Designer Touch: Inspired Holiday Hosting
By Jane Lockhart • Photography By Gillian Jackson
Elegant entertaining without the dining table
How do you throw a holiday party with all the elegance of a sit-down dinner without a dining table? I love to entertain but I currently don’t have a dining table. I chalk it up to being a designer—I’m waiting for the right one! My client, Suzanna, is in the same position, but we turned her living room into a beautiful entertaining space to keep her guests happy and circulating— and out of the kitchen!
AWAKEN ALL THE SENSES
Whether you’re planning a formal or casual get-together, the key is to plan. You want to fill your guests’ senses. The aroma of fresh-baked goods, the taste of savoury nibbles, flickering candlelight and low-key music all can be fine-tuned for the occasion. Spatially, I like to use every surface as a “station.” Think of it like layering decorative finishes to keep the eye moving through a room. Placing food and drinks on different surfaces and at different heights, with plenty of room to walk around, adds a welcoming dimension to the room. The sideboard becomes a cheese station, the ottoman holds multi-tiered goodies and a bar cart acts as the dessert station.
The tree may be the largest decor item in the room, so make it outstanding! It sets the tone and it can also set the colour theme, if you like. I’m all about abundance when it comes to decorating the tree—every surface and niche is filled. It too, keeps the eye moving over the spectacle.
But entertaining like this is all in the details, where every surface is treated as a decorative vignette. Layers of fresh greenery laid out on surfaces create the base layer, with glittering, holiday decorations in gold and silver adding sparkle under generous candlelight. I like to mix plain white or gold finished votive, tapered and pillar candles, and lanterns with pillars clustered in groups on the floor (but not underfoot!), so every surface has light.
Use varying shapes and sizes of decor. Large, gold, sculpted reindeer guard over cheese plates, while ornaments of varying sizes look festive on multi-tiered serving ware. Bring out your best serving pieces. This is the occasion to use it all!
Delicious pop-in-your-mouth cookies and sweets require a central location, like an ottoman where guests can move around and see the whole selection. Why not add glass or crystal jars filled with gold balls or batteryoperated strings of light? It’s a simple trick, and when set on a mirrored tray, they reflect the light and add sparkle. It goes without saying that stacks of holiday napkins should be made available at every station and flatware, gathered in glassware, adds a slightly informal touch and allows guests to help themselves.
Side tables are great for showcasing decor and candles, but we like to use larger ones as the coffee and tea station. Dig out the fine china and use the coffee and tea pots with matching cream and sugar, cups and saucers, so guests can help themselves.
If you have a large expanse of windows, you might add a string of lights above the frame, or try adding multiple, lightweight wreaths hung with fishing line or fine wire attached to a curtain rod (not the fabric).
À LA CART(S)
What’s better than a bar cart? Two moveable bar carts to do the heavy lifting. One for desserts, one for the drinks (not shown). A simple drink menu, with wine, beer, warm cider and eggnog guests will be able to help themselves. Set these stations up outside the living room—we used the adjacent entry hall, closer to the kitchen for replenishing.
SPREAD THE CHEER
Don’t forget to add festive decor in the powder room. Greenery, candles, ornaments, mirrored surfaces, beautiful soaps and lush towels carry the festive spirit to this essential room, too.
Finally, add a cosy layer; lovely stockings hung by the chimney (with care), scrumptious throws and squeezable pillows on the seating. This tactile touch contributes to the charm and your guests’ sense-filled experience. Then, light the fireplace and add guests. You’ll know that while you are tending to the hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen, your guests are steps away, enjoying the party. Trust me, no one is going to miss sitting at the table.
Designer, spokesperson, author and television personality, Jane Lockhart is one of Canada’s best-known experts in the world of design and colour. janelockhart.com