Achieve Perfection with "Art of the Visit"

Perfection often eludes us, and at no time is that more apparent than when we are hosting out-of-town guests. We'd love every room to look like it emerged from the pages of Southern Living, every meal to taste as though it was cooked by Anthony Bourdain and every planned activity to run like a finely crafted Swiss watch. If only there were some sort of guidebook to help us in these endeavors—and fortunately, at long last, there is.

The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest is a new etiquette book featuring the wisdom of hostess extraordinaire Kathy Bertone.

Featuring an attractive embossed cover, an ornate font and deckle-edge pages that resemble old-fashioned writing paper, the book has the feel of an invitation that beckons you inside.

Author Bertone writes in a warm, friendly manner while all the while efficiently imparting advice, checklists and great anecdotes of her own hosting experiences. In fact, the style of the book—polite, gracious and efficient—parallels what it takes to be a good host or hostess.

The book has two distinct parts. In Part 1 of the book, Bertone covers everything that it takes to be a gracious and unflappable host or hostess. She tells readers how to prepare their homes with all the amenities that will make their guests feel welcome, and she also offers specific advice on how to entertain, feed and otherwise pamper your guests.

Bertone even has excellent tips on how to accommodate children, elderly guests as well as the potential four-legged guests that might accompany their owners. In addition, there are tips for "The Absent Host," providing advice for those who wish to make their mountain chalet or beachside condo comfortable for guests when they won't be present.

Author Kathy Bertone at home

"Properly welcoming your guests is much more than just having a lovely space,” Bertone says in describing the essence of her book. “It’s how you interact with your friends and family and how you make them feel that makes a lasting impression. The Art of the Visit takes the stress out of hosting and equips readers with the essentials they need to plan a successful visit.”

Part 2 of the book shifts focus to those who are the visitors rather than the visited, with Bertone sharing etiquette tips on how those who are staying in another's home can earn high marks as ideal guests. She provides useful tips on what to pack, understanding boundaries and leaving your hosts with a positive lasting impression.

In both parts of the book, Bertone acknowledges the stress that can accompany even a short overnight visit. Hosts are anxious for everything to go well. They may have spent days getting their home ready for their visitors—cleaning, shopping as well as equipping their bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen with everything needed for a successful visit. Guests, meanwhile, are out of their comfort zone and may feel a bit awkward about asking for specific amenities not provided. Or they may not want to hurt the host's feelings if the planned activities are not what they had in mind.

Each part of the book include 12 essential qualities that are needed to be either a great host or a great guest. As an example, Bertone emphasizes the importance of flexibility as a means of ensuring a successful visit. And while her book touts the potential for perfection, she fully acknowledges that it's an elusive goal. "I don't know of one visit with friends or family that has been perfect, although getting as close as possible is the goal," she writes.

In fact, the perfect visit can be achieved even when something goes wrong. The key is for the host or hostess to create an inviting atmosphere, to be attentive to guests' needs, and to stay calm, cool and collected in the face of the unexpected.

It's also vital to be a good communicator so that you as a host can pinpoint the needs of your guest or help get the visit back on track in case things are going wrong.

“Being a great host and a great guest is about having the ability to combine empathy, style and confidence,” Bertone explains in summarizing "The Art of the Visit." “Knowing when to put your guests or your own needs first and knowing when and how to do it is key to ensuring a stress-free and fabulous visit.”

Kathy Bertone is the co-founder and managing partner of a merger and acquisition firm located outside Washington, D.C. For years, she and her husband have enjoyed entertaining friends and family in their three homes. She currently lives in Naples, Fla. where she continues to perfect her hosting expertise.

For more information about the author and The Art of the Visit, visit The Art of the Visit is available on, and in major bookstores.

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