Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s the official start of the holiday entertaining season. Whether you’re a pro at throwing parties or you’re undertaking your first big holiday event, it’s possible to keep the stress levels low.
Remember: be relaxed, have a plan, keep a unified, cohesive but easily executable theme, and bring it all into the kitchen. These were the key messages shared during a special segment on holiday entertaining at the recent Delicious Food Show sponsored by Food Network Canada, held last month in Toronto.
The panel was led by famed interior designer Brian Gluckstein, joined by celebrity chef Lynn Crawford and event designer Bill Fulghum, and was moderated by Creative Director of Home at Hudson’s Bay Company, Arren Williams. The experts shared their secrets for the perfect at-home holiday soirée.
Entertain in the Kitchen
To create a comfortable environment for your guests, think of kitchens as the new hub for entertaining. “Kitchens are part of the entertaining space because cooking is entertaining,” states Gluckstein. He suggests that when designing your home, focus on the kitchen as an entertainment space; try to incorporate a large kitchen island and breakfast-bar type areas with lots of seating which allows for guests to feel comfortable for gathering around.
“People throw parties in kitchens now specifically and you’ll have people around and watch cooking preparation,” adds Fulgham. Crawford echoed the sentiment and recommends that you get your guests involved in the cooking process. It keeps things interactive and eases the pressure on the host as well. For holiday entertaining and menu ideas, checkout the Menu.
Formal Dining and Decor
If you opt for formal dining, Gluckstein has some tips for keeping the atmosphere comfortable yet refined. Always use place cards to avoid the awkwardness of guests not knowing where to sit. Great parties happen when you mix guest personalities; plan your seating arrangements the same way you plan your menu. Whenever possible, opt for round dining tables. They’re great for facilitating conversations amongst your guests as they’re often sit closer together.
Jugni Style Tip: To stay within a budget, work with what you have for dinnerware and invest in accent pieces like chargers, linens and centrepiece items that can be interchanged each time you host a party.
Gluckstein also emphasizes the importance of lighting. Use dimmers if you have them to create soft, mood lighting, as well as candles. Candles help create a welcoming and special ambiance that’s a different feel from the usual day-to-day dining. Crawford added that as a rule of thumb, always use unscented candles around food.
Spaces should also be a reflection of you and not about showing off. “Pick pieces that you love and don’t rush to fill a space,” says Williams. To create a focused, high impact tablescape within your budget, have a clear vision. Use your own collectables for a unique statement. Repetition of elements, like a few bunches of the same florals all lined in a row across the centre of a table, helps create an effortless, dramatic effect.
As Fulgham shares, “Parties start when you enter the home. First impressions are important. Be calm. The most important thing is that you express yourself. You will then always be comfortable and your guests will feel comfortable.”
Create Drama by Using Black
When creating an eye-catching and uncomplicated table setting, try using black linens as the base to highlight brightly-coloured and/or metallic-hued table accents, recommends floral designer Bella of Floral Fetish. Using black as a base helps the table almost disappear and lets your centrepeices really shine as the focal point of the table.
You can’t have a great party without great food! When planning your holiday event menu, Crawford recommends that you set a theme and use that as the basis of your menu. “Cook what you know and that will help you stay relaxed.”
The panel also touched upon a few new home design trends for creating entertaining spaces:
- Wine rooms as an entertaining space. No longer are these regulated to dark corners of the basements. Wine rooms which include dining spaces are becoming more prominent features in homes in lieu of a formal dining room, library or den.
- Expanding the kitchen to include large dining spaces and forgoing a formal living and dining rooms. These types of spaces are bringing casual and interactive settings back into the kitchen instead of having cooking prep and eating areas separated.
- Lounge spaces in the kitchen. Much like restaurants, creating a sitting area with banquettes, couches and coffee tables for casual dining is on-trend for keeping gatherings in the heart of the most-used space in homes.
In the end, as much as it’s about perfecting the small details and having a delicious spread to enjoy. Remember: attitude is everything.