How do you create a comfortable, layered home that exudes graciousness and hospitality?
…A home that has a sense of invitation and warmth and is always ready for a friend to drop in?
That was the question posed to some of the South’s favorite interior designers by Southern Living Magazine Senior Homes Editor Zoe Gowen, who explored the meaning of “Gracious Design” as the moderator of a recent panel sponsored by the High Point Market Authority.
Panelists included, as shown left to right in the photo below: Gulf Coast designer and shop owner Paige Schnell; internationally renowned author and designer Barry Dixon; New-York based designer and Mississippi native Meg Braff, moderator Gowen and Charleston’s modern, bold designer Angie Hranowsky.
Creating a hospitable home where others feel welcome starts with “being a comfortable host surrounded by things you love,” said Dixon. A gracious design “layers a lot of different elements into the fiber of your home that speaks of who you are,” added Dixon, whose dining and living room designs are shown below.
“We’re telling a story by the things we surround ourselves with,” Dixon said.
The story we tell in our home should include a mixture of both meaningful and fun items, said Paige Schnell. “Every room needs something irreplaceable that you treasure, and every room needs something completely trendy that you would not use in a year,” she said.
“Continual editing is important,” continued Schnell. “Put something away for awhile and bring it back out later. Move things in and out.”
Added Angie Hranowsky, “You should have a good mix of high and low, old and new, investment pieces and more modest pieces.
“Comfort is always the most important thing.”
The heart of any hospitable home is a comfortable, inviting kitchen and dining area that promotes conversation and connection.
Flexible table and seating arrangements are a key to gracious design in the kitchen and dining room, the design panelists said.
“I really like to use a bench at the table. It is a soft and inviting touch and a great seating choice to include the kids at family meals,” said Schnell.
“I like a round table because everyone’s equal and you can see everyone’s face and expression, make eye contact and understand everyone’s story better,” said Dixon. “Southerners are storytellers.”
Dixon said that he enjoys using three square tables in a large dining room. “I push two together, using one as a buffet. The key is flexibility.”
When asked to name top furniture pieces for creating a hospitable, inviting home, the furniture item mentioned first: counter stools, bar stools and other stools that can be moved around for flexible seating.
“I’m always looking for great counter stools to surround the kitchen island for family members, children and parties,” said Schnell.
“Counter stools are a great gathering area, a great place for someone to sit and work on their laptop computer, or for a child to do homework and talk to you while you prepare a meal,” said Dixon.
“I put stools everywhere,” said Braff. “I tuck them under consoles, at the end of coffee tables or under desks. They are perfect for putting your feet up and can easily be moved around for extra seating.”
Overall, the designer panelists had many practical ideas for creating hospitable style. Here’s a quick lists of ideas/”dos and don’ts” for creating a gracious home setting:
1. Make large rooms cozier by using two different floor rugs that are complementary, giving definition to spaces within the room.
2. Select very comfortable dining chairs where guests will linger.
3. Use U or square-shaped conversation areas with chairs facing each other to promote conversation.
4. Don’t over-do it by stacking layers and layers of pillows on the guest bed. Too many pillows are intimidating and put a burden on the guest to find a place to put them.
5. Put fresh flowers and stacks of plush towels in the guest bathroom.
6. Create meaningful rituals, especially for holidays, that guests will look forward to year after year. One designer panelist told of a ritual she’s developed called a “thankful toast,” where everyone walks down to the beach after Thanksgiving meal and toasts to what they are thankful for.
7. Avoid designing a room with an overbearing statement piece. “It is most important to leave a place for people,” said Dixon, “because the host and the guests should be the true focal points of any room.”
Photo 1 Room Design: Paige Schnell; Photo 2 Room Design: Barry Dixon; Photo 3 of Panelists by JP Mitchell of High Point, N.C.; Photos 4 & 5: Barry Dixon; Photo 6: Meg Braff; Photo 7: Angie Hranowsky; Photo 8: Paige Schnell; Photo 9: Angie Hranowsky; Photo 10: Paige Schnell; Photo 11: Meg Braff; Photo 12: Barry Dixon
Kim Darden Shaver
Leslie Hendrix Wood
Editor In Chief
Leslie Hendrix Wood Interiors
Gracious Living. Timeless Design. Family Traditions.