Porter and Hollister Hovey, the sisters behind the beloved staging and interior styling company, Hovey Design, have a knack for transforming empty spaces into charming homes with relaxed vibes in the span of a few hours. Known for a flattering color palette and next-level ability to mix new and vintage pieces, they create dreamy spaces that buyers can instantly imagine inhabiting. Their work and maximalist personal style have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and Cup of Jo. Here they share their tips for creating a welcoming atmosphere for your pop-up, marketing event, or work party…
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
We go into empty houses and apartments to decorate them very quickly before they go on the market. Most of our work is in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn where a more minimalist, modern and organic aesthetic works, but we also pay attention to the specific tastes of the neighborhood and the lifestyle of potential buyers. While the overall space should be beautiful and calming, we also want the experience to be fun and memorable, so we add small details that tell a story or might make people smile.
Often the first impression of an apartment you’ve staged is the photographs. What should we keep in mind when planning an event that we want to live on in pictures?
The photos are the gateway to the sales process. If the eyes don’t like the images online, the feet won’t go to the open house. Even when we use our most cherished furniture, the spaces look flat until we add the art, plants and flower arrangements–and we add a lot.
When entertaining, your walls can be as important as your tablescape. Don’t be afraid to add large-scale works or rugs to provide a great backdrop for your guests’ snapshots. Think of each wall as an opportunity to have a makeshift photo booth. Get an extra large canvas from a local craft store, paint the background a fun color that will contrast beautifully with people’s skin and add a couple of large geometric shapes or use gaffer’s tape to create bold black lines.
You can never have too many plants or flowers. A few $20 palm trees from Home Depot or Ikea add great color and texture to a room and can be used to fill strange dead space, create room divisions for different “zones,” or even hide ugly power strips.
What have you learned about the flow of a room that could translate to an event?
When entertaining in your home, it can seem impossible to get guests out of the kitchen. To do this, you have to feed them elsewhere. Even if you aren’t hosting at home, we like to set up drink and food stations with pre-made cocktails or beer and wine throughout the space. Pre-mixing the drinks will also save so much stress and mess for you as the host.
Faux flowers seem like a clever option for a pop-up or an extended event. Why go faux?
The faux flower game has improved so much over the last decade. We get most of ours from specialist places in the Chelsea Flower District, but CB2, Urban Outfitters, and West Elm are selling pretty decent ones.
Do you have any tips on how to make faux flowers look chic and cool?
You have to judge each stem on its own merits, but in general, the more fake-looking the real flower type, the more realistic its artificial cousin will appear. The protea, allium, thistle, anemone, ranunculus and anthurium are consistently amazing. We use the big statement flowers in odd numbers (usually one or three) and add in something craggy like blueberry or raspberry branches, something minimalist and tall like real dried Craspedia (Billy Balls) and something droopy like an Amaranthus or real pink peppercorn (without adding water). We avoid using too much burgundy or red in favor of pinks, purples and whites.
Do you have a personal philosophy on hosting in general or anything you think people tend to overlook while entertaining?
Guests love to see effort – and will reciprocate it.
Beyond all the aesthetic considerations, the most important tip we can offer is: buy “too much” booze. Never count on guests bringing alcohol, and if they do, it can help fill the bar for your next party. Have enough ready for everyone to drink too much and plenty of seltzers for the non-drinkers. If budget is an issue, invite fewer people but treat those who do come like kings.
You always have the prettiest party spreads that double as party decorations. Any tricks for keeping things simple, but impressive and dramatic?
We used to go crazy buying a ton of fancy cheeses. Then we went to a party with one enormous cheese, and it changed everything. It was exponentially more impressive than a bunch of little ones and looked even cooler through the night as it got attacked. Now we go to the cheese counter and ask for the largest and most tasty half-wheel we can buy for about $75-$100. Go wild with salamis, grapes and figs all around it; it’s like having a sculpture.
What should a first-time host keep in mind?
Unless you have caterers, we don’t recommend serving anything hot. As a host, it’s much more important to be circulating and making the guests feel welcome than it is to be sweating and stressing in the kitchen. Your mood will rub off onto the guests. A relaxed host equals a relaxed guest.
One of the best tips for making people feel great comes from none other than the world’s most terrible host, Bridget Jones: introduce people with interesting details. Breaking the ice sucks, so break it for them.
Thanks Porter and Hollister!
Set the stage for your professional event from the get-go with a stylish invitation.