Holiday entertaining: Tips from the pros
5 festive tabletops
We asked Style at Home contributors for their favourite fuss-free decorating ideas.
"To add sparkle to a table, I use a framed or unframed mirror for the base of the centrepiece. Round, square or rectangular will work, depending on the shape of your dining room table. Old tarnished ones look fabulous. Top the mirror with candles or ornaments and play around with placement. If you don't have a mirror, fill a three-tier cake stand with tea lights—simple but elegant."
—Peter Fallico, host, Home to Stay (HGTV)
"Dress the table with solid-colour placemats or runners. They don't have to be traditional red and green—just stick to a scheme and make it your festive statement. Place some of the bowls or platters on trays, so everything isn't sitting flat on the table. Arrange lots of votives on a tray to give the table depth. Add a few simple flowers and voilà—instant tablescape."
—Dee Gibson, owner and president, Gibson & Lyle Catering with Style, Toronto
"I pick up a few items at the grocery store, since I'm going there anyway. An abundant bowl of artfully arranged fruit makes a gorgeous addition to the table or sideboard. Choose fruits for a colour theme: pomegranates, red pears and red grapes; Granny Smith apples, green grapes and Bartlett pears; or kumquats, oranges and clementines. Herbs and spices are also fantastic. Some grocery stores sell little rosemary topiary trees -- pretty and fragrant. Pick up whole cloves in the bulk section and use them to stud citrus fruits for another aromatic display. While in the bulk section, get some mixed whole nuts in the shell; layer four inches in a hurricane vase and nestle in a pillar candle."
—Margot Austin, senior design editor, Style at Home
"Less is more for me. I love using seasonal florals like magnolia leaves or ilex branches with berries. The dark leaves and branches can be mixed with white or silver for a striking theme. I also fill rustic wooden bowls with fabulous glass balls or colourful ornaments. The mix of rustic and holiday makes a casual statement."
—Sebastien Centner, director, Eatertainment Special Events & Catering, Toronto
"Simplicity is key for me—in part because I'm jetting off to visit family shortly after Christmas, but also because there's nothing worse than an exhausted, stressed-out host. I usually fill a large decorative bowl with mercury glass ornaments and use it as a centrepiece. To make it more formal, flank the bowl with a pair of candlesticks."
—Kimberley Seldon, decorating editor, Style at Home
4 hit gifts for the host
During party season, don't forget about a little gift for the host or hostess. We asked a few design elves for new ideas.
"A hostess gift should always be something useful. The worst presents are the ones that get tossed into the landfill site. Rose petal soaps, and kindling and matches are all fun and inexpensive items your friends will use throughout the season."
—Shawn Gibson, designer, co-owner, Teatro Verde, Toronto
"Our No. 1 hostess gift for the holidays is a package of butter crunch. It's wrapped in lovely hot pink and green paper, which is our take on Christmas this year, but the wrapping won't be on for long."
—Juditha Sakinofsky, owner, Spotted Zebra, Toronto
"Our top recommendation is a Voluspa candle. We carry dozens of candles in a variety of scents; some burn for up to 85 hours. And they're especially appropriate when you don't know the taste or decorating style of your host or hostess."
—Darci Ilich and Stephanie Vogler, co-owners, The Cross, Vancouver
"I always think food gifts are the best to give. We carry bread dips from Wildly Delicious Fine Foods. They come in a variety of flavours—for example, Roasted Garlic & Parmesan, and Herbed Balsamic. Or if your hosts have a sweet tooth, a Saxon Chocolates fondue set is a treat, and probably something they'd never indulge in for themselves."
—Kathryn Dunlop, manager, J.D. Adam, Ottawa