While 2020 seemed to crawl by slowly, 2021 seems to be returning to a pre-pandemic pace. The holidays are rapidly approaching, and there is excitement in the air with a large dose of expectation for interior seasonal gathering spaces. A Designer’s Quick Hosting Guide can help you confidently curate an evening, without compromising quality time with loved ones.
Every year can feel like a scramble to get your holiday house in order, much less to extend your space to all of those you love and cherish. I’ve come to find that the stress of perfection is quite frankly not worth it. One of the most important things I’ve learned from the pandemic is being with those you hold dear is what matters! However, as many start to celebrate and make up for lost time, it’s nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve to facilitate real connection. And as an interior designer, I know full well that aesthetics, quality and curation allow for an all around good time. These few tips will cut out unnecessary work and allow you to cherish the present moment, the spirit of the holidays and the people around you.
If you’ve attended weddings or parties, you probably know that a common complaint is the overall flow and organization of guests. Although, when done right, it is seamless, a lack of organization is noticed very quickly if not considered. When many guests want food, it’s imperative to have a plan for the natural flow of guests within your space.
While people remember the food they ate and the conversations they had, guests remember most the feel of a party. You may doubt this, but as an interior designer, I’ve seen the impact of a space on those I’ve worked with time and time again. I’ve seen restaurants turn around in business from an interior rehaul alone. People flock to ambiance, especially around the holidays.
While this may not matter so much with close friends and family,(cause lets face it. just being together is everything) a nice well thought out atmosphere will take a lot of pressure off you as you entertain. While you could spend all your energy on a homemade meal, a much more efficient and stress free way to impress is to set an organized and elevated table. Incorporate festive and eclectic dinnerware and thoughtful glassware. In buffet style, have your menu adorning lovely dishes rather than containers, boxes or simple bakeware. The overall presentation of the buffet is such a simple step, but goes a long way in making your party look put together.
I’ve often hosted my family gatherings and I didn’t always have a ton of time, being a full time interior designer and mom. My go-to hosting menu for holiday gathering is hors d’oeuvres and lots of them. This sounds time consuming, but we live in the 21st century where there are many delicious options in the freezer section of your local Trader Joe’s or Costco. People love them, they look and taste great and you are stress free enough to enjoy your own party.
Think about the food in terms of theme and variety but also accommodating guests’ dietary restrictions. Have gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian options. Reference the end of the article where I include a recipe for a gluten free fall treat. Remember simple items like rosemary popcorn, dried fruit or various herb infused nuts for easy snacking.
Add in charcuterie – it keeps people entertained for hours, allowing you to enjoy the company you keep.
Jam, crackers, olives and cheeses. You are set!
If you are hosting a gathering and feeding many, splurge on the beef tenderloin from Costco. It shines prepared as Beef Wellington. I’ve included the instructions here. It’s easy enough to assemble, feeds 40-50, can be sliced to accompany hors d’oeuvres, and pleases all (it’s puff pastry)! If your guest list has various dietary restrictions, the range of hors d’oeuvres should have you covered.
*It’s time friendly, and although costly for one item, the price is often less than the expense of buying all the ingredients to create a meal from scratch.
Another option for feeding many is calling up your favorite restaurant and ordering large portions of your favorite dish. It’s sure to please and supports the small businesses you love. Just be sure to chat with them a few days in advance!
Don’t forget the desert table- I like to incorporate a few homemade specialities that are crowd favorites. These include Aunt Linda’s chocolate cake and bourbon pumpkin pie recipes. My puff pastry pear tart can be found here. I cut them up into easy to handle pieces and display them on a three tier French patisserie tray. And of course the cookies of all kinds, including gluten free, pleasing the kids and kids at heart.
Here is a quick list of affordable quality wines for the holiday:
A Crisp White, think oysters and hors d’oeuvres
Large, Earthy Red, great for that beef wellington!
As for drinks, here is a quick cocktail that is sure to please. You can buy each ingredient listed if you would like. Have plenty of ice on hand and serve from a punch bowl or a beautiful container.
Angostura Daiquiri Punch Bowl
serves 25, each serving is between 3-4 oz
2 750ml bottles of Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Original Dark Rum (you can use any rum of your choosing)
19 oz of fresh lime juice (just over 2 cups)
12.5 oz of simple syrup (made simply by melting equal parts sugar into water and letting cool)
12 oz of water
.75 oz of angostura bitters
It’s a classic daiquiri (rum, lime + sugar) with Angostura bitters. I’d suggest opting for a classic cocktail when entertaining others because it’s a proven crowd-pleaser and simple to manage the few ingredients. The benefit of a classic cocktail is that it is modified very easily to add some charm to your event; ask any restaurant or bar – most unique drinks are a riff on a few basic recipes! For holiday hosting, the Angostura bitters add a seasonal quality of baking spice, and the medium bodied rum provides a more well-rounded, fuller refreshment for the time of year as opposed to the white rum original.
Add a dehydrated apple slice to every glass and you will have an easy, elegant garnish that floats on the surface after serving. Wah-lah!
Keep your ingredients in the fridge until batching so that your drink starts chilled! Combine and mix ingredients in a large container, so you can have a reserve throughout the event. When you are ready to serve, transfer your batched cocktail to a large punch bowl and have your punch bowl resting in a larger bowl of ice – that way you can serve your daiquiris chilled, ‘up’ and in your festive glassware.
When planning festive interiors, I’m honestly not a fan of most commercial holiday decor. As an interior designer, I gravitate to simplistic textures, natural tones and subtle modifications with my home. Neutral palettes can range from the warm tones of Thanksgiving to the straws and pewters of New Years, which allow longevity for your gathering spaces throughout the entire holiday season.
When I think holiday decor, I think burlap, ribbon, low key metallics – such as antique golds and pewters, natural materials and greenery such as unusual garlands and woody branches and bright berries for a pop of color.
If you are hosting a gathering, forage for decor. Yes! Go grab dried grasses, shapely twigs and branches of berries and play with simplistic arrangements on tables. A cluster of oranges and bundle of herbs can accent an unassuming surface, serve as centerpieces or decorate food and cocktail stations.
*It’s budget and time friendly!
So with a few basic practices, you can actually enjoy yourself, catch up with loved ones and provide a welcoming and warm atmosphere.
For Interior Seasonal Gathering Spaces, focus on layout.
With just a little forethought, a planned space will help you avoid major snafus and put your guests at ease. Don’t underestimate the power of this!
For Interior Seasonal Gathering Spaces, focus on thoughtful, simplistic decor.
Plating your buffet goes a long way! Use natural materials on hand to create a low-budget elegant tablescape.
For Interior Seasonal Gathering Spaces, don’t stress the food.
The frozen section is your friend! hors d’oeuvres, beef tenderloin, a basic but elegant charcuterie (think of plating here).
For Interior Seasonal Gathering Spaces, don’t stress the drinks.
A curated wine list makes planning drinks easy! If you choose to create a cocktail, go simple. It’s often better that way.
While I love hosting a coursed meal and sit-down affair, events like that take days of preparation working in the kitchen. Cooking is something I thoroughly enjoy, but some seasons of our life just don’t have much space for all the tedious planning. I believe there is a time and a place for everything in the world of hosting, and hopefully this article helps for those chapters in life where your mental wellbeing and family require some time to relax. Good luck, and happy holidays from La Bella Vie!
As an interior designer, my love of beauty is really a love of life itself. That’s why I discuss interiors, but also so much more. Read more on my mantra, on living La Bella Vie here.
For more fall baking, here is a free recipe sure to please here. (gluten-free option!)