Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Blackberry Farm many times. From staying in the historic house rooms to a romantic weekend in a remote cabin to piling up with friends who own a full-scale residence on the property, time there never disappoints. One common thread no matter what the accommodations are is the immediate welcoming feel in every space. That isn’t an accident. The proprietor of the farm and Blackberry Mountain resort Mary Celeste Beall is hosting a lifestyle lecture at the upcoming Antiques and Garden Show along with Blackberry Farm co-founder Kreis Beall. The ladies plan to share their hospitality secrets, go-to sources, and creating a welcoming home. The lecture is appropriately titled The Legacy of Home and is slated at the show for 2 pm on February 1. If you love hosting or just aspire to do more entertaining in the future, this is a not-to-miss event.

During my time at the farm as well as gatherings through mutual acquaintances, I have had the pleasure of making friends with Mary Celeste and we have had some fantastic nights filled with wine, food, and music over the years. I am always impressed by her grace at handling every situation, her creative talents, and how she seems to execute everything with ease and joy. Because she may just be the best host in the state, getting her insight on how to focus on key practices was a treat. Here she shares what’s most important when it comes to entertaining no matter what the occasion.


Mary Celeste’s Tips on Welcoming Company

First, you have to extend the invite. In our busy society, people often think it’s easier to go out for dinner, coffee, etc., but inviting someone into your home is a gift in itself!

Be relaxed. No one can really unwind and enjoy being a guest if their host or hostess is nervous about making sure that everything is perfect.

Set the mood with lighting. If it’s during the day, make sure the house feels inviting and well lit. Turning on a few lights in peripheral rooms creates extra warmth. In the evening, dim, dim, dim. Even if you need some task lighting in the kitchen, be sure to dim once you are ready to serve. Light lots of candles. Candlelight always adds an extra twinkle and glow.

If serving a meal, do not be paralyzed by a lack of confidence in your own culinary talents if cooking isn’t your thing. It’s fine to order takeout and serve it on your own china. Order pizza and open a great bottle of wine. Or host a potluck! I love a potluck with a loosely planned menu – that way you know the food all works together, and the host isn’t responsible for everything. However, as much as we love good food, we enjoy good company more, so send the invites and take whatever shortcuts you need to make the hosting process simple and pleasant.

Make use of your favorite spaces. I love to linger at the dining room table but also like moving into the living room for dessert. If you have a spot you love in your house, use it! Serve something special that reflects the season. One idea for cold-weather gatherings is this Winter ‘s Bellini (including the recipe) featured in this month’s Blackberry Farm magazine.