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It was an episode of "The Real Housewives of New York City" that got me thinking about the areas in our homes where we gather with guests that often become a habit. In this case, two of the reality stars were having lunch in a living room, which might be due to the fact that Manhattan apartments often have galley kitchens, among other space restrictions.

I tend to entertain in my living room, too, though for different reasons. One is that I love the view of the pond from this spot and the other is because it's the location of our dining table surrounded by chairs and a sectional that serves as a banquette.

Besides, it can be a nice change to host a small group where you have a sofa and cushy chairs that offer a comfortable place to sit and chat.

Our former next-door neighbor liked to seat people in her kitchen, which worked well in her home that's a mirror image of my own. Perhaps it felt so welcoming because of the round table and leather chairs with arms and wheels.

The location also allowed her to be close to the wine for frequent refills.

Before they passed away, the same neighbors were known for hosting casual holiday gatherings with everyone sitting wherever they could find an empty spot throughout the house. The lack of structure always felt so relaxed and inviting.

Another friend of mine guides her guests to a cozy dining room where she and her husband are the ultimate hosts. Sometimes we'll start on the outdoor patio, but we usually head back inside at some point.

Our children often end up playing in the basement, which reminds me of the same arrangement when I was a kid.

The kitchen is where I sit when visiting another friend who is an amazing cook. Despite the fact that she recently updated other parts of her home, we still follow our familiar routine when my daughter and I go there for dinner.

My friend and I eat at her small but comfortable kitchen table, while our girls have their meals in the family room.

At a nearby house where we head for holiday barbecues, the great room of the long and narrow ranch is where everything happens. It's a wide open space divided into separate sections where everyone can see each other, yet have their own conversations.

For parties, they rely on a series of tables; one for dining, another for overflow and a third to hold the food for people to help themselves.

I'm always curious to see where others direct their guests. It's such a privilege to be invited to someone else's house and to discover how they use their rooms to welcome visitors.

At this time of year, we have the advantage of adding our outdoor spaces to the equation. The next time you entertain, consider choosing a room with a different view. Even if you go back to your old habits, at least you'll have tried something new.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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