Living

Designing for Hospitality

When we were looking for houses to buy, we had a hard time explaining to the Realtor what we wanted. It wasn’t as simple as “We need a three bedroom with two baths in a good neighborhood.”

No, our descriptions always revolve around large yards, shade trees, guest rooms, large dining rooms, guest bathrooms, room for bookshelves and a central kitchen. We will, when we see a house, remark on traffic flow patterns, the suitability for porch sitting and neighbor conversations, whether a house is in a real neighborhood, or whether these people just happen to live next to each other.

In fact, one of the reasons we picked here to move to rather than Nashville or Atlanta or Memphis had to do with the large amount of affordable housing inventory available here, so we could afford a house that would let us live the way we want to live – hospitably.

See, hospitality is not just a matter of inviting people to dinner: It’s also about having room for a table big enough to have them over for dinner. It is easier to have guests spend the night when they can have their own room (or at least a room that can be repurposed on short notice) and don’t have to fight the cats for a slice of the couch. If you have a pantry, you can store food for the times your friends are doing without, and if you have room for a garden, you can grow some of that food yourself.

And it isn’t just about being able to, but being likely to. You are more likely to meet your neighbors when there is not a large fence or hedge between your front yard and theirs. You are more likely to invite your friends from church over for dinner if it won’t be cramped, and if you have room to cook for 12 folks. You are more likely to be the house where your kid’s friends hang out if you have room for the hanging out.

It’s about having values and then finding a house that meets those values. And while every house is a compromise, when there are literally a hundred options at any given time, you can pretty much find something that fits. The point isn’t that we could afford to buy a house that fit our needs, it was that we moved to a place where we could afford to buy a house that fit our needs. The list of needs came first, then we built a life (and bought a house) around them.

We couldn’t have had that house in a different city. So we found a city where we could have that house, and moved there.

Hospitality is one of my key values. Had I had different ones, I would have made other choices. But either way, the point is that I made a decision in keeping with the values I have, and the sort of life I wanted to live. If your decisions don’t support your values, you can’t be surprised when your values don’t get lived out.

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

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  • Nancy Myers
    September 27, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    Oh my, yes. That’s how we bought our current house four years ago, probably the last we will ever own because we are in our upper 70s. In our case the hospitality values overcame the vague goal of downsizing and we ended up with way more house than two people need. But we have not regretted it. Even during the first year of pandemic, when we couldn’t host dinners and parties, three asylum seekers found shelter with us. And they each had their own bathroom!

    • Hugh
      September 28, 2021 at 10:03 am

      I love this!