Podcast, Ep. 113: author Susan Sully

Southern author Susan Sully joins the podcast to talk about Southern hospitality

This week, we welcome best selling author of over 18 books, Susan Sully. She tells us all about Southern Hospitality At Home, her new book that details the inspiration behind the art of finding joy and generosity in hospitality. Susan talks about what surprised her most about the history of Southern homes and hospitality in her research for the book, the importance of a welcoming entrance hall, why the door was almost always open in the South and her go to tips for entertaining at home. We also talk about dining room etiquette including the rules on lighting candles, ways we can update tradition, and incorporating high/low into your entertaining.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Trials regarding a cool Ballard lamp, a Prosciutto haunted hand, and failed kitchen outlets.
  • Triumphs of rediscovering the right way to use a fan, a killer centerpiece, and new dining table.
  • Why Susan thinks that hospitality and comfort have remained so ingrained in Southern culture.
  • Why old Southern houses work with the climate to encourage an environment of fun times and great parties.
  • Why porches were arranged on the side in Charleston, and the difference between a porch, Side piazza, and gallery.
  • No matter how big or small the entrance way in a home, do something to make it welcoming.
  • Some of Susan’s must-haves for decorating including cloth napkins, beautiful place cards, comfortable chairs, things that gleam and glimmer, and how to get ahead of the game by setting the table the night before.
  • The etiquette around lighting candles, and ways we can update tradition with boldly colored candlesticks and candle holders.
  • What we need in our guest rooms to make our special visitors feel appreciated and welcomed.

Decorating Dilemma

Hi ladies!

I have been binge-listening to your show since my friend introduced me two weeks ago. I have since bought a Ballard indoor/outdoor rug, the amazon dish towels (lol), and as an ode to our own french bulldog, the Mister French stone bulldog (may he rest in peace, sweet boy!!)  thanks to your inspirations and stories! We recently moved from Birmingham to DC and sold our home that I renovated and decorated and are now renting in Alexandria. Since we’re renting, there isn’t much I can do to the inside and my furniture works well enough, but the outside just doesn’t feel like home. It’s a townhouse but the entrance is in a hallway and another door is across the hall. We have a lot of space and I feel like I could make it pretty using some planters and a cute welcome mat. My mom also gave me a wicker bar cart to use which I was thinking would be cute to switch out seasonally. Attached are some pictures of the space. The cart is white but I am thinking of painting it. I feel inspired to use color, and I’m leaning towards a purple or sladey-blue but would love your help with a color along with planter ideas. Also, would a wreath be overkill?

Thanks y’all!


Susan loves the idea of a wicker bar cart with you changing out flowers or greenery. She said a polypropylene runner to put along the front of your house, to soften up the floor and bring color. You can paint the bar cart a color to go with it. We love the idea of having that table next to your door, with plants on it to add some depth and color.

Hi Ladies!

Love love love the podcast! It keeps me company during my long Atlanta commute. I especially love your trials and triumphs… I feel like we could be friends! Listening to you and your guests validates a lot of my design choices, and makes me realize that I’m not the only one whose husband has an opinion!

Anyway, on to my dilemma… We moved into a 100 year old house about a year ago… and window treatments in this house baffle me.  There are so many glass doors and windows above built-ins in this house. I’ve decided to live free without window treatments in the living room, dining room, and kitchen (because there is only 1 true set of windows that could take curtains between those 3 rooms – the rest are glass doors or windows above built ins and cabinets). But in the bedrooms, I really want curtains… and I would love to use your acrylic curtain rods. ??? One bedroom in particular is giving me heartburn.

My stepdaughter’s room has a fireplace with a window on each side in very close proximity. All the trim work for the windows and fireplace is connected, and there’s a built-in mirror above the fireplace. She also has another wall of windows behind her bed. The 8’ rod will fit the windows behind the bed perfectly, but how do I treat the ones on either side of the fireplace? Should I get 2 of the 6’ rods and butt them against each other to give the illusion of one long rod going all the way across the windows and fireplace (do those little brass caps on the ends remove?), or do I get 2 4’ rods and just have them over the windows? Do I have 1 panel at each fireplace window or do I put 2 panels at each window? The fireplace is converted to gas and we don’t really use it, so catching curtains on fire isn’t a big concern of mine. I really appreciate your advice!

P.S. I apologize that the room looks like a teenager lives in it. You have to give them some freedom to decorate their own spaces, right??


One of Susan’s mottos is “there is no problem that a good curtain can’t fix”, but here it can be dramatic and make it feel like a pavillion. Her advice is a very long curtain rod with two panels on either side all the way down the floor.  Susan also throws out that two curtain rods with two panels on either side and treating them on individual windows may work really well too. We also throw in the idea of Roman shades, to help add softness.

Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.