Host the most unforgettable holiday party with help from our savvy hostess guide Source: Tracey Ayton
We asked the experts, consulted the pros and tapped into the minds of the most talented to create the ultimate handbook for the holiday hostess.
THROW THE PERFECT PARTY
The dos and don'ts of throwing the perfect party: Find out the ultimate dos and don'ts for throwing a fabulous holiday party from the expert.
SERVE THE PERFECT DINNER
Mark McEwan's 5 tips to serving the perfect dinner: Celebrity chef Mark McEwan is no stranger to dinner parties - both hosting and attending them. Here, he shares his secrets to serving in style.
SET THE PERFECT TABLE
Holiday table setting 101: Easy tips to go from boring to breathtaking
CREATE THE PERFECT COCKTAILS
4 must-try classic cocktail recipes: You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you've been taking secret bartending lessons.
Drink recipe: Grapefruit rose mimosa: This refreshing grapefruit mimosa makes the perfect holiday brunch beverage.
Drink recipe: Ginger pear Bellini: Serve your classic Bellini with a twist by adding sugar pear and ginger liqueur.
Drink recipe: Satsuma sparkle: Freshly squeezed satsuma gives this champagne cocktail its signature fruity flavour.
Drink recipe: Blackberry lime fizz: Serve this fresh and flavourful champagne cocktail at your upcoming holiday party.
DECORATE THE PERFECT GUEST ROOM
How to decorate the perfect guest room for the holidays: The experts dish their tips on preparing for overnight guests this holiday season.
GIVE THE PERFECT HOSTESS GIFT
14 great gift ideas for the holiday hostess: Get holiday party ready with these gift ideas for your holiday host.
A cabin in the woods becomes one family's dream vacation home.
One designer helps a B.C. couple achieve the vacation home of their dreams.
We didn’t have to knock down walls. We had to put them up – and that almost never happens,” says designer Dan Vickery on the transformation of this small cabin on Hornby Island, B.C. A project he took on as one of the hosts of W Network’s new show Love It or List It Vacation Homes, the cottage was far from complete. Homeowners Jim and Lauren Wolf (he’s a city planner, historian and author; she’s the executive director of a not-for-profit organization) purchased the 700-square-foot space on a whim in 2005, and for the next 10 years, the New Westminster, B.C., couple spent vacations lovingly updating and expanding the cabin to suit their family, which includes 16-year-old son Griffin, Felix the Jack Russell terrier and Loonie, “a fat and fussy ginger tomcat.” They raised the existing structure and set it on a new concrete foundation; flipped the blue-stained siding to reveal its natural cedar finish; and added an Arts and Crafts-style porch to suit the artist-populated island. And they didn’t stop there: Jim and Lauren continued to enlarge the cottage, incorporating a full kitchen, extending the main-floor master bedroom (“so it could actually fit a queen-sized bed,” he says) and building a second level for more bedrooms.
“Jim is an artist at heart,” says Dan. “And while he’s great at starting projects, he’s not so great at completing them. When I entered the scene, the only finished rooms were the kitchen, bathroom and living area.” But, Dan clarifies, the flooring was mismatched, and the bathroom had an exposed water heater at its centre. In addition, the master bedroom had no insulation, and the entire upstairs was built only to the studs. The challenge – made even more difficult by the fact that the island is three ferry rides from mainland B.C. – may seem daunting to most, but Dan was in his element. “This was a fun project,” he says. “We just had to fix some construction issues and put up some walls to define the upstairs bedrooms.” (Ha! “Just.”)
“The hardest part,” says Dan, “was hunting down unique items that would speak to the character of the cabin, its artful setting and, especially, Jim and Lauren themselves.” Of the couple’s established style, he adds: “Every part of this place has a story. There are pieces from different vintage shops they’ve visited or vacations they’ve taken. There’s a sense of love and warmth as soon as you walk in.” So to continue the welcoming atmosphere, Dan sourced a lot of items from the Free Store, a Hornby Island spot where people can adopt others’ donated goods and building materials at no cost. It’s where Dan located stuff like the sheet metal (used as a textured wall treatment in Griffin’s room) and salvaged barnboard (turned into a herringbone headboard in the master bedroom, not shown).
The strategy was a success, because when it came time for Jim and Lauren to decide whether they’d keep this freshly renovated cabin or buy a new place (the premise of the Love It or List It franchise), it was a no-brainer: “The other properties couldn’t match the sweat equity that we had already invested and would never have our history so entwined in every corner,” says Jim. “This cottage is a part of our family’s story.”
This cabin may be three ferry rides away from where Jim and Lauren Wolf reside in mainland B.C., but designer Dan Vickery brought the homeowners closer to their ideal vacation property than they could have dreamed.
“Sometimes all that’s needed to define the different areas of a great room is a little bit of extra breathing space in between,” says designer Dan Vickery of the small open-concept main floor that features a living room, dining area and kitchen. In a clever twist on tradition, Dan used a basket as a shade for the dining room pendant light.
The light-filled living room was one of the more finished areas of the cabin when Dan arrived on the scene. Apart from the flooring and a few blue accessories (“I love that the homeowners weren’t afraid of colour,” he says), almost everything else here stayed the same.
The mud room/ laundry room boasts a washer and dryer, open and closed storage and a bench for pulling shoes on and off. It even conceals the ugly water heater that was once exposed in the bathroom (just beyond that white door). “Since the area is open to the main living space, it had to look good,” says Dan. “The result demonstrates how design can be beautiful and functional at the same time.”
“If a client tells me they’re not afraid of colour, I’m going to give it to them,” says Dan, who incorporated bold hues, such as the rusty orange of the master bedroom’s tufted armchair, throughout the house.
The homeowners’ teenaged son, Griffin Wolf, was so thrilled to finally get a place of his own: Until now, his bedroom was just one big unfinished space. “There was no sense of privacy,” says Dan. “Griffin’s room was open to the living area below.” An old paddle offers creative wall art that’s perfectly fitting for Hornby Island, which attracts both artsy and sporty types.
Demarcated by new walls, Griffin’s bedroom is positioned behind this little loft area, which is open to the downstairs living room. The cheerful space features a lounger (not shown) that unfolds into a small bed for guests wanting to spend the night, as well as this tiny office nook for anyone who has extra work to complete.
While a shiplap-look treatment lends texture to three of the walls in Griffin’s new room, corrugated metal roofing provides interest on the fourth. “Colour is obviously critical to great design,” says Dan. “But every space should take a good black and white picture as well, because when you take colour out of the equation, texture is what’s left to analyze.”
Lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs gives her home a fresh look for Christmas. Image by: Tracey Ayton
For lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs, Christmas is all about sentiment and style. Here are 12 ways she pulls off a fresh look filled with meaning to commemorate a family milestone.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without family and tradition, sure, but in Monika Hibbs’s home, Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without her signature styling. Based just outside of Fort Langley, B.C., the blogger, who has quickly become a master of holiday decor, switches up her style almost every year. But regardless of the theme, these aspects always remain: A classic look and neutral scheme, metallic touches, a hint of whimsy and sheer covetability. Seasonal styling is a talent Monika has honed since she was a little girl. “Even when I was young, I loved adorning the tree and wrapping gifts,” she says. “Plus, my mom always let me be in charge of floral arrangements and tablescapes.”
Now that Monika has her own family (including hubby Troy, three-year-old Liam and 11- month-old Lillya), she shares the tasks with her children. “Liam’s really into it,” says Monika. “He decorates cookies, hangs ornaments and arranges the manger.” Though Lillya is too young to get involved, her arrival just two weeks before last Christmas inspired the entire feminine theme, executed with dusty rose-hued accents like tea light holders, wrapping paper and delicate raw silk ribbon.
Holiday decorating with the kids isn’t the only tradition the Hibbses have – they enjoy hot chocolate by their outdoor fireplace in the evenings and always make time for charity. But a highlight is taking the Bright Nights Christmas Train through Stanley Park with Troy’s family. “There’s around 60 of us – we fill the whole train,” says Monika, noting that the park is lit with millions of lights – perhaps the perfect place for this family-oriented champion of Christmas who also happens to have a penchant for sparkle.
1 Lifestyle blogger and unofficial queen of fresh and elegant holiday decor Monika Hibbs has three main tips for trimming a tree: Start with a colour scheme (“You don’t have to use every ornament in your box – save the ones that don’t suit your theme for another year,” she advises); instead of buying one-off ornaments, go for groups of three for visual impact; and organize them by category (like glass balls or felted figures) before hanging them to ensure balanced distribution.
2 “There’s something special about a fire this time of year,” says Monika. The one here in her family room is not the only staple flame of the season – tea lights are strewn on surfaces throughout the house, and the outdoor fireplace plays host to many a morning coffee or evening cocoa. “I love a fire’s warmth and random crackles, which add to the magic of the holidays.”
3 Style meets sentiment in chic pieces that commemorate family milestones, such as the decorative houses arranged on Monika’s fireplace mantel. “Each one represents a huge moment for us, from the purchase of our first home to the construction of this one,” she says. “And I write a note on the bottom of each so I never forget.”
4 Monika doesn’t switch out much of her everyday decor come Christmastime. In fact, furniture placement, artwork and accents mostly stay the same, save for a few toss cushions that get traded for more festive ones.
5 When it comes to garlands, Monika goes all out: She orders a massive length of fresh cedar (last year it was 75 feet!) to string along her banister, mantel, exterior trim and garage. She starts by measuring everything she wants to adorn and then adds an extra foot of cedar for every four feet to accommodate swag. Here, the garland is garnished with eucalyptus, cypress, pine cones and raw silk bows with cascading tails for a fresh, feminine look.
6 “You don’t need to cook an entire sit-down dinner for each of the season’s many parties,” says Monika, who prefers to prep for a holiday drop-in with comfort foods like homemade apple pie. “It’s elegant but cozy,” she explains.
7 Roses may be unconventional Christmas flowers, but they’re perfectly suited to Monika’s pretty-in-pink theme. “Originally, I wanted this piece to be a garland that wrapped around the whole range hood,” says Monika. “But it didn’t look right, so I downsized the idea. It’s perfect proof that sometimes less is more.”
8 A simple wreath hung with thick ribbon serves as another example of less is more and offers a wink of holiday spirit in an otherwise unadorned area.
9 Sparkling rosé served in pink champagne coupes underscores the holiday colour scheme, while whimsical details like frozen-rose ice cubes and sugared cranberries are easy and inexpensive ways to add serious wow factor.
10 No matter her holiday scheme, Monika tends to stick to neutrals when picking gift wrap. “I usually choose paper with subtle patterns, such as snowflakes or polka dots,” she says. “But I always wrap the kids’ presents in something more playful.”
11 Born six weeks after the Hibbses moved into this house and two weeks before Christmas, baby Lillya was the main source of inspiration for the home’s festive decor last year, marked by the powder pink and dusty rose accents with feminine touches. Monika purchased the “Hello Lovely” ornament in honour of Lillya’s birth to serve as a beautiful reminder of when they welcomed her into the world.
12 From the Fort Langley, B.C., shopping bag to the plaid scarf and blanket to the warm winter boots and even the skull mount, there’s always a hint of Canadiana in Monika’s winter decor.
Festive and fabulous decorating inspiration for your holiday table this year includes glam touches, Scandinavian accents, and easy DIYs to wow your guests.
Creating a holiday tablescape that wows can be as easy as 1-2-3. Check out our favourite festive table settings for 2016, as well as the straightforward DIYs that make them come to life.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: GOLD GLAM TABLESCAPE: Make your holiday table sparkle and shine this season by setting it in glamorous gold.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: RUSTIC SCANDINAVIAN TABLESCAPE: Bring a taste of the Norse pole to your table with elegant Scandi-chic rustic elements.
A dinner party that has guests raving for days is all in the details. Take this masterfully muted, fashionably festive and quietly romantic rustic Scandinavian tablescape. We love its creamy taupe, linen white and pale minty green colour scheme – a fresh take on tradition topped with subtle seasonal elements like sprigs of fresh evergreen and soft touches of gold. But even better are the elements you don’t notice at first glance like the effortless DIYs that even an uncrafty hostess can easily achieve. Here are the highlights.
You’ve outdone yourself with this year’s holiday tablescape, but don’t overlook your chairs! What a perfect place to underscore your seating arrangement with ready-made mini buntings stencilled with snowflakes. Each topped with a gift tag and a sprig of greenery, the unexpected adornments are an easy way to add extra details that are sure to impress guests.
These sweet place cards are not only wintry and whimsical, they’re also easy and inexpensive to execute: Simply tie a handwritten gift tag to a wooden toy sleigh (which, like the rest of the supplies, can be found at any craft store) with ribbon or yarn that matches your holiday colour scheme. Top it off with two FERRERO ROCHER® chocolates to treat guests with a decadent sweet to enjoy later – and maybe even dub you the host with the most!
Candles are key to tabletop mood lighting, but these festive votives look just as fabulous when they’re not lit. Gussied up with burlap wrap effortlessly secured by a tiny tree-shaped clothespin and a deer-stamped strip of cotton, they lend a quintessentially rustic-chic vibe. Frayed edges keep this craft virtually fuss-free but also require the use of battery-powered tea lights rather than open flames.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: DESSERT TRAY DIY PROJECT: Serve guests in style with the help of this super simple marbled tray DIY.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: SLEIGH PLACE CARD HOLDERS DIY PROJECT: Inspired by the man in red himself, these DIY FERRERO ROCHER® bearing sleigh place card holders are easy, playful and – best of all – delectable.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: STYLISH SLIPKNOT MENU DIY PROJECT: Create gorgeous slipknot menu cards your guests are sure to love.
Credits: Maya Visnyei
VIDEO: FESTIVE WRAPPED VOTIVE DIY: Add a festive flair to your holiday table with these adorable wrapped votive candle holders.