You know the kind we're talking about. They open the door, dressed comfortably but stylishly, with a warm, welcoming smile, no perspiration in sight. The home's clean and fresh, but not so immaculate you don't feel like you can't get comfortable. You leave later that evening feeling revived, renewed and energized by the experience. Want to be that kind of host yourself? There are four things you can do that will add to giving off the appearance of being an effortless and gracious host next time you entertain (though unfortunately, it will take a bit of effort to appear effortless looking).
1. Cut the cleaning down to a science
If you're lucky you've got a cleaning routine down in your life, and your home stays at a reasonable level of fresh most of the time, requiring only a cursory clean-up before the party. If you're like the rest of us, you're gonna want to tackle cleaning ahead of time, split it up into manageable tasks, tackle it again right before guests start arriving and remember that no one's perfect.
What does cleaning have to do with being an effortless host? Well, a fresh smelling home without clutter will instantly reflect a homeowner who's got it all together (even if you mostly don't). And you'll come off even more effortless looking if you're not shoving a broom quickly in a closet and perspiring as you welcome folks in. So clean early! And don't forget yourself. Don't put all the work into your home and neglect your own cleaning needs. Starting as far in advance with the home, pick out an outfit, get your hair cut and then factor plenty of getting ready time after you do last minute day-of party picking up around the house.
2. Focus on comfort
The first step of having a home that instantly puts guests at ease? Being at ease yourself. So sip a few sips of liquid courage (or put on a little Beyonce —whatever you need to get yourself pumped up) and don't start apologizing for everything the moment they walk in the door. Spend time before your event working on a seating arrangement that will encourage conversation and comfort. Put those lights down low. Don't have the music so loud people can't hear what each other is saying.
3. Be flexible
Easier said than done, sure. But the trick is to have a loose plan for the evening so you can steer and guide the gathering if things aren't sparking, but don't be so tied to the plan that you miss out on opportunities that come your way. What? Do have great activities planned in case there are lulls in the conversation, but don't force them on groups already having a great time. Same goes with people not hanging out in the spots you wanted them to. Let the party flow where it wants to without trying to be border collie ushering folks back where you want them to (unless there's a reason like not wanting to wake the neighbors with guests outside or something).
4. Do more listening than talking
This isn't so much a home decorating or entertaining tip as it is a life tip — people feel good when they feel interesting, and people feel interesting when you're genuinely interested in what they have to say. So ask engaging questions that need more than a "yes" or "no" answer and really listen to what your guests have to say. They'll have such a good time they'll forget about/not notice any slip-ups you think you made as a host.
What are your favorite tips for being the kind of host that looks effortless and relaxed?