Decorated in shades of silver and gold, this shimmering tree makes a statement. Image by: Donna Griffith
What’s better than chic, sophisticated holiday style? The ability to achieve it with ease. Here are 10 tips to simplify your next festive soiree.
Last year, when homeowners Pamela Schott and Sheldon Pollack moved into this 7,500-square-foot five-bedroom century home in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, they merged more than just their families (he has three 30-somethings; she has two kids; and four of the five live at the house part-time). The couple, who will wed next year, also blended their approaches to the holidays. To that end, their seasonal decor is sophisticated and minimalist, glamorous and uncluttered, neither too gimmicky nor too theme-y. For Pamela and Sheldon, it’s all about simplicity. Though they enjoy entertaining – the couple loves to host a holiday drop-in – they always keep it effortless. “A party is about the friends, family, wine, appetizers and conversation,” says Pamela, who makes creating a relaxed atmosphere her priority. “It’s about the event, not the planning.” Here, we highlight 10 ways Pamela and Sheldon execute their elegant holiday style with ease.
1 Choose function: A petite potted rosemary tree gives the kitchen counter holiday flair with purpose. Well into the new year, it will serve as a source of fresh decoration for place settings and garnish for themed cocktails.
2 Make strategic splurges: Don’t stress about baking in the days leading up to your party. If you lack the time and the piping skills, splurge on artfully adorned cookies iced in your home’s colour scheme for a scrumptious statement.
3 Stay simple: A bouquet of white amaryllis is an understated accent that’s synonymous with winter but doesn’t scream “holidays.” Buy the blooms a few days before your event so they’re at their prime when guests arrive.
4 Lay it down: Getting festive garlands to swag just right can take a lot of fussing. So if you want to gussy up your windows in a flash, layer cuttings of greenery on your windowsills instead. Here, Douglas fir and magnolia leaves add a luxe touch.
5 Accent the architecture: Draw attention to eye-catching structural features like leaded glass windows with beautiful holiday wreaths that accentuate the details but don’t steal the show.
6 Make room for more: Use a bowl to hold gorgeous Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree for a simple centrepiece or coffee table accent.
7 Wrap it up: No pot? No problem! Use a swath of grey linen fabric secured with decorative ribbon to dress up the base of a tabletop tree. This unconventional feature lends a festive touch to an otherwise unadorned space.
8 Come out from under the tree: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with finishing details like sculptural toppers and layered ribbons. Don’t just place presents under the tree: Artfully arrange them on various nearby surfaces for vignettes that suit the season.
9 Mix metallics: Sticking to a gold and silver palette makes decorating the tree almost effortless. Look for a mix of shimmering materials, from beading to mercury glass to metallic fabrics, so you don’t have to think too hard about even distribution.
10 Make it a team effort: Whether it’s decorating the tree, hanging wreaths or wrapping presents, holiday tasks are more easily executed as a team. Get your tools out ahead of time, gather the family and put on your favourite holiday tunes to set the mood – you’ll be done before you can say “cool yule!”
These tasty cocktails are perfect for your next party. Image by: Janis Nicolay
Learn to make these tasty signature cocktails for your next holiday party.
You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you’ve been taking secret bartending lessons. Word to the wise: Leave the fancy bottle spins to the professionals.
1 The Welder
Pour the whisky, Aperol, lemon juice and chili syrup into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled lowball glass and top with the chili pepper.
2 Brandy Crusta
Prepare a rock glass by moistening the rim with a touch of the lemon juice and dipping it in the sugar. Combine the cognac, curaçao, more lemon juice and the bitters in a shaker. Shake and strain into the glass. Add 1 ice cube and the lemon peel garnish.
3 Jamaican Honey Soother
Directions: Pour the rum, honey and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a coupette cocktail glass.
4 Dark & Stormy
Directions: Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the spiced rum and then top it off with the ginger beer. Stir, and garnish with the lime wedge.
Getting and staying organized isn't easy. If you're struggling to conquer clutter once and for all, our simple 99 organizing tips should help get you started.
We know, we know: getting organized at home can be easier vowed than done. But even if you’re short on time (and budget), there are dozens of ways you can get your house in order. Here are 99 of our favourite low-cost organizing tips; many of them are environmentally friendly, too!
A stunning kitchen design that proves open display may require more organization, but it's so beautiful it's worth it!
1 Use old baby-food jars to hold spices. Stash them in a drawer upside down so this recycling trick looks sleek, not cheap.
2 Store all your instruction manuals in one binder in the kitchen or pantry.
3 Collect your takeout menus in a binder. Or stuff them into a Ziploc bag and stash 'em – where else? – in the fridge or cupboard.
4 Use a cardboard six-pack container to carry condiments from kitchen to deck in BBQ-casual style.
5 Keep a tray or basket on the kitchen counter where kids can drop off permission slips and adults can put mail requiring immediate action. A second tray can handle lower-priority paperwork.
6 Don’t waste time constantly topping up cereal-sized food storage containers with dog or cat kibble. Use a metal trashcan to store one bag at a time in rodent-proof style.
7 Use a recharging station to keep your cell phone, MP3 player and other portable device cords untangled and your gadgets fully charged.
8 Can’t find fresh garlic or onions? Keep them in clean knee-high nylons. Hang in a cool, dry place.
9 Post a sheet of paper on the fridge and note groceries and supplies needing replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.
10 Reduce spoilage of fruits and veggies by “rotating” your crops. Put new ones underneath ones that were already in your crisper.
11 Use small jam jars to hold cotton swabs, balls and other essentials inside your bathroom vanity drawers.
12 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold bath and hand towels.
13 Cut the amount of time you spend going from linen closet to bathroom by installing extra towel storage via a hotel-style double towel bar.
14 And a stash of bath towels rolled inside a basket helps, too.
15 Store kids’ bath toys in a fine-laundry bag. Hang from the faucet 'til fully drained.
16 Use a shower organizer and just the basics: mild shampoo, conditioner and a body wash.
17 Stash extra shower products in plastic caddies – one per family member.
18 Keep cleaning products in a caddy, too.
19 Post a sheet of paper in the bathroom and note bathroom supplies that need replenishing. On grocery day, just grab the sheet and go.
20 Assign teens and tweens their “own” towel sets by colour. Sorting laundry becomes super-easy and sharing-aversive kids are content.
21 For the living room or family room, get an ottoman or bench with hidden storage under the seat.
22 Large woven or wooden baskets stash clutter effectively, so stock up.
23 Got kids? Get large tubs that can be used to deploy toys – and quickly move them out of living spaces when company’s coming.
24 Don’t hold on to magazines. Just rip out any pages you want to keep for future reference, keep in a file folder, then recycle the rest.
25 Toss dirty socks into mesh fine-laundry bags. Orphaned socks will be a thing of the past.
26 Dollar store plastic caddies are perfect for grouping cleaning products upright in cabinets – no tipping!
27 Recycle old plastic shopping bags. Store them in an empty Kleenex box ‘til you need them.
28 Store batteries in plastic berry baskets until you’re ready to drop them off at the recycling centre.
29 Ditto for compact fluorescent bulbs and orchard fruit baskets.
30 Big, busy family? Paint one entire wall in your mudroom in chalkboard paint so everyone can easily leave messages for one another.
31 Keep one basket per person in your mudroom or front entrance, so everyone knows where to drop off/find their personal on-the-go essentials like keys, bags, homework etc.
32 Designate a back-to-car zone by your entranceway, and put anything there that requires returning to the trunk – i.e. reusable grocery bags, empties – so the next person to use the car will remember to bring them.
33 Remove the front and back from a picture frame and string rows of wire across the centre. Hang it or lean it against the wall and hook earrings onto each wire.
34 For easy jewellery storage, use an old dressmaker’s dolly to hang necklaces and hook earrings into.
35 Shopaholics can put those pretty boutique bags to use by hanging them on the wall or arranging them on a shelf, where they can store scarves and belts.
36 Do a card run – birthdays, holidays, new baby etc. – once a year and store cards in a file tote.
37 Use ice cube trays to hold clips, erasers and other desk-drawer essentials.
38 Use an old wooden stepladder to hold books.
39 Use white address label stickers to label what each cord in a power bar is for.
40 Paint an oversized canvas in one bold colour and hang it from the wall. Pin a rotating collection of your kids’ artwork on it.
41 Post a sheet of paper on your bulletin board and note office supplies that need replenishing.
42 Use a canvas over-the-door shoe organizer to organize small kids toys and art supplies.
43 Those ubiquitous Danish butter cookie tins can be both an art project and art storage unit for kids. First let your child decoupage it. Then use it to hold crayons and pastels.
44 Post those novelty basketball rings above anything you want your kids to slam dunk stuff into rather than the floor: garbage cans, laundry baskets, etc.
45 For preschoolers too young to use hangers with ease, install a low bar in the closet and simply drape dresses and pants across it to keep them wrinkle-free and easily accessible.
46 Have your child plan their wardrobe one school week at a time. Store outfits within five stacking cubbies or on five combination hangers (hangers with a bar and clips to hold pants as well as a top) to streamline their morning routine.
47 Keep sheet sets organized by folding and storing the fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowcase inside the second pillowcase.
48 If you don’t want to buy stacking shoeboxes, recycle the cardboard boxes your shoes came in by cutting out a panel at one end for visibility and ventilation.
49 Install a closet organization system: it’ll pay itself off with time and aggravation saved!
50 A well-lit wardrobe is easier to keep organized. Install a Solatube, skylight or adequate artificial light for your needs.
51 Don’t limit closet storage to hangers. Hang hooks on the door for frequently used items.
52 Tackle that kitchen junk drawer problem head on. Today. Purge, edit and keep things in place with a drawer organizer.
53 Are you a piler, not filer? That’s fine, just keep piles of paperwork organized by using folders and write-on clips.
54 Recycle leftover gift-wrap ribbons by using them to tie up extra electrical and other cords in your utility closet.
55 Dedicated tie, belt and scarf holders are closet must-haves.
56 Upgrade your address book for a classic Rolodex. They’re retro-chic and easy to keep updated.
57 Buy a framed corkboard, hang it in the kitchen and pin up favourite recipes, clipped from magazines.
58 Make space by putting your CDs in organizers, by genre. Recycle the jewel cases or put them into storage in the attic.
59 Or, purge your CD clutter once and for all by having your CDs converted to digital files at riptopia.com. Sell or donate the used CDs.
60 Buy a hotel-style hairdryer that can be installed on the wall to save space, time and energy in a small bathroom.
61 A pot-lid holder puts the vertical space behind a cabinet door to good use.
62 A wrap-organizer does the same, creating the perfect spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and waxed paper.
63 Organize vanity essentials on a vintage tray. Très organized and très chic.
64 Use an extra wine rack to hold rolled-up magazines.
65 Use cutlery trays in your drawers, but to save even more time, stash everyday flatware in a countertop caddy.
66 Shrink-wrap out of season clothes, blankets and duvets to save space while storing.
67 You’ll never fit sheets back into those reusable vinyl zip pouches they were sold in, but you can stash cloth napkins in them. Use one pouch per set and label the quantity with a Sharpie.
68 Buy 10 pairs of the same gym socks, to minimize sorting.
69 Do the same for your hubby.
70 Do the same for his dress socks if he can get away with always wearing the same black ones during fall/winter at least.
71 Stash kids’ art supplies on a lazy Susan so everything is easily accessible.
72 Organize household bills in an accordion file with month-by-month pockets.
73 Hold onto paint chips, fabric swatches and brochures from your last redecorating session. You never know when you’ll need to reference them. Store them in an accordion file.
74 On your mudroom wall, hammer in two nails, then string wire between them. Provide clothes pegs and have your kids hang their wet mittens and gloves to dry overnight.
75 Banish tiny piles of coins and start saving in style. Get a designer piggy bank and keep it by the entranceway, laundry or kitchen—wherever you’d like to dump your change.
76 Tired of that circa-90s cast-iron pot rack? Move it from the kitchen to the garage or potting shed and use it to keep garden tools organized.
77 Get – and use – a garden hose caddy.
78 Edit your hangers. Choose: wire, plastic or wood and unify the hangers in every closet.
79 Use pillboxes to stash your earrings and rings when traveling.
80 Use a soda-can dispenser in the fridge so you can access your pop easily without tipping.
81 Use a wall-mounted broom and mop holder, or tie ribbon loops on the end of poles and hang them from hooks in your closet, garage or utility closet.
82 Make a party kit. Stash napkins, extra glassware and plates, votive candles and holders, extra vases, cocktail picks and other necessities in an old wine crate and pull it out pre-party or pre-holiday entertaining so you don’t waste valuable cupboard space.
83 Use a binder to store all medical records and information for everyone in your family, including each pet. Use dividers for each family member and include plastic pouches or expandable pockets to contain receipts and tiny record cards.
84 Stash awkward, easy-to-misplace necessities (extra hairbrushes, lint roller) in decorative reusable tote bags. Hang them off a doorknob in every room.
85 Burn digital images to CD once a month so you’ll never lose them if your computer (gasp!) crashes. Or print them ASAP!
86 Store photos in archival-quality, acid-free boxes until you have time to organize them in albums.
87 Get a heavy-duty paper shredder for peace of mind – and efficient shredding without risk of overheating.
88 Place your shredder where you intercept daily mail. If that’s the kitchen, so be it.
89 Put a small plastic caddy in your gym bag so you can manage hair care and skincare products without dropping anything. Excess water will just drain out.
90 Stop losing lock combinations and computer passwords once and for all. Jot everyone’s codes and combinations down in a notebook and store it in your family’s fireproof lockbox.
91 Store reusable shopping bags one inside the other.
92 Always keep one cute, foldable shopping tote in each of your heavy-rotation purses so you’re never caught without.
93 Avoid the last-minute drugstore run by always having a kit of your favourite travel-sized toiletries (and common OTC meds like allergy pills) packed and waiting in your suitcase.
94 Get a gift-wrap organizer and stock up on a year’s worth of wrap and ribbons, or ready-to-fill bags and tissue.
95 If perishables regularly go to waste in your fridge, start planning weekly dinner menus. Just buy ingredients for those meals, plus lunch basics. Post the menu on your fridge so you’re on track.
96 Mount a magnetized knife rack to a wall in your utility closet or basement, to keep your most commonly used screwdrivers and wrenches handy, not buried in the toolbox.
97 Donate your battery-powered emergency flashlights and stock up on windup models so you never have to worry about replacing batteries.
98 Stop stressing over the emergency preparedness kit the Canadian government recommends all families have. Just make one and get on with your life. Visit getprepared.ca to learn what to put in it. Stash it in a rolling suitcase so it’s mobile in case you have to be, too.
99 Plan a closet clean-out once per season. Less mess makes staying organized a lot easier.
Marble Contact Paper in Marmi Grey, Design Your Wall.
These faux marble options are just as elegant as the real deal.
Few materials strike a chord with us in the same way that marble does. The sought-after stone, with its subtle sheen and veined markings, is quick to catch the eye and lends a luxe look to a space without being over the top. The downside, of course, is its price point. Here are 5 marble-like options that will achieve the same sophisticated, formal look for a fraction of the cost.
Looking for a faux marble tile that can handle heavy foot traffic? Consider peel-and-stick vinyl floor tiles. In addition to their resilient nature, the tiles can be installed over most existing flooring. In other words, they make for a perfect weekend DIY project that won’t end in defeat. TrafficMaster Premium Vinyl Tile in Carrara Marble, Home Depot, starting at $0.89/sq. ft.
If you love the marbled look, you’ll want to customize all of your furniture with this stylish contact paper. The affordable material has a peel-away backing that can stick to almost any surface, from the top of a coffee table to the inside of kitchen drawers. Keep in mind that the paper doesn’t react well to water, so avoid using it in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink. Marble Contact Paper in Marmi Grey, Design Your Wall, $59.99 per roll.
Elevate your living space with ceramic wall tiles that mimic the look of marble like this elegant option from Ciot. Though similar in appearance, ceramic is far more delicate than marble and is therefore more susceptible to chips and cracks. The solution: Be strategic with placement, avoiding high-traffic areas in favour of bathroom walls or backsplashes. Marvel Wall Tile in Calacatta Extra, Ciot, see store for pricing.
Porcelain is another classic material that boasts marble's polished aesthetic without the hefty price tag. The tile is more resilient than ceramic, which makes it perfect for flooring as well as bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes. Let's just say marble-inspired porcelain has the ability to make any space sparkle. Glazed Porcelain Tiles in White, Olympia Tile + Stone, see store for pricing.
If you’re not yet familiar with Laminam, allow us to be the first to introduce you. The innovative material is touted as being the world’s first porcelain tile that's offered in 3 metre by 1 metre panels and is thinner than standard porcelain tiling. This means that in addition to covering existing walls and floors, Laminam can take on an array of delicate surfaces (think fireplace surrounds, kitchen countertops and outdoor areas). I Naturali Laminam in Bianco Statuario, Stone Tile, see store for pricing.