equestrian lifestyle

GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY AND THE OVERNIGHT GUEST: Lessons gleaned from the Traditional Country Home

June 23, 2024

Hospitality & The Gracious Hostess

Guests visiting the country home historically have and remain prized treasures. The bucolic lifestyle affords many unique luxuries including daily access to nature, peaceful solitude and the fruitful yields of disciplined work, yet it can often be scarce in the joy found in human connection. A visit to the rural home is typically a deliberate destination to specifically visit friends and family as opposed to traveling to a city with the intention of experiencing endless activities. The gracious hostess appreciates the effort made by the guests and because amenities are not in close proximity, she anticipates and plans for the needs of the visitors. Upon arrival she is gracious and kind throughout the stay to ensure the prized event is enjoyed by all.


The Rural Destination 

Romantic visions of attending Downton Abbey’s weekend hunting parties or the Gilded Age’s Newport Rhode Island social season captures one’s imagination of the extravagance experienced outside the confines of the city and referred to as “country”. Yet, there is no denying that there is also enjoyment achieved when immersed at a hands-on working rural locale. This latter country visit fosters an atmosphere of tranquility through the company of close friends and the warmth of a thoughtful home. In a chapter titled "The Country House and Its Hospitality" published in 1922 by Emily Post in her famed bestseller, Etiquette n society, in business, in politics and at home, she writes:


"We enjoy staying with certain people usually for one of two reasons.  First, because they have wonderful, luxurious houses, filled with amusing people; and visiting them is a period crammed with continuous and delightful experience, even though such a visit has little that suggests any personal intercourse or friendship with one’s hostess. The other reason we love to visit a certain house is, on the contrary, entirely personal to the host or hostess. We love the house because we love its owner. Nowhere do we feel so much at home, and though it may have none of the imposing magnificence of the great house, it is often far more charming.”(Ajeyaseelan,2023)


    

Is one “country” visit better than the other? Absolutely not! There is a time and place for each, yet today more than ever, one can appreciate the respite achieved from a more intimate visit with the closest of friends amidst nature, be it at a farm, ranch, lake house or the like, in a well appointed home filled with authenticity and love.


Making Your Guests Feel at Home- a Bespoke Experience 

Inclusion

Establishing an atmosphere in which each guest feels part of the natural rhythm of your household is the essential ingredient in creating a perfect visit. Providing daily amenities are obvious and encompass the basics of extra toothbrushes, blow dryer, toiletries, etc. - all of which can be found at even the most impersonal of hotels. But the supplement of providing the detailed touches one would enjoy in their own home and anticipating the personal needs for each individual takes your guest’s stay to the next level. In this instance, luxury is not defined by expanse, but rather by thought and detail. How is this level of hospitality achieved? Planning, anticipation of needs and graciousness.

Fresh flowers & fine linens enhance the comfort of a well-appointed guest suite
Fresh flowers & fine linens enhance the comfort of a well-appointed guest suite

The Well Appointed Guest Room

Creating a room specifically for guests, devoid of the household’s personal effects, is one of the most important pillars of a welcoming home. 

In the aforementioned book, Emily Post suggests that “every hostess be obliged to spend twenty-four hours every now and then in each room that is set apart for visitors. If she does not do this actually, she should do so in imagination.”(Ajeyaseelan, 2023) Brilliant idea! By doing so, the hostess is aware of how the room functions, any maintenance required, and the comfort of the textiles and amenities provided. Twenty-four hours might be a bit excessive with today’s busy schedules, but the exercise may be amended to visit the room throughout the day to experience the different temperatures and levels of light and evaluate, improve, correct and even enjoy the space that has been created with someone else’s comfort in mind.

"The Guest Card"

Another important exercise in creating the bespoke experience is to inquire and address any special preferences your guests may have. In Emily Post’s 1920 best selling etiquette book, she explains the wonderful idea of a “guest card” presented upon arrival to be filled out and note any specific requests for the entirety of their stay. Today we are afforded the ability to better prepare through modern technology. A simple email accomplishes the same goal, which is particularly important where supplies are less accessible. Stocking the pantry with staples that address dietary needs and noting important daily routines creates a level of comfort by replicating pieces from a visitors own home.


A coffee & tea station is a thoughtful amenity 

Graciousness

Anticipation and preparation sets the foundation for a successful visit, but the true test is authentic hospitality expressed through graciousness for the entire duration of the stay. From the moment your guest arrives, fold them into the fabric of your household. Provide a tour noting the details that apply to their comfort - guest room and its amenities, the stocked pantry and refrigerator, layout of house, etc. Also explain particulars of your schedule as it applies to them. As an example, “we start our day at 5 am, but please sleep until you are rested and help yourself to coffee and breakfast items, which will be located on the counter in the butler’s pantry.” And remember, the stay is a marathon not a sprint. There is a delicate balance in providing proper space and constantly staying underfoot with excessive attention. Ultimately, the goal is to enjoy and celebrate friendship so try to flow with the course of events and relish in the joy of sharing your home.



The Night Stand: An investment for the gracious home

One of the most important investments for the well-appointed guest room is a proper nightstand cabinet preferably with a top drawer, as opposed to its smaller contemporary cousin the “bedside table”. Not only practical, it is also a logical location to place necessary household information that is not to be missed. Suggestions for best use include:


Fresh Flowers with light to no fragrance as an inviting touch.


Provide a water carafe and matching glass. They are much more personal, elegant and practical than disposable water bottles.


A beautiful lamp with a soft bulb has dual functions. It creates a warm ambiance for the room and is practical for nighttime reading any trips to another room during the darkness of night.


Small Tray for glasses, jewelry and pocket essentials.


Selected relevant reading material intended to calm the mind and prepare for rest.


Provide a printed copy of “Household details and Appointments” inclusive of two sections:

1) Household details including Wi-fi passwords, tv remotes/sound system instructions, electronic door codes, and important phone numbers. Also note where you have placed extra phone and computer chargers.

2) Provide a list of important appointments.  Note essential times and dates for events during their stay and when necessary, dress code due to weather and/or formality. Examples may include local dinner reservations and pre-set activities with definite start times including farmer’s market, sporting events, evening concerts, etc.


A small piece of fine chocolate is a luxurious welcoming touch.



References

Ajeyaseelan. (2023, March 3). The country house and its hospitality. Collection at Bartleby.com. https://www.bartleby.com/lit-hub/etiquette/the-country-house-and-its-hospitality/





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