Entertaining Photo Credit: Ellen Ho of Hong Photography

4 Decorating Tips for the Best Holiday Party

Soha Lavin of CountDown Events shares her holiday decorating expertise.

‘Tis the season! Well…almost. Get ready for the upcoming holidays with these tips and tricks from CountDown Events’s principal planner Soha Lavin. Whether you’re hosting an intimate Thanksgiving dinner, a corporate Christmas party or a big New Year’s Eve bash, it’s all about creating an experience for the guest.

According to Lavin, your table is one of the first things guests will see. Make a good first impression by filling the table with an elegant mix of materials and fabrics (Photo by Ellen Ho of Hong Photography).
Your theme doesn’t have to be obvious. A broad idea like “West Coast glamour” will open up a world of decorating possibilities (Photo by Tamiz Photography).

1. Create a theme—but don’t overdo it

Holiday decorating is about subtle details and creating cohesion. “You don’t need to spell out everything about your theme at the door,” says Lavin, “but you should preserve the experience throughout the entire space.” She suggests layering different elements throughout (pinecones in one room, a garland in another); even the bathroom can be adorned with candles or a single bud placed in a tiny votive.

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“Consider the character of the event,” says Lavin, “This will keep it from being too stuffy.” Adding natural elements to the table—like these great smelling cedar branches—for example, will lend a cozy vibe to your more intimate gatherings. (Photo by Ellen Ho of Hong Photography.)

2. Engage the senses

“Holiday decorating and entertaining is a lot more sentimental,” says Lavin. “Even a scent can trigger a slew of memories for someone.” She suggests thinking about what guests will see, smell and hear—“there has to be music” as they walk through the door. Her go-to tricks include strategically placing scented elements throughout the house (Jo Malone has a great selection), and using lights and candles to create a glowing ambiance.

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According to Lavin, your table is one of the first things guests will see. Make a good first impression by filling the table with an elegant mix of materials and textures. (Photo by Rebecca Amber Photography.)

3. Mix things up

When it comes to creating the perfect tablescape, Lavin is a huge fan of mixing materials and fabrics. “People think you have to mix gold with silver or crystal—I disagree,” she says. Try instead to mix in textural elements like wood to create a more informal, cozy atmosphere. Plaid can also be used to cozy-up the dining table. “It runs the gamut of colour schemes,” says Lavin, and is one of the top trends for the upcoming holiday season. Another trend she suggest trying your hand at? Trading flowers for foliage (eucalyptus and fern are especially popular).

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Setting the table with name tags and whimsical keepsakes (like this gold horse figurine) is a simple gesture that will make your guests feel extra special. (Photo by Ellen Ho of Hong Photography.)

 4. Make it personal

Include small details that make your guests feel welcome. A simple way to do this, Lavin says, is adding place settings and name tags: “It makes guests feel special to know that they have a seat at the table.” This doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. “An extra five to 10 minutes of your time can add a layer of luxury,” says Lavin, suggesting walnuts and leaves as simple, yet effective, elements. Lavin also suggests giving guests a keepsake, “I always want people to leave with something. It can be something edible, it can be a mini ornament—anything that takes a piece of the party or experience and extends it.”

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