Some of the best memories are made when friends gather from far and wide to celebrate together. Whether it’s a wedding, class reunion, music festival or bachelor(ette) weekend, the opportunity to commune together, sometimes in close quarters, is charged with excitement. If all goes well, everyone leaves riding high with that special buzz that comes from being reunited with dear friends. Snazzy entertainer, dresser and New Orleanian Kerry shares her best tips for hosting a houseful of guests (no matter the size of your home).
Living in the New Orleans French Quarter for seven years has taught photographer, world traveler, fashionista and host extraordinaire Kerry Maloney a thing or two about gracefully accommodating a full house of friends. “It’s more rare for me to be alone in my apartment than to have someone stay with me,” Kerry says, “but I am on the road a lot, too.”
When we caught up with Kerry a week before Mardi Gras, she was preparing for the arrival of five guests, her smallest carnival group to date. We chatted with her about how she maintains a work/life balance with a steady stream of house guests and asked her for some hosting tips.
How do you handle getting work done when you play host so often?
This is the hardest part. I work from home, so it often doesn't seem like I’m working when people are visiting. When you visit the French Quarter, you are ready to party. But as I tell my mom every time she comes, "I can't start happy hour at 2pm.” It works best for me to schedule myself one day off so that I'm not trying to do a little work here and there; it's very unproductive. I have a list I'm always updating of places for my guests to go, so they can explore on their own and I'm not going to the same places all the time.
How do you pace yourself when everyone wants to party?
Another real hazard of living here! Again, setting boundaries and realistic expectations. I give my guests a list of my favorite bars and what to order on a day I designate to work. Sometimes I just try to tire them out on the first day!
Do you have limits for how often/how many people you'll host? Do you ever have to turn someone away?
Before I redesigned my living room, I had a giant sectional sofa and a second couch. When I redid the apartment, I purposefully created less sleeping space and more living space. I've learned over the years what works and how much I can handle. Mardi Gras is the only time turning people away is a real issue, and it's heartbreaking every time. I have a small group of people that I've been doing Mardi Gras with for 12 years and they always get first dibs. On a year that someone can't make it, I'll try to offer it to someone who has never come before. This year will be my sister's first Mardi Gras. But everyone is welcome to come by during the week of Mardi Gras—eat food, share beer, and of course, use the bathroom. In fact, I generally have an open door policy if the curtains are open and the music is playing any day of the year.
What things are you always stocked with in preparation for guests?
Cheap beer, toilet paper, frozen food snacks, and disposable plates, cups, and silverware. I don't have a dishwasher; the sink can pile up quickly with cups alone. For Mardi Gras this year, I've pre-ordered some king cakes and we will make a big gumbo to have in the fridge.
What tips would you give to someone about to host a house full of guests?
- Disposable cups, plates, and silverware: You do not want dishes piling up.
- A guest book: I make my friends sign every time. I love going though the years on mine and seeing the fun times we've had.
- Rules: Setting realistic expectations for your guests. Let them know if you expect them to use a coaster; don't let anyone assume anything. I try to let people know before they come that they will give up a great amount of privacy.
- Hide the valuables: For the big events such as Mardi Gras, I just clear off the tables; anything I'm afraid might get knocked over goes in the closet.
- A lockbox with a key: This will save you the headache of having to be home to let people in without having a hundred copies of your key floating around. Change the code often.
- We're all in this together: We ran out of paper towels? The store is a block that way. The dog needs to pee? Take her out. If I spent the whole time actually hosting people, I wouldn't be able to have any fun. I'll be as prepared as I possibly can be but the rest is up to us all.