The architecture of hospitality

This past Saturday, Renee and I spent Saturday with a Realtor, looking at houses. The hardest part was explaining exactly what we were looking for because it isn’t as simple as “We need a three bedroom with two baths in a good neighborhood.”

No, our descriptions always revolve around large yards, shade trees, guest rooms, large dining rooms, guest bathrooms, room for bookshelves and a central kitchen. We will, when we see a house, remark on traffic flow patterns, the suitability fo porch sitting and neighbor conversations, whether a house is in a real neighborhood, or whether these people just happen to live next to each other.

In fact, one of the reasons we picked Jackson to move to rather than Nashville or Atlanta or Memphis had to do with the large amount of affordable housing inventory available here, so we could afford a house that would let us live the way we want to live – hospitably.

See, hospitality is not just a matter of inviting people to dinner – it is having room for a table big enough to have them over for dinner. It is easier to have guests spend the night when they can have their own room (or at least a room that can be repurposed on short notice) and don’t have to fight the three cats for a slice of the couch. If you have a pantry, you can store food for the times your friends are doing without, and if you have room for a garden, you can grow some of that food yourself.

And it isn’t just about being able to, but being likely to. You are more likely to meet your neighbors when there is not a large fence or hedge between your front yard and theirs. You are more likely to invite your friends from church over for dinner if it won’t be cramped, and if you have room to cook for 12 folks. You are more likely to be the house where your kid’s friends hang out if you have room for the hanging out.

It’s about having values and then finding a house that meets those values. And while every house is a compromise, when there are literally a hundred options at any given time, you can pretty much find something that fits.