Design lesson: No-fuss holiday displays
You owe it to yourself to find beautiful and satisfying ways to keep the holidays simple. After all, there's nothing entertaining about a host who's too exhausted to enjoy his or her own party, and it's hard to be full of cheer if you're feeling stressed. When it comes to decorating, there are simple ways to string the look of the season through your home without sacrificing your sanity.
1 Stick to an all-white palette and display a classical bust with individual pots of paper whites. If that looks too modern with the rest of your decor, drape the bust with greenery and put the paper whites in terra-cotta pots.
2 For a rustic country look, amass a collection of wooden candlesticks and set them among a variety of greens. Add twigs, viburnum and pepper berries for texture.
3 For a vintage look, display a collection of antique or retro tree toppers and ornaments amid yards of silver tinsel.
4 Choose a single hue of ornaments -- this year's hottest colour is orange -- and display groups of them in large glass cylinders.
5 Hang a fragrant bay leaf wreath in a kitchen window, or a lavender wreath in the powder room for some unexpected cheer.
6 For added colour in the kitchen, cuff a basket or bowl of fruit with evergreens.
7 Place an unadorned or simply adorned tabletop tree in a guest bedroom or entrance hall. Leave white cards, pens and ribbon beside the tree and encourage guests to write a note and hang it from a branch.
Holiday entertaining dos and don'ts
DO use evergreens abundantly. Besides the traditional touches (wreaths on doors, and garlands on banisters), encircle a painting, frame a window, embellish a chandelier or enrich a tabletop display. Double the impact by placing greens over mirrors.
DO warm up interiors with cosy layers. A vibrant throw or patterned pillow cheers up a room. Enhance the hearth with a wicker or leather basket filled with fire-lighting essentials like long matchsticks, kindling and newspaper.
DO surprise guests with personal touches. Display a printed menu or handwritten place card holders.
DO camouflage an ordinary tree stand. A cosy plaid blanket, a luxurious length of fabric in velvet, taffeta or satin, or even a fashionable shawl will do the job.
DON'T discount a party rental service. Rather than squeezing guests into the dining room, why not rent folding chairs and tables and place them in the living room? Rental services can also provide dishes, flatware, stemware and serving platters. What's more, rented dishes and tablecloths can be returned without cleaning.
DON'T refuse help. Let those closest to you contribute to the day's success by providing food, drinks and flowers.