Designers Jane Schwab and Cindy Smith, co-owners of Charlotte-based firm Circa Interiors, have distilled a collective 59 years of decorating knowledge and experience into one 240-page book, The Welcoming House: The Art of Living Graciously, released just this week.
And though they don't always work in tandem on projects, it's clear that the two share design sensibilities and perceptions of elegance.
"Jane and I both grew up in friendly, small towns, with families that entertained a lot. We always had room at the table for an extra person," Smith tells CultureMap.
"When you make a purchase, look at it as a long-term investment, not something that's just going to fill the space."
That, she believes, is the definition of gracious living: Having a comfortable, inviting home where people want to visit you, one that can easily adapt for large groups and casual entertaining — in addition to serving as a backdrop for private family moments.
There are tricks of the trade to getting this formula right — Smith hinted that it partly involves decorating with "a lot of chairs" — but in the end, thoughtfully-considered pieces are as crucial as the room's layout.
"When designing a home, no matter what stage you are in life, we suggest that you start with one or two really special pieces that you love," Schwab says. "Then fill in with things that will be functional and accommodate your family and the way you want to live."
"And when you do make a purchase, look at it as a long-term investment, not something that's just going to fill the space," advises Smith. "Buy something that's the very best quality that you can possibly afford."
"It's a bit of a trend for people to do a quick fix . . . but something of good quality elevates everything else in the room."
Schwab and Smith will share more of their design wisdom at the Houston Design Center's Spring Market at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Admission is free but reservations are required. RSVP for the event here.