Recently, I scheduled a dinner party several weeks out on the calendar to have at my house. Nothing fancy, just 4 or 5 people coming over, an easy week night favorite like a London broil or Ina’s Chicken. The placemats and the size of the crowd alone make the whole thing feel fancy and a thing. You ask Alexa to play the Verve Remixed (2) and you use the good wine glasses!
Yes- I’ve read it all - every New York Times article about the decline of dinner parties, that we aren’t having them and that we aren’t hosting them like we once did. And, in preparation for such rare meals, I’ve listened to the Dinner Party Download so I can make thoughtful, witty banter with my collected group of guests. Yes, I am a buyer of cook books, but not a maker of recipes. I love having people over, but hate to clean up.
But, no - this isn’t a post about food, or getting together with friends (and that everyone should know at least one person, but everyone at that table shouldn’t know everyone). This isn’t that I think you should use chargers and set the table before guests arrive, having lit candles hours before, pouring yourself a full glass of wine 15 minutes prior to guest arrival.
It's that oftentimes we need an event as a milestone to step up our game - we need to know that 4 to 5 (hopefully) wildly interesting individuals have committed to coming over and that we too must commit to finishing that totally tackle-able, but put-off project we've been neglecting.
As the weekend is upon us, I got to thinking about some high impact, low cost changes you can make in your space that wouldn’t take more than a weekend to install or complete (with a little advance design work!).
Change your grout color.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the design of our personal kitchen was my choice in grout color. Let’s just say that the brighter grout did not play nicely with the deep-fried, cast ironed, smoke alarm blaring lifestyle it would come to know at the DeBartola-Shalosky household.
Now, whether your grout is discoloring or not, switching up the color can be a total game changer for the look and feel of your kitchen and can easily be done over the course of a weekend as a DIY (for the brave and strong forearmed) or hired out for a couple hours of labor. The product you need is Mapei Grout Refresh. It comes in a variety of colors, making it easy to find one that works with your counters, cabinetry and tile.
Marie Kondo the shit out of your place.
Get the book, read the book and take the weekend to go all Japanese art of organizing on your place. I like that she asks each of us to ask all of our belongings whether they spark joy in us - it’s an essential philosophy to adopt in life, especially with interior design. It seems the world over has universally adopted Ms. Kondo as the authority on bringing order and peace to the spaces around us. I have promised myself that I am taking 3 days to complete the job at our house. Truth is, no design job should start until the entire house is decluttered and reduced only to the items that truly inspire us.
Change your hardware, change your life.
The oldest trick in the book. Try out a few one-off until you find the right fit and then replace them all. If it’s something you’re touching every day - the tactile stuff, the door handles, the cabinet pulls - these are all things that deserve your careful consideration. They can make something feel a little weightier, a bit more substantial and that goes a long way.
Once you decide on an option, you can knock out the switch in an afternoon and a half bottle of wine.
Take one thing away.
It’s just like the Coco Chanel quote, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off." I don’t think there’s any better advice for those designing or redesigning their space.
I find often, upon initial consultations with families, that there is a ton of extra furniture in rooms that’s inhibiting the use of the room, or making it feel smaller than it actually is. There is furniture that is not serving a purpose or - most often - wasn't intentionally purchased for the space and just doesn't work where they have it. Some of it could work and some of it never will.
I’m with Coco - you’re probably better off with a touch less going on of whatever it is you have going on…whether your look is minimal or layers on layers for days.
As a project, take the weekend to work through each room in your home, identifying dead weight. “If this room were an outfit, what piece would not look right with the other elements of the ensemble?” Set a goal to eliminate just one thing from each room that’s not working for it (see #2 "Spark Joy"). Repeat and repeat until you’re ready to intentionally fill your space with items you love that make functional sense in your home.
As a service, making these decisions with our clients is something we love doing at Taylor DeBartola Interior Design. An on-site or virtual e-consultation walk-through of a home with a client gives us the chance to give feedback on what furniture works and what furniture and decor is not working, as well as suggest what changes the designer would make in the room.
For some clients, having a roadmap and concrete suggestions (and a trusted opinion about their home) is all they require to get an idea of what they need to implement on their own. It's a great way to find out what low-investment, high-impact projects you could tackle over a weekend that can create big changes in the look and feel of your space.
And for other clients, the initial consultation is the start of working with the designer to look at each room, determining the needs and constraints of the project, the scope and developing a budget and timeline to complete the work.
Whatever project it is you’re trying to finally tackle - set a dinner party due date for yourself where the reward is a happy group of friends, clinking wine glasses and complimenting you on a job well done and the punishment, if you don't finish, is that same group of friends, still clinking wine glasses, but just waiting for you to explain why there’s brown tarp and painter's tape all over the dining room.
Cheers to the weekend!