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From Everyday to Entertaining: How to Make Your Space Do Both

By Tamara Eaton

People love to entertain, whether it is big holiday gatherings, intimate dinner parties, rooftop barbeques, or kids playdates. The challenge in any room is to make the space elegant enough for a formal event, but also casual enough for everyday use. Below are several ideas for specific rooms that rectify the high and low levels of formality that often occur in the same space.

A kitchen is generally the most active part of a home. For almost all entertaining scenarios, guests tend to gather where the food is.  Adding another layer to your guests experience can be accomplished by making a few simple tweaks to your kitchen design and layout. The countertops, cabinetry, and appliances need to be very functional for daily use. Two kitchen features where you can add a strong design element are the backsplash and the lighting. The kitchen backsplash does not need to be as all-purpose as other surfaces and you can use the defined area to add colorful tile to reflect your personality. Another way to decorate the space with something more formal is with a light fixture. You can install a statement piece right over the kitchen island, as I did in a Brooklyn townhome in the photograph below.

In terms of space layout, clearing out all the clutter, such as trash cans and recycling bins, from the floor space allows guests to flow around the kitchen.  If possible, when constructing your kitchen, contain the garbage and recycle in a pull-out behind a cabinet right next to the sink.

In New York, not every home has both a formal living room and family room so the main living space needs to be dynamic enough to function as both.  There are a few methods to create a formal living room that is both fun and casual enough for daily living. It’s a good idea to select neutral and durable fabrics for sofas and chairs for daily messes and spills. To create a more elegant setting, introduce rich fabrics on the pillows, add a luxurious textured blanket, hang a statement piece of art, or include an over scale table lamp for a bold statement. Items such as blankets and pillows can be stored in a nearby closet and then brought out for special occasions to pull the room together and add colorful and rich accents. In the living room below, I created a neutral space with a camel microfiber sofa and cream outdoor fabric upholstered chairs on a textural wool area rug. The large photograph on the wall is a statement piece while the rest of the room remains neutral. For entertaining purposes, two jade silk pillows can be temporarily added to the sofa as well as an emerald blanket thrown on the chair to pop elegant colors in the room that typically functions as a casual living space. Selecting one color to add to an otherwise neutral space gives a clear direction for the room and can help narrow down accessory selections.

Another space that transitions from informal to formal is the powder room. Often a small space, the powder room does not have many design elements. One way to formalize the space is installing a decorative and bold mirror. Another subtle way is to layer an embroidered linen fingertip towel over a standard white terrycloth hand towel. The fine linen adds a rich and sophisticated texture. Etsy is a fantastic resource for readymade and custom embroidered linen towels.

A home’s most impactful design statements can be accomplished by layering elements that are colorful, luxurious, and distinctive. You do not need to go overboard, design wise or budget wise, to achieve this balance.