Here’s How Our VP of Style is Making Decorating Easy for Holiday Entertaining

Like many people, I feel like I totally missed out on the holiday season last year, and I’m looking to bring back some seasonal cheer this year—but in a super easy, low-stress way. On top of the impact of quarantining during the holiday season last year, my Thanksgiving meal was actually the last dinner I ate before becoming a first-time mom (peek inside my nursery design here)! Needless to say, I was in a haze for all of December (and good few months after that!). So, while it feels like my baby’s first Christmas this year, it’s actually her second!

After the stress, anxiety, and loss caused by a global pandemic, layered with the energy and emotion surrounding a new baby, I didn’t think I could find an ounce of extra energy to get ready for the holidays this year. But I knew I wanted to start some new holiday traditions for my growing family. My best friend, Jacqueline, who is a talented floral designer, brought over a winter wreath and a garland for me, and that got me thinking about other easy ways to usher in the holiday season.

This is the first time my husband and I will be getting holiday-ready with our daughter and doing some light entertaining as parents. So this year my plans are all about making easy updates to my home that can last through the holiday season, starting a few new traditions while also passing down some of my old favorites, and hosting effortless, low-key gatherings that celebrate the people I love.

I wanted to share the updates I made to my home for the holiday season with you, in the hopes that it can inspire you for some simple holiday decorating and entertaining!

Step 1: The Entryway

One of my pandemic projects was painting my front door black, and I’ve been looking forward to a green wreath ever since. Instead of the traditional evergreen, I asked Jacqueline to make me a wreath with some softer greens that would dry nicely for longevity. She came up with a gorgeous eucalyptus and bay leaf wreath with white wax flowers. The look is classic, with a hint of modernity, and it has such a fresh smell that welcomes visitors when they arrive.

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Step 2: The Fireplace

The fireplace is one of the best places to get festive with decorations, since it’s a focal point during colder months. I love using garland atop the mantel, with greenery-filled vases and candles tucked in. You can get an extra-long garland to drape down the side of your fireplace for a relaxed-but-lush look. Or, you can have the garland sit the length of the mantel, which is my favorite way to style because you don’t have to stress about getting the perfect shape or if the garland will stay put.

This year I matched the garland, which was also made by my friend, with my front door wreath for continuity inside and out. I also love smelling the eucalyptus in my space! If there are parts of your garland, such as the wax flowers, that may not last more than two weeks, you can always pull those out as they start to fade and leave it with just greens—or pop in a new highlight such as berries or rose hips.

Reality Check

While I planned for this garland to last a good part of the holiday season, two days into having it in my house, I discovered that my daughter is allergic to flowers and greenery. Sometimes you have to let go of your plans and expectations! So, I put the garland outside and came up with a new plan for the fireplace. I channeled my inner 90s mom and picked up a classic, faux garland. Is it the chic, live greenery I envisioned for my holiday backdrop? No. But it’s traditional and nostalgic and can now become part of my family’s holiday decorating traditions for many years to come!

Step 3: The Bar

In the past, I’ve leaned on my bar cabinet when hosting guests, using it as a drink-mixing station for festive cocktails. However, holiday entertaining looks a lot different for us this year; we’ll be focusing on small family gatherings throughout the season that take minimal effort. No multi-course dinners or complicated drink recipes this year! To go along with a more relaxed vibe, I’ve styled my bar cabinet to be a coffee and pastry bar instead.

If you want to transform your bar cabinet or cart into a coffee nook, start by picking out your favorite potables to add into your coffee, tea, or espresso. For me that’s whiskey and sambuca. You might also like sweet or cream liqueurs, such as amaretto or Bailey’s. You could also forgo alcohol all together and set out some decadent treats to stir into your drinks—such as mint simple syrup, sugar cubes, candy canes, rock candy, local honey, or fresh whipped cream. Once your mixers are set, make sure your drinkware is ready to go and incorporate it as part of your styling. And don’t forget to save a space for a tray of fresh baked goods (store bought, homemade, or a mixture of the two!).

For baked goods, I’m setting out a mixture of homemade mini cakes and store-bought sfogliatelle. My baked goods tray also has a little trick: I use a box cake mix but bake it in an intricate cake pan! I used this Nordic Ware Plaque, which creates mini show-stopper cakes that look like they took hours to create (but take only minutes to prepare). When attending rather than hosting a gathering, this is also the perfect treat to bring to a party when you’re looking to impress the host and get a ton of compliments from other guests!

This bar setup allows us to be entertaining-ready in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, tea, or espresso and put some baked goods on a tray! It makes it easy to invite friends over for a cup of coffee or tea, add a fun touch to after-dinner entertaining, or use your bar setup to create small moments of joy for your household throughout the season.

Embracing Nostalgia

The treats on my coffee bar have special meaning to me, as well. Growing up with an Italian family, I learned about adding a splash of sambuca to espresso from my grandparents. Espresso paired with sambuca was a ritual at their home, and the sweet liquorice flavor reminds me of them. My grandfather’s favorite pastries were sfogliatelle, a delicacy from his region in Italy, and these were a staple for family celebrations. Instead of stressing myself out baking, these are my go-to; it’s a treat most people haven’t tried and is filled with nostalgia for me. I won’t lie, I have literally cried after biting into a fresh sfogliatelle at least once in my life!

Step 5: Setting the Table

As a design historian, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love vintage china. To create a stellar tablescape this year, I borrowed a Lennox pattern from my mom and pulled out some of the colors with the table runner, and an easy-but-gorgeous centerpiece. But even if you don’t have anything but white dishes, your table can still look extra special with a few thoughtful touches: a table runner or tablecloth, a full set of silverware, and a floral centerpiece.

A table runner is a great alternative to a tablecloth, and the perfect choice if you have a table that you love and want to show off. For me, showing off my reclaimed wood table top was a perfect pairing with the elegant, fancy china, allowing for a slightly more relaxed atmosphere.

I don’t fancy myself a floral designer; in fact, I don’t think I’m even good at arranging flowers. So, for the centerpiece I simply went to the grocery store and bought a few flowers that spoke to me and had the earthy and blue colors I wanted to highlight. I sat at my table after my daughter fell asleep (in the 60 minutes before she’d wake up again!) and just kept adding flowers to a small vase. The more I added the better the arrangement looked! If you buy flowers that can dry out or have longevity, you can leave them on the table with the table runner and candlesticks and elevate your nightly dinners between holiday meals.

And with that, I’m ready for some small family gatherings throughout the next month!

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Holiday Hosting Tips From Our VP Of Style, Alessandra Wood

holiday hosting tips ModsyWith the holidays approaching fast, we’re feeling festive and looking forward to all the cozy gatherings with family and friends to come.

Naturally, our very own VP of Style, Alessandra Wood, is way ahead of us and already has her home decked to the nines for the holidays. We snuck a peek inside her holiday set-up and got the chance to pick her brain on the best ways to design, prep, and decorate for the holidays. Read on for some inspiration and get her best holiday hosting tips for easy entertaining!

cozy decorDecorating for the Season

’Tis the season to get festive! Here’s how I style and prep my home for holiday hosting.

holiday mantel decorStyle Your Mantel

If you have a mantel, this is a great place to get your festive decor on! You can make your home look (and smell) amazing simply with a garland of fresh greenery. I like a blend of eucalyptus and anise. Unlike other plants and greenery, these varieties will dry out (rather than rot) over the next few months. Translation: they have major staying power and you can keep them on display all season long!

cozy decorGet Cozied Up

For me, it’s all about the layers of textiles. My favorites are chunky knit blankets, fluffy pillows, and sheepskin throws. I love to drape them over an armchair or pile them on my sofa to really warm up my home with cozy touches.

Add Mood Lighting

Flameless candles are the best! They create that magical, glowing effect without threat of burning your house down!

holiday hosting tipsSetting a Holiday Table

Hosting a dinner party? Here are my best holiday hosting tips for a dining room that’s set to impress.

Arrange Fresh Florals

I love using fresh flowers in the colors of the season as my centerpiece. For the greenery, I like to use the same blend of eucalyptus and anise to keep the holiday scent consistent throughout.

holiday tablescapeServe It Up Vintage Style

I always borrow my mom’s vintage Lenox china set, which creates a tablescape that’s as lovely as it is festive. And if you don’t have vintage dishware, regular dinnerware arranged with semi-fancy napkins and wine glass are equally wonderful. It’s all about creating an intimate atmosphere!

Prepare for Extra Headcount

I have an expandable dining table, which is great if you only host large gatherings a few times per year. It’s also always good to keep extra seats on hand. I always have a bench or a pair of stools handy for easy extra seats when unexpected guests arrive.

Create a Festive Scent

One of the easiest (and least expensive) ways I like to prep for hosting is by boiling a pot of water full of lemons, cloves, and cinnamon. It makes my home smell amazing and really sets a nostalgic, festive tone.

charcuterie board prepEncourage Noshing

Make snacking (and mingling) easy with a charcuterie board. I always pre-cut the cheese for mine, which makes it so much easier for guests to snack. It also relieves them of having to do the awkward hover and struggle with the cheese knife, which is a win for everyone.

holiday hosting tips for the barPrepping The Bar

A great party starts with a great bar, and I’m all about making mine stylish and functional. Here are a few of my favorite bar-prep tips.

Skip the Bottles

Instead of displaying bottles of alcohol, I like to pour my favorite spirits into decanters. No matter what the liquor is, it makes for an instantly more expensive look. Think bottom-shelf liquor in a top-shelf disguise.

holiday hosting punch bowlPunch It Up

Not that I need an excuse to break out a vintage punch bowl, but it also happens to be one of my favorite holiday hosting tips. I love this because it means guests can self-serve their drinks. AKA no one has to play bartender and everyone can help themselves to as many as they like.

You can even leave the alcohol out of your punch and keep it in a decanter to let your guests self-moderate how boozy they want their drinks. This is also great if you have friends who are on a cleanse or don’t drink, kids on the guest list, or want to help out that friend who is secretly pregnant.

eggnog punch bowlStir Up a Seasonal Cocktail

I love serving a signature cocktail in a punch bowl. It really sets the mood for the party! For the holidays I whip up eggnog. I love Martha Stewart’s classic eggnog recipe because it has bourbon, rum, and cognac—a triple threat!

Get Organized

I prefer a bar cabinet over a bar cart because you can stash away any clutter behind closed doors. It’s a super low-maintenance way to get everything in order, especially if you’re often running short on time!

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