I ask myself this question often. These days, more than ever, the daily bustle sweeps us up all too easily, with the full schedules, the rushed meals, the hurried “hellos” between family and friends. Then the holidays arrive, and our most joyful time of year comes, with a storm of advertising telling us exactly how busy and stressed we all should be. Exhausting, isn’t it?
What if there were another way? What if we could design our living spaces to inspire slow, memorable gatherings and that peaceful, meaningful life we crave? It can be done, my friends . . . and boy, is it worth it. The following tips are simple, but they’ll go a long way toward helping you slow down and make the most of your time with loved ones, not just this season but all year long.
1. Create An Intentional Flow
First, start with the big picture: the flow of your space. Slow, relaxed gatherings don’t have to be stationary. Imagine a friendly dinner that starts at the bartop in your kitchen, moves to the cocktail table in the living room, and settles effortlessly into the dining room. Or, if the weather permits, a long Sunday brunch that flows from food prep together in the kitchen to intimate conversation around the table to after-meal drinks in the sunlit outdoors.
2. Make Something Together
As a host, it can be tempting to buy or prepare all the food and drink in advance and spoil your guests silly with hospitality. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with this scenario, I also think it gives stress the most room to enter. We feel that we have to do everything and be everything, when there’s just as much (and maybe more) enjoyment to be found in readying the day’s leisure together.
Share the enjoyment of roasting veggies or making a soup. Laugh together over baking the morning’s fresh, warm bread or inventing new cocktails for happy hour. When it’s time to finally enjoy your group’s creations, trust me, they’ll taste all the sweeter!
3. Accentuate The Meal With Simple Wares
Part of slow, thoughtful living is taking the time to fully savor and appreciate the little things, such as the food and beverages you just prepared with your friends or family. Remember, too, we eat with our eyes first. The best way to make your food the spotlight of the table (and worthy of those slow, satisfying bites) is to keep your furnishings and wares… simple.
A table decorated with finely crafted yet unassuming wares lets the meal take center stage, like this hand-thrown pottery we selected for our dishware. Each piece has a quiet splendor of its own, but none competes with the beauty of the meal; each piece complements the whole. Neutral tones and clean lines make reds richer, oranges more vibrant, and greens burst with life, which will inspire you to slow down and savor the meal even more.
4. Keep Your Space Natural And Organized
In addition to keeping your wares simple and natural, the same can be said for your furnishings. For example, this walnut table’s clean-lined, subtle design ushers the gorgeous grain and tone of the wood to light. Its natural beauty is unmistakable yet calm, peaceful… as we wish to be.
Another way to inspire peace in your space is to keep the area clear and organized. Remove clutter and make guests and activities the spotlight!
5. Include Meaningful Pieces In The Scene
When designing for gatherings (or even just for yourself), it’s always a good idea to have a few meaningful pieces around. Not only do they add a layer of personal warmth to the event, but they also give you the advantage of an easy conversation piece.
For example, the centerpiece of this walnut table is a piece of driftwood collected from my family home. It has meaning to me, evokes fond memories of my childhood, and inspires great conversation when brought up in gatherings. Everyone has a childhood, after all.
Take a look at your space and decide which items could help you tell a story in your space, whether it’s one from your past or from the present you’re creating right now.
6. Opt For Simple Yet Functional Lighting
A gathering that takes place over several hours is naturally subject to fluctuations in lighting. Whether it’s the changing angle of the sun or the transition from day to night, you should give consideration to how light (or lack of light) will play in your spaces.
That’s why it’s always an advantage to have lighting on dimmers for an easy change in ambiance. As the night carries on, for example, you can dim the lights from a joyfully conversational dinner to sultry and pensive after-dinner drinks.
Again, natural beauty is the key to an understated yet peaceful space. These low-hanging geometric pendants are the perfect mix of simple and creative.
7. Use Layers And Textures
When it comes to designing a space, it’s all about layers: What will help each layer of the space stand out to its best advantage? As we mentioned before, contrast is key. Smooth, hand-thrown dishware plays up the colorful food, and an immaculate walnut table highlights the ceramic dishware.
So what will make this handsome table stand out without stealing the show? A neutral, textured rug! Texture is the perfect contrast to the smooth, polished wood . . . not to mention the joy your guests will feel with something soft under their feet. Layers, my friend!
Well, there you have it—seven tips for bringing slow, joyful, meaningful gatherings to you and yours. Each of these tips will help you create a space that is intentional, inspires conversation and community, and is beautiful to behold. Now all you have to do is gather your nearest and dearest and enjoy them.