Like it or not, we’ve begun the countdown to Christmas (sorry!) and we all know how quickly our diaries fill up with that date on the not-so-distant horizon. From November onwards, we open up our homes and welcome friends and family in for festive drinks and canapés, cosy candlelit suppers and dinner parties – it’s not known as the party season for nothing! It only follows then that now is the ideal time to take a step back and think about how we can transform our homes into the warm and welcoming venue it should be this party season. So, before you get around to issuing those invites, here are some ideas on how you can spruce up your abode for a touch of festive entertaining.
1 Start on the Outside…
First things first. Make sure guests are feeling that warm and fuzzy welcome before they even step inside your home. Ensure your front entrance is well lit for these dark evenings with good lighting, especially if you have a long path or driveway to negotiate along the way. Attach stylish lighting to a boundary wall or fence such as this gorgeously simple and durable lantern style light from Garden Trading or make a feature of small trees or shrubs in your front garden by draping strings of outdoor bulbs along the branches. This can give a beautiful twinkly effect that is so cheery and welcoming at this time of year. You can pick up strings of outdoor lights from most hardware stores, but I think these LED festoon lights from Cox & Cox are so fabulous as they give off a lovely warm light and the bare bulbs have a really cool, modern look. Perfect strung along a fence to brighten your guests up on a dreary night!
Image Source: Cox & Cox
Give your front door greenery a welcome refresh by replacing any tired and straggly potted plants with a slick, cool winter display using hardy foliage such as ivy and grasses dotted with white mini cyclamen, heathers and winter pansies. Keep the planting simple – pure white blooms with interesting green foliage can look so clean and elegant, especially in the evening when any outdoor lighting will allow the white flowers to glow beautifully. However, if you prefer a little colour, these winter flowering heathers look stunning arranged simply in dark grey planters, don’t they?
Image Source: almbacken.se
Don’t forget to adorn your front door with a winter wreath made from berries, willow branches or foraged finds such as rosehips and pine cones. (I came across beautiful bunches of rosehips in M&S recently, so keep an eye out for them). Again, keep the look simple and pared down using natural materials to see you through to the New Year. Etsy has a wonderful range of door wreaths to buy or simply to inspire you if you fancy making your own!
Image source: A Girl’s Right to Dream
Image Source: Temple and Webster
2 Create an Inviting Feel in the Hallway…
Image source: Pinterest
Extend your winter welcome into your hallway, with perhaps some greenery entwined along the banister and strings of fairy lights draped across the ceiling to create a soft twinkly glow. Lay a gorgeously deep pile rug onto a bare wooden or tiled hall floor to soften the space; just make sure you have a decent door mat out front to catch any dirt from guests’ shoes and boots on the way in! If you have a hall console table, decorate it with scattered pine cones, plenty of tealights in copper holders to warm up the atmosphere and some winter branches arranged in a simple vase. Or I really like the look of this ‘Noel’ letter light from Next, which would sit equally as well on a hall table as it would a mantelpiece or even in an open plan kitchen if your guests are dining there.
Craft a simple garland from eucalyptus leaves and drape along a hall mirror – their wonderful, clean, citrussy scent will waft through your home. There’s a lovely guide to doing this here.
Image source: homeyohmy.com
3 Cosy up your Living Space
Social gatherings are centred around the living area so it’s important to get the atmosphere right here. Light the fire to create a cosy focal point, set a big rattan basket of logs alongside (Garden Trading has some gorgeous styles) and style your mantelpiece with a statement mirror, some delicate winter sprigs or pretty seed heads arranged in a collection of glass jars and, instead of candles, check out this elegant LED candle bell jar lamp at BHS. (There is 30% off all online sales at BHS until this Monday, so do pop over to have a look). Lighting is probably the most important element to consider when creating the right mood for guests – light lamps at different levels in the room and if you must use the overhead lights, set them on a dimmer switch turned down to low along with a few candles dotted around the room.
Image: Tidbits & Twine
Image: Garden Trading
Make sure your living room is free of unnecessary clutter, arrange sofas and chairs so that your guests can converse easily and stash some extra floor cushions away for impromptu seating if needed! If your guests feel comfortable and the chat is flowing, the party atmosphere will be wonderful.
4 Dining in Style
By all means let the conversation and food take centre stage at the dining table, but don’t forget to make a statement with your table setting, too. Crisp white table linen, tall candles and simple greenery all combine to make a classic table setting with no less of a wow factor. Scatter glittery stars along the centre of the table to create a magical twinkle (I like these from The White Company who incidentally have 20% off purchases until midnight tomorrow with offer code AH627).
Image: The White Company
For a personal touch, fill a glass bowl with beautifully wrapped mini gifts for your guests and set it in the centre of the table -the trick is to spend no more than £1 per guest – it’s amazing what you can find when you have a strict budget and it’s a guaranteed conversation starter! I have a few festive posts planned for the coming weeks, one of which will be focussed on replacing over-expensive crackers with interesting table favours… more on that soon.
For pre-dinner nibbles, scour local charity shops for unusual little dishes in which to serve olives, spiced nuts and other party bites, and for a cool retro vibe, make a statement with cocktails or bubbles served in vintage glasses or champagne saucers. Set up a drinks bar if space prevails so guests can top up their glasses and take the pressure off the host!
Image: Finders Keepers Market Inc
5 And finally…
Don’t forget the WC! Invest in hand towels with a fun festive print (I love these Scandi print ones from George at Asda), set out some scented diffuser reeds to keep the room fresh (try The White Company’s Winter Scent), and… it’s ok, you can bring out the M&S Christmas loo roll now, too…