I don’t exactly believe our pillows and draperies will change the world but I DO believe curating and filling our homes are opportunities, not just luxuries. I actually believe our furniture and even our accessories can serve a split purpose. They can fulfill an aesthetic desire, while simultaneously help serve others and create a comfortable space.
Maybe you feel the same. Maybe you are building a home to be shared and are wondering how layouts and furniture plays a part. There are many unique questions bundled inside this bigger question of design helping or hurting hospitality - but I’ve narrowed in on 5 places to start.
1) Is it easy to move around the space?
This is probably the most intuitive point. We all like to move about in our homes easily. Crowding too many heavy pieces together will make the room look full before anyone even finds a seat. Keep the bulky statement pieces to a minimum, and walkways open and easy to understand.
2) Are necessities easy to find?
This point touches on intuition too. Warmth, water, food, a place to hang your coat or throw your shoes. These things should be basic, requiring little or no thought from guests and friends. Leaving room for a visible stack of blankets, water jugs and glasses, or hooks for coats help friends come in and be comfortable quicker. Taking it one step further, keeping extra toilet paper in the bathroom, extra dish towels by the sink, and extra coasters on the coffee table help friends move around more effortlessly.
3) Is there some durability to your furniture pieces?
Note: durability does not necessarily mean a high price tag. I’m not asking if it will outlast your great-grandkids (though, this would be amazing) but will it stand up against natural use and wear?
My dining table comes to mind at this point. I had dreams of a very simple mid-mod table before we moved in. Maybe one day I will have one. But after months (literally) of searching, we couldn’t find anything that fit our small space, had leaves to bring out for larger dinners, and was in a comfortable price range. We ended up purchasing a large custom-built table from Craigslist. It fits our space as-is, and came with optional leaves that lengthen the table to comfortably seat 10. The look of the table is pretty rustic and the legs are much too chunky to ever be considered mid-century. But the durability made us say yes. You can spill anything on our table. You can drop any heavy thing. You can scratch, ding, and pour away without making a difference. Without having to consider damage to this table, it’s easy and thoughtless to set food and drinks out and walk away. Ideally, you don’t have to make a choice between durability and style. But if you do - choose durability.
Furniture seems like the easy example to this point, but durability certainly plays into fabric and rug choices as well. I once listened to a podcast discussing design decisions and the guest talked about a white couch she previously owned. She loved the look of bright white sofas and brought home one she visually loved. She was a young mom wanting to spend time with other new moms, and…you can probably see where this is going. Every mom who came over with her young ones was instantly put on edge seeing a bright white couch begging her children to spill something. The design decision inhibited hospitality.
4) Is there good light?
I’m cringing as I write this - this is currently my weakest point on the list. Sufficient light helps in every area of the home and will make your home multi-purpose. Cooking, getting ready for work, reading, working, and hosting dinners all require different but appropriate light. Now: if you know, you know. Old/historic homes have amazing, unique fixtures - but they are almost always too dark. Layering is your friend! Floor lamps, table lamps, under cabinet lighting, and plug-in sconces/pendants are a few options to help.
5) Is there function or purpose behind your big pieces?
Going back to point #1 (is it easy to move around?) it’s a good idea to think through your large pieces - especially in apartment living. Large pieces may need to serve dual purposes. Our trundle sofa from Ikea is one example. The chaise lifts up to hold extra bedding and pillows, and the sofa transforms into a full bed for guests. If it’s going to take up most of our living space, it needs to be very functional. Other examples could be large, decorative baskets to house smaller items, bed frames with built-in drawers, or accent chairs that can move and double as desk chairs.