Holiday Hosting Tips for Every Room in Your Home

Every time I host, I’m thinking of the 4 million things I need to, want to, or I guess I possibly, maybe could or should do to my home to make it absolutely perfect for my guests. But who has that kind of time? Between grocery shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and convincing my puppy that she can be perfectly happy playing by herself quietly, there’s just not time to “properly” decorate the house.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list - to help us all prioritize. In this post, I’ll walk you through the most important things to do in each room of your home so you can “call it good” and go shower before the guests arrive. This is, of course, assuming the cleaning is done and you want to add a little something extra to remind everyone which holiday we’re celebrating.

FRONT PORCH: Hang a Wreath

If you don’t have the time (or energy) to hang strings of tiny lights on your house’s exterior and/or you dread having to take them down again after the new year, you are not alone and I’m not judging! Get around this labor-intensive tradition by simply hanging a wreath on your front door. It’ll show your neighbors that you’re not a Scrooge, and it will ensure your guests that your home is filled with holiday cheer ready to be enjoyed.

FOYER: Have a Plan for Coats

Don’t forget that interior design is about both form and function working together, and this tip addresses both. Here in the Midwest, guests showing up with coats is inevitable. And everyone (I mean everyone) will feel much more comfortable if you already have a place to put them when greeting your guests.

Whether your solution is a clean/empty hall tree, adding extra hangers to the coat closet, or “coat checking” to the spare bedroom, do have a plan. This weekend, I attended a dinner party where the host even remembered whose coat was whose and she was able to retrieve them for us as we left. Everyone was incredibly impressed, so bonus points if you can pull that off!!

DINING ROOM: Set the Table


The dining table centerpiece is an intimidating concept to the average host… but it doesn’t have to be. Adding greenery is the fastest and easiest way to create a fabulous tablescape that looks professionally styled and entirely intentional. If you’ve got an evergreen in your yard, you can even do it for free! Place some garland or pine branches down the center of the table, add a pine cone every foot or two, and you’re done. If you’re feeling extra festive, you can even take it to the next level with some tea candles placed inside your everyday glass tumblers or jars.

To save yourself room at the buffet line, set a plate, napkin and silverware set at each seat. Beyond freeing up space in the kitchen, this allows your guests to visit the table before the meal and pick a spot while grabbing their plate. It also means no one has to carry their napkin and silverware while also balancing a plate full of your best-ever batch of mashed potatoes and gravy.

KITCHEN: Have A Snack Table

Have you ever gone through a dinner buffet line and been unsure of whether you should put the chocolate covered pretzel you just picked up next to your honey ham or your oven-roasted Brussel sprouts? Some treats just aren’t meant to be enjoyed during dinner, but are better suited for a pre- or post-dinner snack.

Please do everyone a favor and separate the meal food from the snack food. Have a snack table or area filled with treats and goodies to be out and readily available so that it can be frequented by all guests, all day. This is especially useful when the dinner line is 10 cousins long; those of us who were slow pokes can head over to the snack table until the line goes down a bit.

LIVING ROOM: Layer the Lighting

The living room is likely going to tie with or beat the kitchen for the title of “room spent the most time in” when you host. That means its ambiance is much more important than its decor. Keep the decor simple (don’t overdue the throw pillows) and focus on the lighting. Chances are, you will not need the overhead lights. Instead, use only the warmest light sources in the room: lamps, sconces, fireplace, and candles.

Warm light is flattering and mood-rich because it has a yellow tint, which is why firelight and lamps with incandescent bulbs (or at least fabric shades) are best. If your recessed lighting is on dimmer switches, turn them to half-on at most. Think of it like this: if you can read the back of a record cover with no frustration, it’s too bright. If you can’t see the footstool or throw pillow in your way when moving around the room, it’s too dark.

BATHROOM: Set Out Extra Toilet Paper

I’m hoping this one is self-explanatory. But just in case it’s not, you need to put extra toilet paper in the bathroom(s) your guests will be using. This is not up for debate. Done. Next.

OFFICE: Create a Holiday Atmosphere

Sure, the guests aren’t really supposed to be wondering around the house and hanging out in the office. But if they get there, avoid giving them the feeling that they’re “out of bounds” by playing some soft seasonal music - no decorating needed! Set a bluetooth speaker on the desk and play some instrumental holiday tunes at a low volume to let your guests know your whole house is full of cheer this time of year.

GUEST BEDROOM: Expose the Essentials

Make your guests feel extra special by setting out everything they may need. Requiring Aunt Sue to search every cabinet for a towel, be just a little too chilly at night, or ask for a glass of water isn’t exactly going to help her feel at home. Pulling a few towels out of the cabinets, setting extra blankets at the foot of the bed, and leaving a bottle of water or two on the nightstand are surefire ways to give your loved ones a comfortable stay.


Hosting doesn’t need to cause you to lose sleep or pull your hair out. It’s meant to be fun, festive, and a special time to spend with the most important people in our lives. Follow these simple steps and every room in your home will be ready to go before you know it.

Thanks for reading!

Becky Leu Comments
Going Natural: The Wood Trend That's Staying
Image Credit:  Amber Interiors

Image Credit: Amber Interiors

It's time to lighten up. I don't mean go crazy and have your dessert before your dinner - not THAT radical - but perhaps "ebony" isn't the only option for your wood floors or furniture anymore. Designers all over the planet are skipping the dark stain colors and leaving wood surfaces alone to flaunt their natural beauty, and I'm one of them!

We just finished installing light wood floors in a client's home in the Clive Country Club, we'll soon be done installing light wood floors in a West Des Moines home, and in a few short months, we'll install some definitely-not-dark wood floors in a home just on the other side of Jordan Creek for clients who are renovating to SELL! The furniture we're pairing with them includes fully-upholstered pieces, painted pieces, and wood tones of all variations - but mostly light. ;)

Image Credit:  Amber Interiors

Image Credit: Amber Interiors


I can't speak highly enough about how low-maintenance, and high-style natural wood tones are in today's housing scene. The less yellow and the more "truly neutral", the better. They're a fast way to brighten up a space effortlessly, invite the sunlight in, and create easy and beautiful pairings with dark metals. Light woods hide dings, dirt and dust better than stained dark woods, and also open the doors to just about any paint color your heart desires for built-in woodwork; that is, unless you want to use a natural wood colors for your millwork as well, which I almost always support.

For all home types and styles, dark floors and furniture can still be beautiful and even preferred. Especially if you're more into a "warm and cozy" ambiance than the "light and fresh" atmosphere that Millennials are reaching to for spacial inspiration these days. For more info on how your surroundings affect your daily life, check out House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live by Winifred Gallagher. For the record, this is not a sponsored blog post, I just love that book and have very strong feelings about space and its influence on our lives. For proof of THAT, check out the Design Philosophy on my website.

Image Credit:  Becki Owens

Image Credit: Becki Owens


If you're not quite convinced, and need to see some more ~enlightening~ inspiration of light wood tones being used in residential settings, pop over to my instagram feed and see for yourself how this new trend is one to embrace. Natural = Beautiful.

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Thanks for reading! 

Modern Farmhouse: Trendy or Classy?
Architecture: Feldman Architecture | Photography: Matthew Millman Photo

Architecture: Feldman Architecture | Photography: Matthew Millman Photo

Yesterday, someone asked me "How do you feel about that modern farmhouse design style? You know, the kind that Joanna Gaines applies to all of her projects on Fixer Upper?"

My response was not lacking in length. With any trend, there's always a "right way" and a "not recommended" way to go about updating your own home. For my clients here in Des Moines, Iowa, I definitely think there's still a place for Modern Farmhouse design and that it's not on its way "out" just yet. In the Midwest, we admittedly see trends move through our community on a heavily delayed timeline and at a slower pace than the coasts do. With so many rural neighborhoods, and a cornfield being no more than 15 minutes away at any given moment, Modern Farmhouse is a look that's bound to stick around for a while. My feelings on "MF" are based on 2 big factors: 1) It's actually practical. People want a clean look, but in a cozy environment that FEELS like "home". Modern Farmhouse is practically the definition of that "home" feeling for the average Midwesterner. And 2) High contrast and high texture have always been highly regarded in the design community. Modern farmhouse design capitalizes on those principles and gives them a fun, stylistic flair. So go ahead - paint your walls AND trim white, install a natural or dark stained wood floor, splurge for the farmhouse sink, order black framed windows and go for those black or even gold cabinet pulls in your kitchen! After all, it does look darn good.

What Not To Do:

I do feel it's important to mention specific aspects of the Modern Farmhouse movement that I do NOT think will be sticking around, since some of the more specific motifs may very well become a bit regrettable.

  1. Reclaimed Wood Everywhere. It has a place, and "everywhere" is not that place. Use sparingly for a big impact.

  2. Sliding Barn Doors. These are purely decorative and serve very little purpose; they're inconvenient to operate, they take up a lot of wall space, and they don't provide sound, light, or lockable privacy like any other door would. Passing fad.

  3. Shiplap. Again, use this sparingly. If you put it all over every wall in your living room or kitchen, you'll likely soon regret it just like a bad wallpaper. Sorry Joanna!

  4. Taxidermy. Real or faux, animal heads, horns and antlers are a trend that is already on its way out, so try not to get too attached to layering a "hunting" theme into your modern farmhouse.

Designer: Sita Montgomery Interiors

Designer: Sita Montgomery Interiors

If you have any specific questions about this topic or others, please feel free to reach out, or schedule a consultation so we can chat about it! Also, join my brand new Facebook group Studio Leu to ask your questions and see my responses to others!

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Thanks for reading! 

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