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.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.Image by: Ashley Capp
A resourceful designer with a knack for all things DIY creates a cozy and contemporary space for her family of four.
For the design inclined, recognizing beautiful pieces is easy enough, but the real decorating challenge comes from knowing how to fit all the elements together in a harmonious way. Designer Sarah Walker has this down to a science. Last year, the reno expert transformed her Oakville, Ont., home’s uninspiring family room into a sophisticated space boasting symmetry and style. “I wanted a modern yet classic room that balances the masculine and feminine qualities of our family,” she says, referring to her husband, Graham, and two boys (Noah, 13, and Tate, 2). Having already installed the hardwood flooring and built-in wall unit with her husband five years prior, Sarah’s next order of business was the furniture layout. “I always pictured this space having a pair of sofas facing each other,” says the designer. “I love the conversational quality the set-up brings to a room.”
So she traded in her existing brown sectional for two handsome black velvet sofas and added a geometric-print rug to further delineate the sitting area. This design choice drew her toward a timeless marble herringbone tile treatment for the fireplace, which echoes the graphic quality of the rug but on a smaller scale (with budget top of mind, Sarah and Graham even installed the tile themselves). Other subtle additions to the fireplace like the contrasting white mantel and the curved screen enhance the unit’s bold and beautiful aesthetic. Next up was deciding what to make of an empty alcove set in the wall opposite the fireplace. In an act of creative daring, the deft DIYer transformed the space into a stylish office nook. Sarah began by making an elegant-meets-edgy pin board out of embossed reptile-patterned velvet fabric and then punctuated the look with antiqued brass nails before adding a floating desk and shelf. “The pin board blends in well with the room’s ikat wallpaper but still makes a visual statement that anchors the work area,” she says. After mastering the layout, the designer reinforced the room’s romantic and rustic feel with tasteful details like luxurious sheepskin pieces and natural wooden elements, ensuring each family member feels equally at home. “We spend just as much time here as we did before,” says Sarah, “but now we enjoy it 10 times as much.” That’s all the evidence we need that this master curator has done it again.
Since this family of four has a penchant for the outdoors, the designer incorporated nature-inspired finds, such as the large print depicting a foggy forest hanging above the fireplace. “The image reminds me of being in the woods and escaping the everyday,” says Sarah. She had the piece stretched onto canvas and then resined to deliver more of an ethereal effect.
Sarah and her husband upgraded their fireplace with a striking custom herringbone tile treatment.
The custom white oak coffee table lends an organic vibe to the family room and calls attention to the tall stack of logs tucked into the wall unit. “With a wood-burning fireplace, you want the logs to be close by so you’re not dragging bark everywhere,” says designer and homeowner Sarah Walker. “The display also has visual impact and adds warmth.”
For Sarah, a beautifully styled bookshelf relies on meaning just as much as placement and scale. “It’s important to tell your story through your space,” she says, referring to objects she added that were collected over time, from a sea urchin found in a quirky San Francisco shop to a sepia sketch purchased on the streets of Paris during her first trip there with her husband.
Playing with contrasting shapes, Sarah created a chic coffee table vignette using curved accents, including a vintage silver tray and a faceted black vase, to temper the sharp edges of the surface. “Bringing in round, soft elements is really important when you’re working with a room that has a lot of hard geometry,” says the designer.
Fashioning an inspiring and orderly work area came easily to Sarah thanks in part to location. “When a communal workspace is integrated into a kitchen, it winds up becoming a clutter collector,” she says. “But in the family room, it’s a bit more removed from that initial drop of mail and keys.”
Take a peek inside this super chic and stylish condo.
A designer brings serenity to a condo belonging to a pair of lifelong art collectors.
Incorporating art collections into interiors can be tricky for designers. They need to honour the works while delivering a design that reflects the lifestyle and decor preferences of their clients. Ultimately, the result should express the taste and passion of the collectors.
The owners of this Toronto condo devoted three decades to scooping up art and objets – particularly Asian, African and Canadian pieces – on their travels around the world. The beloved treasures, along with a lifetime’s worth of stuff in general, were starting to encroach on their space, which had other issues: A wall divided the kitchen from the living room, creating a jail-like atmosphere for the person prepping meals; the kitchen itself was shabby; and the two bathrooms were in equally rough shape.
“Dark, cluttered and dated” is how designer Anne Hepfer describes the state of the original 1,500-square-foot condo, which she had completely gutted and opened up. Fortunately, the unit had one redeeming quality: a row of large south-facing windows.
While Anne’s clients can pick out an Inuit carving in a flash, when it comes to decorating, they’re stumped. “Over the years, we’ve bought many things that were just poor choices,” says one of the homeowners. “I would highly recommend hiring a designer because it actually saves money.” That said, the vintage kilims they brought back from Morocco and the Middle East, boasting pale pink, soft grey and earthy brown hues, served as the starting point for the condo’s palette, proving to be one of the homeowners’ better purchases. Anne made toss cushions out of these textiles (“They add an exotic flourish,” she says) and then, to really up the ante, turned to the drama of the runway. “I looked to Italian fashion designer Brunello Cucinelli’s elegant use of neutrals, which translates so beautifully to interiors,” says Anne. She also accented the space with hits of black for contrast and mixed metals for sparkle.
As in Brunello Cucinelli’s collections, a thread of understated luxury stitches the rooms together: a vintage French chest in the entryway, a quartet of plush pink club chairs in the living area and a headboard upholstered in Kelly Wearstler fabric in the master bedroom, to name a few. As for the homeowners’ vast art collection? Anne worked her magic, thoughtfully layering items in the form of vignettes, creating special moments throughout the condo.
The vintage French chest, gilded mirror and sea urchin-patterned chairs make for a stunning welcome in the entryway, especially when paired with the gorgeous parquet that extends throughout the open-concept condo. Instead of sending the flooring to a landfill, designer Anne Hepfer had it refinished because it was in great shape.
The living room boasts two sitting areas: one with a soft grey linen sofa and two armchairs and the other with four velvety pale pink chenille swivel club chairs, all designed by Anne herself. “I love incorporating natural materials into a space because it lends an earthy element,” she says.
The small kitchen features a practical back-painted glass backsplash and Caesarstone countertops. Anne ripped out the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room and installed a bar-height counter to open up the space.
The master bedroom has a cocoon-like vibe thanks to its monochromatic mix of textures and patterns.
The vintage nightstand was given a coat of warm grey paint, which perfectly complements the artwork by David Fisher.
Evoking a casual feel, the den is decked out with an antique desk and a chaise that’s perfect for watching TV.
“I really love how this project evolved,” says Anne. “It was a joy, putting together the pieces of the puzzle, editing and using a lot of restraint.” The easiest thing she could have done, of course, was store it all and start fresh, but that wouldn’t have been an authentic way to honour this professional couple’s passion for art and travel. “Including my clients’ unique collection into the design,” says Anne, “makes the space personal, warm, inviting – and theirs.”
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