Hosting Holiday House Guests with Charm Etiquette

Hosting any type of event during the holiday season can be extremely stressful; hosting holiday house guests can increase your stress level tenfold. Consider all of the potential situations that may arise, and you just may find yourself saying there’s “no room for you at the inn.” Fret no more, we’ve turned to THE expert in etiquette – CEO and Founder of Atlanta-based Charm Etiquette, Erika Preval – for the best advice when dealing with holiday house guest conundrums.

Erika Preval
Erika Preval

After reading her delightful guest blog post on stealthily handling those potential house guest problems, you’ll be able to brush off what would’ve previously seemed like a major issue with grace:

Holiday house guests are on their way! You’ve stocked the fridge, put out fresh towels and placed a carafe of water on the bedside table of the guest room – perfect Southern hospitality. You’re fully prepared to receive guests, but it’s often those surprises hosts didn’t anticipate that can shift things from charming to alarming. Here’s a primer on how to handle any house guest snafu gracefully by being a relaxed and considerate host.


Early to bed, Early to rise! Try to anticipate what your guests will need to be self-sufficient. If they’re early risers, be sure to put out any needed tableware to eliminate the need of rummaging through your cupboards. Also, having some easy to prep foods available (think croissants, quiche, fresh fruit, etc.) and giving a tutorial on using your coffee maker will allow them to enjoy their typical morning routine until you awake.

Conversely, for the guest who stays up past your bedtime, sharing knowledge of how to operate your TV remotes, the Wi-Fi password and reading materials should keep them entertained in your absence. You’ll want to be certain that you’ve stocked your bar cart so that they might enjoy a nightcap, as well.


Is there a doctor in the building? Your house guest becoming ill during their stay is something neither of you can control. It is, however, the perfect time for you to show compassion and make your guest feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. Offer to prepare tea or soup and go to the drugstore for any medications that might ease symptoms. Prepare the guest room with plenty of reading materials and a television to keep them entertained, well rested and contained, should anything be potentially contagious. Making a guest feel they need to relocate to a hotel while they’re sick would be a major faux pas, unless their symptoms were a serious threat to the health of others within the household.


Is there meat in this? Dinner is ready and you bring to the table your famous lasagna bolognese, only to learn your guest is vegetarian. This scenario is often difficult and awkward for both sides. Ideally, your guest would’ve discussed their dietary restrictions and preferences prior to their arrival. However, as the host, your role is to always ensure your guest feels comfortable, so take a deep breath and consider other quick options for their meal. There is likely a workaround if you have prepared or have the fixings for a green salad or an ample amount of vegetable side dishes.

A sincere thank you to Erika for sharing her wealth of etiquette knowledge in this holiday house guest blog post for steve mckenzie’s! As you can see, she’s one smart cookie and we’re so grateful to have become friends with such a charming person. If you’d like to learn more about Erika and the fantastic services she provides through Charm Etiquette, please check out her website here.

Good luck with your house guests and happy holidays!

Library Friday – Jackson Pollock: A Biography

For this Library Friday feature, steve mckenzie’s team member, Xavier Neuner is back – and this time he brings a debate!

Xavier Neuner
Xavier Neuner

Xavier selected “Jackson Pollock: A Biography,” as his choice this Library Friday, and offers some unique insight into the work of this timeless artist…


Hello avid steve mckenzie’s readers, This week’s Library Friday topic brings us a debate that has been going on for years –  Jackson Pollock! Is his work a breath-taking, original idea, or a product of a lazy man’s way to fame?

I personally believe Pollock’s work is ground breaking for the time. The definition “to paint” is to cover a surface or object with paint.  Nowhere did the definition state that an artist needs a paintbrush to apply paint on a surface.

Jackson Pollock was the first artist to fully grasp this concept.  As his painting styles evolved he began to experiment with dripping the paint onto canvas.

Jackson Pollock – One Number 31, 1950

My friends and family know how I act when we go to a museum or art gallery.  Rarely do I stop and stair at artwork during an exhibit, unless I am engulfed in the technique of the piece.  When I saw Pollock’s “One Number 31, 1950” for the first time, I felt like Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller’s best friend.  I couldn’t help but observe how many layers of paint make up the texture on the canvas. He truly understood in order to paint all a person needs is paint and a surface.

We love learning Xavier’s take on some of our favorite works in the steve mckenzie’s library! What are your thoughts  – do you agree with Xavier, or have an alternate point of view?! Please share in the comments, we’d love to know your thoughts!

Guest Blog Post: Ann Wisniewski & Dwell With Dignity Atlanta

Good morning friends! Today, we’re excited to turn the reins over to our great friend, and fabulous designer, Ann Wisniewski! Not only is Ann THE mind behind AJW Designs, she’s also involved with one of our favorite organizations Dwell With Dignity. You may have seen our previous posts sharing a bit out DWD, and it’s a cause that’s become close to our own hearts. We are absolutely thrilled to team up with Ann, and the other DWD volunteers for the next install coming up this fall.

But, back to Ann… She’s so sweetly offered to share a little about herself and AJW Designs’ involvement with DWD and we think you’ll appreciate all she has to say:

Ann Wisniewski

Hi everyone.

My name is Ann Wisniewski and I am an Interior Designer and Principal of AJW Designs, Inc. located in greater Atlanta. I am so grateful to my good friends Jill and Steve McKenzie for giving me the opportunity to be a guest on their blog. I am also very excited about their fabulous new showroom and invite everyone to come, visit, and be surrounded by beautiful things especially Steve’s art and fabrics.

I feel so lucky to be able to pursue my passion. Design is a second career for me after several years as a pediatric nurse at Egleston. My goal for every project is to create beautiful yet safe and healthy spaces  for my clients. Because of this, I wanted to tell you about a design opportunity that I am a part of that is coming up this September. The project is called Dwell with Dignity. I first became involved last February when I assisted my good friend and designer Kerry Howard with their first Atlanta project. What a wonderful experience.

This non-profit organization was founded in Dallas Texas by Lisa Robison, a fellow Interior Designer, who’s strong belief is that good design improves ones quality of life. That really registered with me and I was hooked.

This organization is made up of designers and volunteers dedicated to creating soothing, inspiring homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty. They provide and install home interiors for families that include furnishings and art, bedding and kitchen supplies, and food in the pantry.

The living room in Dwell With Dignity's inaugural Atlanta project.
The living room in Dwell With Dignity’s inaugural Atlanta project.

For this project, we are providing a complete apartment make-over for a single Mom and her two children. I would like to invite everyone to visit the Dwell With Dignity website and click on donate now and designate to the Atlanta Chapter.

I am responsible for the Kitchen and Bath areas and all donations for food items, cleaning supplies,dishes, glasses, bath towels etc. would be greatly appreciated. There are also 2 Bedrooms and a Living Room to be completed.

dwell with dignity atl kitchen
The kitchen in the first DWD Atlanta project.

Dwell with Dignity’s mission is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design, one household at a time.” If we can change a person’s surroundings, we can change their outlook on life.”

This is just the start of the Dwell with Dignity Atlanta Chapter with future projects to be scheduled soon. Steve and Jill have already given their support to this effort. Please join us creating spaces that improve the quality of someone’s life.

Thank you Ann! Your passion for this organization is  evident and we cannot wait to see what you come up with for the kitchen and bath areas for this deserving family.

We feel so fortunate that we’re able to help, and if this cause strikes a chord with you as well, we encourage you to get involved too!

Here’s to helping others and to supporting Dwell With Dignity!