What do more than twenty summers in the French countryside add up to? A beautiful new book-and some sage advice on being a good guest
When designer Kathryn Ireland first spied La Castellane, a rambling 19th-century farmhouse in the unspoiled French countryside, she felt immediately at home. "La Castellane was easier to buy than a pair of shoes," she writes in her newest book, Summers in France-a scrapbook-style account of her 20-plus summers spent restoring the house, shopping at nearby markets, entertaining hundreds of houseguests, and watching her children (now grown) play, all against the backdrop of the magnificent French countryside.
Summering at La Castellane taught Ireland everything she knows about design and a lot about the art of entertaining, and in turn, about how to be a good guest.
In her many summers hosting houseguests (La Castellane has a whopping 10 guest rooms), Ireland has learned that there are good guests and bad guests. Just in time for summer visits, Ireland's wisdom about guest dos and don'ts may save your upcoming sojourns, and even better, get you an invite back.
• DO be helpful. "Guests who are motivated to be hands-on are always invited back," Ireland writes. Don't be afraid to peel some potatoes, brush the horses, or deadhead the flowers.
• DO be up for anything. Contribute your personality and charm. "Participate in making the day happen," she writes.
• DO make your bed. Keep your guest room tidy.
• DO give a thoughtful hostess gift. Instead of a generic gift, give something that matches the interests of your hostess. Ireland's favorite gifts include wine, rose plants, iPod playlists, cookbooks, a bunch of handpicked flowers, anything for the kitchen, or vintage fabric or linens. When in doubt, anything vintage will work.
• DO show up for the evening meal, preferably with wine. "Everyone is free to do whatever inspires them all day, but sharing the big meal at night is de rigueur," she writes. Don't forget to engage the kids in conversation, too; don't, however, scare them with ghost stories (unless they ask for one).
• DON'T expect your hostess to be your travel agent. Know enough of the language to be able to make your taxi reservations. Asking questions about local attractions is expected, but do some research ahead of time. (And definitely don't interrupt your hostess with a question about train schedules if she is snoozing in the hammock.)
• DON'T hog the good stuff, whether it's the hammock, the best seat at dinner, or the bench with a killer view.
• DON'T drop cigarette butts in the driveway, your laundry in the laundry room, or your wet towels on the bathroom floor.
MORE FROM ELLE DECOR
A Summery Stovetop Clambake
The Color That's All the Rage in Home Decor
Great Ideas for the Bathroom