Entertaining with Emily: Don’t stress out if your house isn’t always picture-perfect

Spaces entertaining columnist Emily Farris believes a happy home isn’t always picture-perfect.
Spaces entertaining columnist Emily Farris believes a happy home isn’t always picture-perfect.

Last fall, my century-old bungalow was photographed for a popular home decor blog. And I went way overboard getting it ready.

Never mind the fact that some editor saw pictures of my place as is (er, as was) and said, “Yeah, sure. Let’s feature that one.” No, I was still convinced I needed a new couch, fresh art, and every cosmetic upgrade that had ever crossed my mind. And, of course, I needed to clean like I’d never cleaned before.

In the weeks leading up to the shoot, I maxed out my credit card to replace my sectional, borrowed an original abstract from an artist friend, and even hired people to help me touch up paint and replace all the quarter round moulding on the main floor. A few days before the photographer arrived, I started cleaning and stopped sleeping. By the shoot day, I was broke, I was exhausted, and I had developed arthritis in my left knee.

Throughout my manic staging and cleaning, I’d say things like, “I wonder if there are people who just have to tidy up a bit before these kinds of shoots.” And I’m sure they do exist, but unlike me, they’re probably not inherently messy working moms with ADHD and two rowdy rescue mutts who’ve turned the yard into a mud pit. And if they are, well, they probably have a bigger budget for a house cleaner than I do.

I wish I could say it was an isolated incident — The Boozy Bungalow’s big coming out or something. But the truth is, it was just an exaggerated version of me getting ready for every party at my house. Ever.

Just as there are people whose homes are “this close” to photo-ready, there are surely others who are always prepared to throw a party. Maybe they only have to put away a few things and wipe down the table before putting out the wine and cheese. I aspire to be one of those people. But the truth is, beyond pairing fancy cheese with cheap wine, I’m never going to be.

Most of the time, my beautiful vintage rugs are home to many species of both plastic and stuffed dinosaurs, my wooden countertops are stacked with dirty dishes, and my new blue sectional? Well, it’s nearly impossible to get dog hair out of the fabric, so I try to keep it covered with a bedsheet.

As I’ve said before, my party-prep process involves me panic-cleaning all day while loudly announcing to everyone (but also to no one but myself) that “I’m going to get in the shower in 20 minutes” every 10 minutes for five or six hours. Honestly, it’s a miracle if I’m dressed when the first guests start to arrive.

This little ritual of mine is less than ideal, and it’s one part of entertaining I don’t do well. If I were to give myself advice, I’d say chill out.

Good lighting and strategically placed candles can really flatter a not-so-sparkling space, and your guests would likely prefer a fully-clothed host over a spotless house. Plus, nobody’s home looks perfect all the time. And if it does, they’re probably not doing a very good job of living in it.

To see more of Emily’s house, follow her on Instagram @theboozybungalow. To see what it actually looks like most days, watch her Instagram stories.