Episode 11- The Art of Intentional Hospitality; Atmosphere & Functionality
Why should you consider Functionality and infusing atmosphere into your gatherings?
Creating a pleasant atmosphere is part of adding heart to the art of being a hostess.
Atmosphere: the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or work of art.
Why Atmosphere matters
Atmosphere can create either a feeling of peace or unrest, joy or sadness, hope or despair.
No matter what your guests are feeling when they walk in, you have been given an opportunity. Managing and being intentional with the atmosphere in your home while hosting is a beautiful task. You can impact their day and even their life.
Here are some other words for Atmosphere:
Ambience, Character, Climate, Environment, Feel, Mood, Surroundings and Tone.
Think of your absolute favorite place to be, or your favorite person to be with. Do they go hand in hand?
Now think about why those places or people come to mind. More than likely you feel safe, relaxed, encouraged, loved, heard or even energized after time spent there or with them.
My Grandma’s ability to create atmosphere
My grandparents’ lived in a large Victorian home. It boasted carpets from many different eras and knick knacks collected over years proudly displayed.
You might not have found it “Pintrest” worthy or on the cover of a magazine. However, the atmosphere of their home left a lasting impression. Most everyone who walked through their doors never wanted to leave.
- “I love you”
- “you are welcome to be here”
- “you are never an inconvenience”.
Jesus was in their home. You could feel His presence as strong as you could smell the grapevines when the back door swung open.
She dealt with a lot of physical limitations
My grandma while battling lots of health issues her entire life never complained. She would stay at the hospital for days at a time. While being cared for, she created an atmosphere of peace and welcoming, right in her hospital room.
She made an impact on people. When she went to meet Jesus, we marveled as numerous doctors and nurses filed into the service. Each stating how encounters with my grandma changed their life, and how she introduced them to Jesus.
This is one reason I believe creating a pleasant atmosphere is crucial and leaves a lasting impression. Much more than a clean and perfectly decorated house.
Who should be the first to benefit from creating a pleasant atmosphere in your home?
The first people you should be practicing this with is those who live in your home. Your husband and children if you have them.
God has given you the ability of creating a pleasant atmosphere and maintaining it.
What does the Bible say about ruining the atmosphere in your home?
Proverbs 14:1 says:
A wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
Proverbs 21:9 says:
Better to dwell in the corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Other words for contentious are: antagonistic, combative, testy, argumentative and disagreeable.
Geesh, you don’t want your family to rather they lived on a roof than with you.
I’ve walked into beautiful homes perfectly decorated and lovely to the eye. Though, you could cut the unrest you felt in the home with a knife.
There is not a candle so fragrant as to hide the stench of a home filled with dissent.
An essential element to infusing atmosphere into your gatherings is, intentionality.
We live in a society which champions being busy. By showing anyone who enters your home you took time to think of them, will go a long way.
Listen when people talk, paying attention to who they are and what they like will make them feel special!
- Does your Husband love a certain food? Make it!
- Does your friend love a particular artist or kind of music? Play it!
- If you know she is coming to coffee, have her favorite coffee creamer.
- Have toys or other activities available for visitors who may have children. Even the young guests in your home should feel important and welcome.
Keeping a tidy house does show intentionality. Life seasons ebb and flow though, in terms of our capacity for keeping house.
Apologizing profusely for your mess is something to be careful of as well. It can communicate to your guests their visit is a burden. This is the opposite of creating a pleasant atmosphere
If someone comes over even unannounced, your guests didn’t come to see your dishes put away, or your perfect house. If they did they are there for the wrong reasons.
There is nothing wrong if you love a clean and decorated house. If God has given you the passion and capacity to keep it, so long as you are doing it for His glory and not your own reputation.
Learning about atmosphere from our Creator
God created Functionality and has unfused creation with atmosphere! We learn the best and the most about creating a pleasant atmosphere through God’s creation, He created the earth with intentionality:
- rain comes and waters the trees which grow
- The trees give us shade in the summer and oxygen to breath
- beautiful flowers bloom and give us a small glimpse into our Creator’s creativity
- The first crisp breeze after a long hot summer is so refreshing
- The feeling you get when you are at the beach hearing the waves crash, feeling the sand beneath your feet
- the birds chirping or a creek trickling
God has created a pleasant atmosphere made up of sights and sounds, feelings and smells. All of these things help us encounter Him, and His heart in such a beautiful way.
When we are in His presence we feel His peace, love and grace. This is the atmosphere I want to extend to others.
Don’t be lazy
Having a decorated and clean home isn’t everyones strong suit, but there aren’t excuses for habitual laziness.
Have you asked yourself if laziness is an issue? Are you sitting around binging TV series while your laundry grows? Are you over committing to work and other activities while your fridge empties and your dishes pile up?
These actions communicate laziness and a lack of care for something God has entrusted to you.
(you can read here about cultivating good habits in this area)
This is something you can’t try and change all of a sudden when company is about to come over. It is diligently practiced.
Proverbs 12:27 says:
The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession.
By caring for the things God has entrusted to you, with a willing heart, this creates a beautiful atmosphere in your home.
This atmosphere will radiate from your soul, wether you had time to do your dishes from breakfast or not.
It won’t feel stressful when it becomes part of what you do. When it’s a heart response, not an obligation to be executed begrudgingly.
Here are some quick tips on infusing atmosphere into your gatherings
- Be realistic but consistent, if you see something needs to be picked up, do it…now and not later. Include your family in this effort.
- If you have time to prepare a nice spread for your guests, great. In the case of unexpected guests, it helps to always have small inexpensive food and beverage items on hand. They don’t take up a lot of space or thought; coffee a box of cookies, nuts or candy etc.
- Have some nice smelling candles available.
- It’s so easy these days to play music in your home. With smart devices and free accounts like Pandora and Spotify you can easily find a playlist or station to suit any guest.
- We don’t have children, but have Nieces and Nephews. I always keep coloring books, play dough and cups for them they can easily drink from. I want every guest no matter their age to feel welcome!
- Make a point to keep your home free from negative talk which includes bad words and gossip. Speak life to those who reside within your walls.
- Put scripture in your home and speak it out loud regularly.
Be intentional and make your home a safe place, a haven, your family. Additionally all who walk through your doors will feel loved and welcome!
When you are outside your home, remember the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Let your words be kind and life giving. Allow people to feel special and decide to be a safe place for people to land.
I have to re-center myself sometimes
The Bible says in Philippians 4:8-9 Finally Brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-mediate in these things. The things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of Peace will be with you.
While I thoroughly enjoy decorating, hosting events and even enjoy cleaning, (I know, I know, I’m a crazy person). I have to sometimes re-center my self and remember what is important.
I sometimes have to remind myself what my Grandma modeled so well, so many years ago.
Some days I wish I could just run into her house. Well, I could but would probably be arrested for breaking and entering. I want to cozy up with her on the teal and black shag carpet in the parlor. Bask in her kind and encouraging words. It always felt as if the outside world couldn’t touch me in that magical place.
Functionality: the quality of being suited to serve a purpose well; practicality
This may sound boring and not very creative. I assure you, keeping functionality in mind will help all the other elements of hosting go much smoother.
Why is functionality an important element of hospitality? Anticipating the things your guest might need to normally function, communicates to your guests they are welcome and thought of.
I generally try not to judge other peoples hosting styles and abilities. Yet, I do take note when I see things I like and when I see things I don’t.
What areas in your home do you need to consider?
Entry Way functionality –
Have a place for shoes to go without cluttering up your door way and causing tripping hazards.
I’ve been to gatherings where I held my purse the entire time. I saw no place to set it down and the hosts never offered a location. Don’t let your lady guests walk around as if they are shopping an estate sale.
Set aside a place like your bed to store purses and diaper bags. Offer to put their purse in your bedroom, when they are ready to leave go and retrieve it for them.
Do they have a dish that needs to go in the fridge? Make sure your fridge isn’t packed to the gills. Nobody wants to clean out their fridge in front of a guest.
Give a tour of your home, if it’s your guests first time.
Introduce them to the areas the party will take place. Essentially, this lets them feel at home. They can relax a bit knowing where the bathroom is, or the drinks or seating areas you anticipate people gathering in.
functioning with Bathroom Basics-
Have you ever been at someone’s house and needed to use the restroom. Only to discover there is one measly square of toilet paper left on the roll?
It is a nice idea to also have an additional roll of toilet paper visible in case it runs out, you should also check periodically in case someone has used the last square, it’s a heck of a lot nicer for your guests to not have to go searching or have that, “oh shoot”, moment.
Hand soap and a way to dry your hands is essential. This may seem like a no brainer to some but it’s worth mentioning.
My Hubby and I like to buy disposable hand towels, if there will be a lot of guests. Towels have a tendency to get wet quick. You can find the disposable ones on Amazon in many different colors to match your theme or bathroom. You’ll need to keep an eye on your small bathroom trash can since they can tend to fill up fast.
If it’s less people and you go the towel route, check on it periodically. Nobody wants to grab a wet bathroom towel to dry off their hands.
Another good idea is to have a candle lit and bathroom spray visible. You want your guests to feel comfortable and not self conscious. Especially if you are serving food that is notorious for making people stinky.
My Hubby and I don’t have any pets. We were gypsies for a long time and traveled often, and far for work together. However we have been guests at plenty of homes that have pets. I’ve seen it done really good and really bad, of course I won’t name any names.
As someone who is allergic to cats I almost always carry allergy meds. I’ve been in some homes where even with meds, my face has swollen up and I have trouble breathing. Usually these are homes where pet hair is not under control. It’s a good idea to consider a guest might be allergic to your pet.
I love dogs but even my love has some boundaries. Just because you are a pet fanatic, doesn’t mean your guests are. Don’t be offended either. Simple communication with your guests prior to their arrival can clue you in how to prepare.
Do you have a way for people to dry their hands in the kitchen? Paper towels or hand towels. Either way make sure they are visible.
Are your guests helping you cook and prepare the meal? You may want to pre-set out any utensils or serving/prep dishes. Especially if they are not easily accessible in your kitchen. Prep will go smoother, and give you more time to be present in conversation.
Do you have a dishwasher? make sure you empty it before company comes. This will speed up the clean up. You will avoid a guest sticking a dirty dish in with your recently clean ones.
When your guests arrive having empty trash cans for them to function is a must! Make sure your guests can easily identify where your trash can is. Be sure that it’s in usable condition for the entirety of your gathering. Is your trash can is small, and your gathering large? Try having a larger bag outside to help avoid trash back up.
Clearly marking things also clears up confusion and allows you to be present and complete your hosting duties.
Does the Ice chest outside have sodas and fizzy water? Is the Beer in the fridge? Which by the way is a smart thing to differentiate if you are having kids attend your party.
Making signs is as easy as opening any type of word document program and picking a fun font in the right size and hitting print, you can use a standard template for business cards which is the perfect size for making little countertop signs for your food and beverages. This way you won’t be repeating where the gluten free, decaf, vegetarian option etc is.
People will automatically feel welcome that you took the time. Especially if you have guests with food allergies, diets and preferences. If you don’t have a computer or printer. Get some old fashioned paper and scissors and write it down as nice as possible. You can even get fancy, and buy chalk board labels you can re use over and over.
Have one readily available, near a plug. Most people use their phones to get around, gone are the days of memorizing directions. If they have a place to plug in they won’t feel stressed about getting back home, It’s maybe a little excessive to try and keep every charger for different phone. Having one readily available for the phone you use. Along with accessible plug in mind, if they’ve brought their own charger.
You don’t want to have to unplug your crockpot, or move the couch to get to a wall outlet.
Cue your guests feeling like they’ve become an inconvenience which is literally the opposite of what you want to happen.
Check if your guests are impaired in any way, a recent surgery or even old injuries. Maybe you have tiny nieces and the only chairs you have will not allow them to eat comfortably, or worse they may fall off or through the back of them.
Make sure your furniture is sturdy and not old and prone to break.unfortunately I learned this the hard way.
One gathering we were sitting with Friends on our outdoor director style chairs. It hadn’t occurred to me how weak they might have gotten after being out in the weather. The fabric on the chair ripped to my horror as our guest sat down. Take a lesson from me and don’t let that happen to you. You don’t have to buy all new furniture, just be smart and try and anticipate your guests basic needs; you know, like furniture that won’t break.
Is your wifi information available? You can either post it on a chalk board, or printed in a picture frame. Then you can stay present as a host, rather than having to scramble around acquiring it.
wrapping up Functionality and infusing atmosphere into your gatherings
Did you forget something? If you need to adjust just acknowledge the need. Apologize if necessary, and don’t beat yourself up over it. The art of intentional Hospitality will continue to develop and change over time.
At the end of the gathering you want your guests to feel as though they were wanted and loved. Jesus Always made people feel welcome, He always anticipated their needs while He was on earth and now from heaven. You will save yourself stress and enjoy your guests a lot more when you pay attention to atmosphere and functionality.
Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. Titus 1:8 NLT
The Beautiful thing about infusing atmosphere and functionality into your gathering
Jesus can work through me and you to be this for someone who needs it. This is my hope and prayer for you and me. May our homes be filled with His atmosphere, a fragrant aroma of His mercy and grace. Functioning as to keep our guests at ease. Creating space for the soul so desperate for respite from all the ugly in the world.
***This is the second in my series about the art of the heart of being a hostess, you can read the first here