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As temperatures turn colder, it’s beginning to look a lot like company is coming, and your home just isn’t ready for holiday entertaining. Don’t panic, local interior designers and online experts say. Upgrade your decorating skills and parties by following a few simple tips.
“Use all of your space,” advises Anita Yoder, who owns Heritage Design in New Holland. Don’t have a dining table that seats 16? No problem. First, move any floating furniture as close to the wall or windows as possible in the living room or family room. “Create stations,” she advises. For instance, put appetizers on a kitchen table or counter and if needed, spread dining room and kitchen chairs among several rooms. Then, create food stations around your home. Drinks may rest on a living room coffee table. Main courses could occupy the dining room table or a kitchen island. A family room could host desserts, while a hall table might offer side dishes.
“You want people getting up and moving around,” Yoder says.
Padded folding chairs bring versatility to any gathering and can be purchased from Costco or BJ’s, Yoder says. “You’re not going to whip out another wingback chair for someone,” she notes.
David Lyall, who owns David Lyall Home & Design in Lancaster, recommends using large ottomans or leather coffee tables than can transform into seating. He once attended a party in a client’s home and counted 13 people in the living room sitting on the coffee table and two couches that faced each other. Don’t worry if you don’t have space for something that huge, Lyall says. Put small cubes in front of a fireplace or stash a small upholstered bench under a hall table. “You don’t want to use anything institutional-looking,” the designer warns.
Also, don’t worry about mismatched dining chairs. Lyall looks for unusual or antique chairs that can offer extra seating at a table.
Yoder says hosts should consider guests’ ages when gathering extra seating. Older adults, for instance, might not feel comfortable sitting on a coffee table or ottoman. Younger visitors probably won’t care.
Laura Gaskill, who writes for the website Houzz, recommends throwing floor pillows around for young guests. She also advises trolling your own home for seating solutions. Have a chest or low bench at the foot of your bed? Haul it out for the party. Have an extra small table and a few stools or chairs in a second bedroom? Move it into your entryway for guests.
Lyall wants hosts to look up — at their ceilings. “I consider the ceiling the fifth wall in the dining room,” he says. Something as simple as a coat of paint or some texture can make a huge difference. Also, consider any book cases or display cabinets in your space, painting the inside back wall may make your books or other items pop, the designer says.
Yoder uses the same tea lights on her dining table for every holiday. Her trick is to add a few small items that relate to that celebration. For instance, tiny gourds came out for Halloween and can last through Thanksgiving. Ornaments celebrating Christmas soon will dot her table. She also uses tiny hearts for Valentine’s Day. Hosts could arrange tiny dreidels for Hanukkah. Many apartment complexes and retirement centers prohibit burning candles. No problem, Yoder says. Use battery-operated tea lights or small candles.
She also likes to feature flowers in her dining room, along with festive table runners. People with smaller tables may want to spruce up a buffet, mantle or side table. Yoder also decorates her dining-room light fixture with garland and ornaments.
These decorations don’t have to break your budget. The blog Thistlewood Farms recommends buying aging or broken artificial Christmas trees at garage sales and then using the cut-off branches as greenery around your home.
HGTV.com advises using leftover wrapping paper to add color and style to decorations. For instance, before displaying several pine cones in a dish, line the serving piece with wrapping paper to ramp up the overall image.
In addition, the website recommends scavenging your yard or a nearby park for twigs and longer sticks. Using a glue gun, create a North Star (five points) or The Star of David (six points).
“Decorating and entertaining should be fun,” Yoder says.