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We all know that houses don't host parties -- people do.

That said, some homes seem perfectly suited for entertaining. Magic happens, as old friends rib and reminisce, or less familiar guests feel electricity across a crowded room. Whether it's a stately city mansion or a simple farm porch, a great party setting can enhance that enchantment -- or extinguish it.

It's never too late to make your home alluring to guests, nor too early, either. Real party people cast a critical eye on entertaining potential when they first look to buy, build or rent a home.

Great hospitality, like a great home, reflects the host's taste and budget. A cold-beer-and-burgers type shouldn't perch his poor guests on white sofas and spend the evening pretending to like sushi. They'd be uncomfortable, of course, and the party would be over by 7:30.

The ideal party house is a home that has hit its stride, a just-right chemistry of style, excitement and creature comforts. In this issue of FIRST SUNDAY'S Home and Design magazine are three local homes that epitomize entertaining at its most charming. We hope you'll enjoy peeking inside them as much as we did.

So eat, drink and be festive. You are cordially invited to read on and consider the perfect pleasure that is a party house.