opulent quality of the decadent placemats, runners and napkin rings. These fanciful creations are unlike any other line of tabletop accents I've ever seen.

Lest you have concerns the quality, I assure you Kim's is top notch. Unlike other brands, these pieces are carefully constructed and substantial enough to be considered long-term investment pieces. If you are on the hunt to step up your entertaining game, see all of her imaginative and luxurious options and choose your favorites. You and your guests will love them! 

Out Meets In: Creature Comforts...

Summer is filled with contradiction. It's too hot to tolerate outdoors, and yet we long for jetting out the door to feel the warmth on our skin. We are eager to jump in the pool but cover our faces in sunblock. We crave the heat and yet we do all we can to cool ourselves. One thing is certain: summer beckons us, delights us and seduces us by inviting us to move our lives from in... to out.

So... how do you venture out and still make it civilized? By bringing the creature comforts of the indoors out. That's right. Today's fabulous creations make sectional sofas, plump pillows and glittery chandeliers all facets of outdoor living.

The same carries through for entertaining outdoors. No need to feel as though it's a picnic. Bring out real plates and serving pieces. Provide linen napkins and candlelight. Make a simple dinner a grand affair. Turn up the music and don't be afraid to pour the drinks generously. Life is too short to be lived indoors, and certainly too brief to resist living in the moment when friends & family are enjoying themselves in your company.

Since I am in Texas and pests are an issue, I highly recommend a mosquito repelling lantern (or two) be placed around you and your guests. Unbelievably they do work! I was also recently turned on to the fire ant deterring properties of dried molasses. Who could have guessed a natural solution to a major issue was in the pantry? It also seems to turn your green blades of grass into a uniform thing of lush green beauty. Double duty - and super eco-friendly.

For even more decorating tips for the great outdoors, head to House Beautiful. And do NOT miss Scot Meacham Wood's tenets of dining outdoors. It will help elevate your thinking on the forever blurring boundaries of out meeting in. Ciao for now, everyone!