Hosting for the First Time? Don’t Miss These 20 Essential Tips!

In the past two years, so many people have purchased homes—and many of those people were first-time homebuyers! With the holidays season approaching, many of these new homeowners will be hosting their friends or family for holiday gatherings for the first time this winter!

If you’re hosting your first holiday gathering this year, we want to make sure you’re fully equipped and prepared for your guests! We know from experience that it’s easy to overlook details if you haven’t done it before. So, we polled our designers to see what they wish they’d known before their first time hosting the holidays!

If you’re a new homeowner or just hosting for the first time this year, here are our designer’s best hosting tips!

Are you a guest rather than a host? Don’t forget to bring a hostess gift to the party! If you need some ideas, consider these top gifts for new homeowners.

Living room with extra seating for holiday guests

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1. Pull in Extra Seats (And Don’t be Afraid to Get Creative)

An oft-overlooked necessity when hosting is beefing up your seating options. With more people entering your home than are typically there day-to-day, you’ll definitely need to plan for extra seating—whether you’re hosting a sit-down meal or more of a mix-and-mingle cocktail party. (Having enough seating is especially important if older grandparents are coming over!)

Make seating easy and abundant by pulling in extra seats to the main gathering space. And these don’t all need to be actual chairs—you can get creative! Benches, poufs, and ottomans can all be used as additional seating options beyond your sofa and accent chairs. And if you aren’t seating people around the table, feel free to pull your dining chairs out of the dining room and into whatever space you need a few extra seats.

a bar cart with winter greenery for added holiday charm

2. Dress up Your Bar Cart (Or Set Up an Impromptu Bar!)

Spruce up your bar cart for your holiday hosting needs! Remove any bottles you don’t want guests to use—and stock it with any mixers and glassware guests may need. And some winter greenery and glass decanters add a nice decorative touch! Don’t have a bar cart? Check out some ideas for impromptu small home bars.

Whether you have a bar cart or are creating a small bar just for your party, creating one or several designated bar areas helps to make drinks easily accessible for your guests. And if you want people to spread throughout your home, having different drink stations in different parts of your home is a good way to encourage people to flow through the space!

Lemons, clove, and cinnamon are excellent holiday scents

3. Set the Mood with a Signature Scent

The way your home smells will be one of the first things your guests notice when they arrive. So, help set a festive mood by intentionally creating a signature scent! Light a candle or diffuse some oils near the entrance of your home for a pleasant scent as guests arrive. Or, for something more natural, arrange a vase of fresh flowers or hang a pine wreath in your entryway!

To keep the good scents going throughout her home, our VP of style, Alessandra Wood, simmers lemon, cinnamon, and cloves on the stove for a spicey holiday scent! (Click through to find more of Alessandra’s holiday hosting tips!)

4. Queue Up Some Festive Tunes

To keep the environment comfortable through the ebbs and flows of conversation, play some easy listening and event-appropriate music in the background. This can also help set the mood of your gathering! But don’t worry about meticulously curating a playlist—you have more important things to worry about!

“My friends and family are picky listeners, so I’ve taken to crowdsourcing my playlists. A few days before an event, I’ll send out the link to the playlist and have everyone add their own songs. Then, when it’s time to turn on the tunes, I can just shuffle what everyone added and not feel stressed.” –Madeline W.

5. Get Cozy with a (Digital) Fire

Another way to create a cozy vibe? A crackling fire! There’s truly nothing like the sound and warm glow of a fire! But if you’re already having extra people over, things can get warm quickly. So, instead of lighting an actual fire, play a video of a burning yule log on your TV, courtesy of your favorite streaming service! (This is also a great option for those who don’t have a fireplace but want to bring to life the cozy vibe that fires create!) You can find versions that are multiple hours long so you don’t have to restart it halfway through your party. Some even feature celebrities and cute animals!

don't forget the charcuterie board at your holiday party

6. Go Bite-Sized With Snacks

If you’re hosting a party where people are standing and mingling, make sure you have plenty of bite-sized food that’s easy to eat while balancing a plate or drink. This will make guests more comfortable while eating and chatting—and hopefully minimize spills!

“I like to have bite-sized snacks and hors d’oeuvres at parties. I always have a charcuterie board out with a variety of meats, cheeses, grapes, and even little chocolates like Ferrero Rocher or chocolate-covered strawberries. Basically, I try to create a nice spread of things that people can easily grab and mingle with. I also put out cute champagne flutes with both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. (Welch’s white grape is always a hit for an NA option—it tastes just like Moscato!) –Crystal V.

7. Set Out Coasters

Is your new home full of new furniture? Don’t forget to add coasters to any surface where you think someone might set a drink. It’s a simple way to protect your new furniture! If you don’t have a huge coaster collection, pick up a pack of disposable coasters to make sure you have enough.

Holiday punch

8. Mix Up a Large Batch of a Signature Cocktail

Creating a batch cocktail, rather than mixing drinks individually, will make serving a lot easier. With a batch cocktail, you can mix up a big pitcher or bowl ahead of time, and guests can serve themselves when they arrive! This saves you, as the host, from having to play bartender all evening.

“I love to make a big-batch signature cocktail for my guests!” –McKenzie Kinney

9. Have a Large Surface for Serving Food

When hosting a group, it helps to have a large surface where you can set out all of your food for guests—whether that’s your dining room table, your kitchen island, or even a media console in your living room. Depending on how you want to serve the food, you can opt for a surface where people can move in a circle (like your island or a round dining table) or let people move down a line, more like a buffet table.

“My husband and I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, which doesn’t have much counter space. For serving appetizers, we clear off the top of our media console (stashing our TV in the bedroom during the party so we have extra surface space) and lay food out on that surface.” –Amy O.

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10. Don’t be Afraid to Rearrange your Layout

Tight on space? Rearrange your room for one night only! (This is one of our favorite tips for hosting in a small space.) Push furniture against the wall to clear more space in your main rooms. This is great for a dining room where people will be walking around rather than sitting at the table to eat—which also allows you to use your dining table as a buffet for serving food and drinks. Rearranging your layout is also a good option in living rooms that typically have floating furniture. Pushing furniture back will give you more space to add in extra seating and more space for people to move around and mingle!

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11. Invest in a Tray

Trays are a host’s best friend. A good tray can be used to arrange food, corral items like napkins and utensils, as a surface on which to serve drinks, or as an easy decorative item. Trays turn any coffee table or console into a polished display!

Holiday themed china sets the mood for a fab gathering

12. Make Sure You Have Ample Dinnerware and Utensils

When hosting a gathering—especially one where you’re sitting down for a meal—it’s essential to make sure you have enough silverware and dishes ahead of time! (There’s nothing like realizing you don’t have enough forks 15 minutes before guests arrive!) Be sure you have enough drinkware, table settings, and silverware not only for dinner, but also appetizers and dessert.

“The first time I hosted Thanksgiving, I totally spaced on silverware and drinkware. Luckily my mother-in-law (I got a good one!) showed up with an 18-person set of both—crisis averted!” –Lauren M.

13. Consider the Lighting

Choosing the right lighting for your home is essential. But what works day-to-day might not be right for your party. Create a moodier vibe by using a variety of accent lighting rather than overhead lights. And don’t forget about candles! If you’re worried about wax drips or creating a fire hazard, opt for flameless candles for all the ambiance and none of the risk!

“For evening parties, lower lighting is nice. I love hanging twinkle lights and lighting candles to add a festive touch to holiday parties!” –Amy O.

14. Don’t Overlook the Small Spaces

Create thoughtful, intentional moments throughout your home so guests can feel the festiveness in even the smallest spaces of your home! It could be garlands of winter greenery going up the staircase, scented candles in the bathroom, or place cards at the dinner table! Whatever you choose, it’s these little moments that will make your home feel extra-special.

“I always light a candle in the bathroom when I’m hosting. It makes your home feel extra fancy and is a nice but small touch. You could go flameless, but I love a scented candle. Although, I do get stressed about burning my house down, so I usually find myself popping in to check on it every 10 minutes or so! Ha!” –Madeline W.

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15. Designate a Place for Coats and Bags

You don’t want a pile-up of coats and bags right inside your front door as guests arrive. So, designate a place for coats before guests arrive—whether that’s a coat closet, a freestanding clothing rack, or even laying them all on a guest bed. Have kids? This is a great job to designate to one of your kids to make them feel important as guests arrive! (And give you one less thing to worry about.)

16. Put Away Pet Items

You may love your pets—but that doesn’t mean all of your guests will. When preparing your home for hosting, put pet items in a different room—for aesthetic purposes and to avoid a tripping hazard from any stray toys or bones. Depending on your guest list, consider keeping your pets in a different part of the house from guests as well.

“If you’re hosting just for a short time, consider putting pet stuff in another room, which will help eliminate pet odor and is good for any guest who may have allergies.” –Katherine B.

17. Don’t Stress Over Imperfections

Your home doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t have to postpone your holiday gathering until next year just because you’re still working on furnishing and decorating your new home. Host the gathering, but just focus on cleaning really well and making your home feel welcoming with some festive holiday or winter decorations. Beyond that, it’s about gathering family and friends together. And loved ones won’t judge imperfect decor or in-process designs!

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For overnight guests…

If you’re hosting overnight guests this holiday season, you have a bit more to think about. You’re not just planning one evening but need to make sure you’re set for a couple of days. If this is the case for you, here are a few extra tips to consider!

18. Give your Guest Room a Test Drive

A great way to make sure your overnight guests will have everything they need? Sleep in your guest space and use your guest bathroom to experience them and see what needs to be done to make each space more welcoming and comfortable. This is an easy way to discover items you might have overlooked. Some commonly missed guest room essentials are full-length mirrors, laundry hampers, and missing or ill-placed trash cans!

Read Next: How to Avoid These Design Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

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19. Keep Daily-Use Items Out and Easy to Reach

Are there certain things your guest may want easy and regular access to? Keep them in plain sight. Place a few mugs and sugar on the counter or set up a coffee bar so guests feel at ease and can make their own morning beverages. The same goes with towels—have a few guest towels (aka clean towels!) ready for guests, placing them in your guest bedroom or bathroom so they’re good to go.

20. Bring Out the Coziness

If you’re hosting in the winter, add extra fluffy blankets and throws to the sofa or bed to add an extra layer of comfort for your guests. You never know if guests run warm or cold, so having extra blankets easily accessible is a nice touch!

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Holiday Interiors Inspired by Your Favorite Christmas Movies

The holiday season looks mighty different this year. We’re all hunkering down at home, and holiday celebrations during COVID are turning into virtual gatherings. The bright side? It’s a great excuse to go all out on holiday decorating this year! Just because you’re not hosting a holiday party or having a big family gathering doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy trimming your Christmas tree, draping your home in red and green, and enjoying all the magic this season has to offer.

If you’re ready to load up on the cheer and festivity in your home this year, we put together a little something to inspire you—a guide to holiday decor ideas based on our favorite Christmas movies! We took five of our favorite classic Christmas movies and their interiors, and reimagined them for today! From The Grinch to Home Alone, peek inside these holiday-inspired living rooms full of Christmas movie decorations, and steal some inspiration for your own place!

Bonus idea: Coordinate a virtual holiday bash, where you and each of your friends decorate your home based on your own favorite holiday movie and give out prizes for the best decor! Tired of virtual gatherings? Have a holiday movie marathon from afar, complete with plenty of hot cocoa or eggnog and tons of twinkle lights.

Need help designing a room in your home? Holiday decor aside, our designers are pros at helping you reimagine the possibilities for your exact room in 3D! Start your project today and see how amazing your space can look.

classic christmas movies – the Grinch

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

If there was ever a living room designed to make your heart grow three sizes larger, this would be it! Step inside the first interior inspired by one of our favorite classic Christmas movies—How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

A room that combines the holiday spirit of Whoville with the funkiness of Mt. Crumpet, we imagined the Grinch would (perhaps reluctantly) enjoy curling up by the fire in his new digs. The Mr. Grinch house decorations in this space have a very Grinch color palette—lots of greens, a few pops of red, and some high-contrast black and white. We stocked the space with a few touches from his old home on Mount Crumpet, along with some stolen Christmas gifts (because he’s still the Grinch, after all), and a few nods to Max.

Love the whimsy of Whoville? Us, too! The Christmas tree in their town square is among the top five most iconic christmas trees out there—in our humble opinion.

classic christmas movies – the holiday

The Holiday

Would any post on classic Christmas movies really be complete without a Nancy Meyers-inspired space? The home we all want to visit (or live in), our designers used Amanda’s LA mansion from The Holiday as the inspiration for this interior.

Staying true to the colors used in the film, our living space features a palette of neutrals with pops of greens and burgundies to give it some cozy touches. The furniture feels traditional, but has a contemporary twist that gives the space a modern update. The only thing missing? The magical combo of Jude Law sitting on a Nancy Meyers-approved sofa. Alas!

Are you an Iris or Amanda? Dig into The Holiday movie design style with more decor ideas from both of the iconic homes in The Holiday!

classic christmas movies – the nutcracker

The Nutcracker

For our third interior inspired by classic Christmas movies, we took design direction from the 19th-century ballet, The Nutcracker. The room is full of classic European-inspired design elements—a rolled-arm sofa, medallion patterned rug, and damask wallpaper—all drenched in a sugar plum purple color palette.

A few hidden gems for true fans of the classic ballet include a smattering of white sugar plum decor, the grandfather clock, and a few modern-inspired nutcracker tchotchkes. Finally, the art above the mantel is a nod to Uncle Drosselmeyer—the famous character behind the story.

classic christmas movies – white christmasWhite Christmas

The next of our favorite Christmas movies is truly the most classic of the bunch: White Christmas. Set in the 1950s, we styled this interior true to the traditional design aesthetic of the time. Think: your East coast grandmother’s style.

Really nail this classic look with two spindle-back windsor chairs flanking the fireplace. A pair of cozy wingback armchairs across from a velvet chesterfield sofa also bring this look to life.

The overall color scheme offers a nod to the movie as well as some of the prints, textures, and fabrics. For those looking to bring this look into their home, try sticking to a more traditional style and don’t be afraid of too much tinsel!

classic christmas movies – Home AloneHome Alone

The truly Christmas-obsessed will revel in this interior inspired by the classic 90s Christmas flick, Home Alone. Kevin McCallister’s family lived in a gorgeous early-20th-century colonial revival home, and our designers wanted an interior look that would complement the home’s architecture.

In case you missed it during your last viewing, the entire movie set of the Home Alone house interior was designed with red and green as the main color palette (even down to the kitchen countertops!) so we wanted to bring that element through to our Home Alone-inspired interior.

In true Home Alone movie fashion, we couldn’t help but deck the space out head to toe in classic Christmas decor—a large, bushy Christmas tree, garlands, wreaths, and nutcrackers galore! There’s no Kevin McCallister (or Macaulay Culkin) in sight, but we’re pretty sure he’d have a ball spending Christmas in this space. (And we’re pretty sure you would, too.)


Need some extra holiday decor inspiration? Check out our holiday decor lookbook, which features three curated looks with different decor packs to help you decorate for winter (the holidays and beyond) with ease this year! This includes some holiday mantel decor, and some great living room design ideas.

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