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By: Kristin Bugden

The holidays are meant to be a time to gather with family and friends and partake in a much-needed break from the day-to-day. However, all too often we find ourselves scrambling to decorate our homes perfectly to get ready for a revolving door of guests. We feel you, which is why we recently spoke with some fantastic interior designers about simple ways to infuse some festivity and make entertaining a breeze.

Read on for 5 easy holiday decorating and entertaining tips that’ll help you ditch the stress and get into the seasonal spirit!

Holiday Entertaining Tips

1. Use Lights to Illuminate Your Home

Lighting is a great place to start in terms of holiday décor. Devin Shaffer, affordable interior design expert from Decorilla notes: “Illuminating your home with layers of light is perfect not only for the holidays, but also for those shorter winter days as well.” To achieve this, he suggests blending candles and lights with seasonal décor to create a relaxed ambiance.

Ellyn Murphy of Ellyn Murphy Design furthers this point by adding how lighting is one of the most fun aspects of welcoming a crowd in. “When I throw my holiday party, I make sure to put lanterns out on the front step to welcome my guests—you can get creative by adding decorative lights and greenery to your lanterns, like the ones shown here from Terrain (one of my favorite stores),” she says. And the decorative additions don’t have to stop at the front door. “Remember you can use lanterns inside your home as a table centerpiece, inside your fireplace or anywhere to create a cozy atmosphere. Try and get them all lit before your guests arrive for the full effect,” she adds.

2. Make Simple Swaps to Create a Festive Table

When it comes to creating a joyful tablescape, Shaffer tells Lively that putting items you already have to use is one way to make affordable and stress-free table settings. To do this, he suggests adding an evergreen or eucalyptus garland to vases, urns and candles as a striking accent. 

Megaan Pelaar, a realtor and interior designer, notes that she also loves working with the options she has on hand to create a beautiful table that draws inspiration from elements associated with the holiday. “For Thanksgiving, I love incorporating natural elements from outside to showcase my gratitude to the earth’s abundance, and for other holidays like Christmas or New Year’s, I enjoy bringing in lights and some of my favorite ornaments to add sparkle,” she says.  

Jennifer Ferrell, principal interior designer at Riverside Designers, offers up another easy and affordable suggestion for holiday entertaining and table décor—upgrading cocktail and dinner napkins from paper to cloth. “This is a simple luxury that both you and your guests will appreciate,” she mentions. “Purchasing a neutral color such as white, gray or linen means you can use them at other times throughout the year and adding a monogram to your cocktail napkins also really elevates the look.” Then, if you really want to take things up a notch,Maria Augusta Louro from Guta Louro Designs adds that themed napkin rings can be a great touch for the dinner tables, along with themed placemats, serving bowls and plates.

RELATED: How To Destress During The Holidays: 3 Bloggers Share Their Secrets

mulled wine

3. Consider Having a Decorated Bar Cart & Themed Cocktail 

Along with the holiday season comes a cocktail (or two!). If you have a bar cart, or are looking to invest in one, now is the time to do so. Looking for suggestions? Murphy recommends the modern Crestwood bar cart from Arteriors as a beautiful choice. “This baby has wheels that make its petite size and its round shape as elegant as it is functional—a great addition to any living space,” she adds. 

Of course, a fabulously decorated setup is just as important as the cart itself. And Oscar Lugo of Oscar Lugo Art & Interior Design notes that there are some simple touches you can provide for a festive vibe. “Adding small details like a nutcracker and red poinsettias, as well as gilded elements in the form of an ice container and perhaps even a bit of glitter sprinkled on the base of the bar cart, can offer a holiday feel that easily fits with other Christmas décor,” he explains.

*Clink, clink* Bring on the drinks! When it comes to seasonal spirits, Murphy tells Lively she’ll often make a large batch of a special cocktails to offer guests when they first arrive. The Mellie Glass Beverage Dispenser from CB2 is perfectly suited for the job, while some lovely stemware, like the Juliet collection from CB2, brings the sophistication home. “These beautiful glasses with clean modern lines make every drink taste better,” she says. Don’t forget the kids either, Ferrell says, adding: “A fun, fancy punch with special cups means the children are not left out.

entertaining tips and tricks

4. Stock Up on Smaller Items

Now that you’ve illuminated your home, created a beautiful tablescape and have plenty of drinks handy to make your guests merry, we have a few tips to ensure the evening goes seamlessly. “A suggestion for easy entertaining is to invest in a few small bowls, whether silver, pottery or glass—these are some of the most multi-purpose items in my holiday repertoire!” notes Ferrell. “They can be used for nuts or lemons/limes on a bar, a pretty place for guests to put their keys when they enter your Foyer, or jewelry catchall on a guest’s bedside table.” 

Serving boards are another item that are often used throughout the holiday entertaining season. “The green and red plaid cutting boards from McGee and Co. are particularly suited for the holidays and one of the many options out there for you to include in your table arrangement,” says Murphy, adding that petrified wood or sliced agate boards serve as fantastic options as well.

5. Focus on the Finishing Touches

Our experts could not emphasize enough that the smallest details are the best way to bring a theme home. This starts with Lugo, who notes that one of the most elegant ways to utilize string lights is to roll them in a ball and place into clear vases. Don’t have extra lights handy? Shaffer says to try reaching for glass pendant ornaments instead. “They make personalizing your home and décor easy—no matter the holiday, you can fill each orb with your favorite holiday accents, ranging from tree bark to candy canes!” he says.

Another way to spark holiday joy? Seasonal scents — especially ones that will last you the long haul. “Diffuser sticks in your favorite holiday scent are worth the splurge because they allow a lovely smell to permeate the rooms longer than candles,” says Ferrell. Lugo also recommends pine needle sticks to make an evergreen scent linger in your abode.Pro tip: He notes that ginger or cinnamon sticks are wonderful scent options as well. 

Finally, we love Ferrell’s suggestion of focusing on one pretty item for each “public” room in your space. “Invest in a lovely wreath for the front door and a great looking door mat to immediately set the tone,” she says. “Skip the bedrooms and use high-quality décor items in the rooms used for dining and entertaining—natural materials like pinecones and birch branch are affordable items that lend a more sophisticated and less cutesy aesthetic and mix beautifully with gold or silver containers for a contrast.”

There you have it! A whole bunch of attainable tips to make spirits bright this season.

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