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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A Few of Our Favorite Things: 8 Festive Holiday Mantel Decor Looks

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is practically here! It’s been a long 2020, so it’s more the reason to break out the festive holiday decorations and cozy up the home for some much-needed celebration (and relaxation).

The best place to start decorating? Your fireplace mantel, of course! It’s where the stockings go after all. But it’s also an easy surface to layer with candles and ornaments or string up lights and a garland. Not to mention, the fireplace is also the centerpiece of the living room, so your holiday mantel decor is guaranteed to be a focal point in the space.

Explore more holiday decorating tips from Modsy designers! Need help pulling your living room together? Check out these ways to lay out a living room with a fireplace and even this guide to living rooms with corner fireplaces.

Although, there are many ways beyond classic Xmas red-and-white to deck out the mantel. To give you some wintry, holiday mantel inspiration, here are a few of our favorite looks for a festive and dazzling fireplace. Read on to get our tips on how to bring each look home.

rustic fireplace with boho wreath and string garland

Hygge It Up

Create a mantel focal point inspired by hygge, the Scandinavian winter mindset of embracing all things cozy and comforting. It’s a layered and lush alternative to a holiday mantel display that will bring in a sense of calm and quiet all through winter.

Learn more about acing a hygge design style.

Stick to simple pieces that are sculptural and have a handmade, organic feel. That means layering up your mantel with decor such as a textured greenery garland, a macramé hanging, woven baskets and accents, and artisanal white ceramics. It all helps convey a feeling of comfort and warmth.

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holiday mantel decor

Keep It Classic Christmas Style

Nothing beats red and green Christmas mantel decor for that classic holiday look. It’s perfect for those who want a tried-and-true mantel that goes with the traditional holiday colors throughout the living room.

String a garland or simple branches of pine across the mantel, then add in festive accents in the Christmas palette. That can be a piece of vintage art (like this sleigh drawing), some candlesticks and berry stems, a reindeer figurine or special family ornaments, anything that nods to the holidays. It’ll make for an attractive focal point that can rival any Christmas tree.

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Traditional style fireplace with jewel-tone artwork and holiday garland

Go For Color & Glam

Give your mantel a glam update for the holidays with decor that dazzles and sparkles. This is perfect if you like your holidays to have a punch of color that’s not red and green and like a living room that’s fun, and festive.

Add decor in bright jewel tones and metallics to up the glitz factor. That includes everything from mercury glass votives and candleholders and mirrored sconces to silver ornaments and metallic tree sculptures. This is all about adding colors and glamour that shine, so no need to hold back!

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holiday mantel decor

Think Refined & Rustic

If you’re a fan of rustic style, this refined-rustic approach has farmhouse appeal but still brings in that wintry, holiday spirit. Instead of classic Christmas mantel decorations, this is all about layering rustic and vintage elements for that cozy, lived-in feel.

Start by adding sophisticated vintage accents, like flea-market art, antiqued brass animals, and weathered candlesticks. Then work in natural elements, like the wood-bead garland here and the full cypress greenery, for seasonal and organic touches. For a soft nod to the holidays, you can round out the mantel with white stockings, mini Christmas trees, and a woven basket for fireplace logs.

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rounded fireplace with eclectic Christmas decor

Give It A Quirky Twist

For an eclectic holiday mantel, mix quirky festive decor. If you prefer casual holiday decorations, this is the perfect twist for you. Not to mention, it’s a great solution if you don’t have room for a full-size Christmas tree.

You can take it in any direction you want, but a fun garland is a must (like this cute ‘Oh What Fun’ one.) Add in other charming decor, like red and green candles, some greenery branches, and a nutcracker or toy soldier sculpture. It’s about turning the mantel into a holiday scene, and when the time comes you can stack presents in front of the fireplace.

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holiday mantel decor

Opt For Trad & Organic

In the same vein as a rustic holiday mantel, this elegant take on classic holiday ushers in an elevated festive look. For those who have a formal living room or want a polished and sophisticated fireplace focal point, this is an easy way to do so.

Lean into classic mantel decor that lets you play up symmetry, like a pair of brass sconces flanking a mirror, a garland of gold pine cones that runs the length of the mantel, sculptural glass trees at varying heights. This is also a great moment for a wreath, which adds a pop of greenery and texture that balances out all the formality

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holiday mantel decor

Make It Minimalist

For true minimalists and modern-decor lovers, a simple mantel in black and white with touches of silver is the way to go. Believe it when we say there are ways to work a high-contrast palette so that it still feels cozy and full of holiday spirit.

Be sure to keep to small white accents, like ceramic vases, miniature trees, and black-and-white stockings. You can go big and top it all off with a black-and-white frame mirror that draws attention to the mantel. The key is to work in greenery, like small cypress trees or branches for some organic texture and for a nod to the wintry outdoors.

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Hannukah themed fireplace decor in blue and silver

Try Polished Blue & Silver

Like holiday red and green, blue and silver make for a wintry palette that can instantly bring the outdoors in. For those who celebrate Hannukah, this is color scheme also perfectly ties into the festive decor for the holiday.

The key is sticking to simple and modern blue-and-white decor, like sapphire velvet curtains, sky-color modern art, and silver candlesticks or menorahs. You can easily add a holiday touch by layering in mercury glass votives and candle holders, blue and silver ornaments. Practical finishing touches, like a big woven basket, will bring an instant warm appeal.

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6 Ways to Prep Your Dining Room for Entertaining

Whether you’re entertaining for the holidays or just hosting a morning brunch with friends, your dining room is at the center of it all. With all the work that goes into planning a meal for multiple people, the last thing you want is to stress about your decor.

To help you avoid any pre-hosting stress, we rounded up our favorite tips to get your dining room ready to go before guests descend. Here are the dining room ideas we love and are sure to help you get fully prepped for a revolving door of dinner parties, brunches, and whatever else comes your way.

Read on for a few dining room ideas that will help you shine as the hostess with the mostest!

dining chairs with slip covers and a wood dining table ad lots of texture and interest to this space

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1. Always Have Extra (and Comfy) Seating

Comfortable dining chairs can make long dinners much more enjoyable. If you like a little extra cushion, consider matching sets that are fully upholstered or have nice plush seats.

If you have room to spare, extra dining chairs are always great to have on hand in case of unexpected, or last-minute guests.

Short on space? Dining chairs are versatile so try placing extras in your entryway or home office. They won’t use up square footage unnecessarily, and you can easily pull them into your dining space in a pinch. Here are 6 of our favorite places to put spare dining chairs.

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2. Be Realistic About Headcount

Big dinners are a holiday given, so be cognizant of how many people your dining room can accommodate comfortably.

If you have the space to entertain a big crowd, make sure everyone has a spacious spot at the table. A table with extendable leaves is a great solution for hosting large groups in smaller spaces.

Need help choosing a dining table? Check out our guide to dining table shapes and sizes.

rustic dining room with fall thanksgiving tablescape

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3. Take Time to Outfit Your Table

Whether you’re hosting a Thanksgiving feast for 12 or an intimate Valentine’s day dinner for two, a thoughtfully set table is always memorable.

Channel the colors of the season and pick a combination of your favorite three to guide the palette for your tablescape.

If you’ve been thinking about new dishes, silverware, or glassware, now is the time to go for it as you gear up to entertain.

dining room with a credenza for extra storage

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4. Prepare a Serving Station

Half the challenge of entertaining is being present with your guests. Setting up a sideboard or a buffet where you can create a bar and a serving station for food, appetizers, and dessert means you won’t have to dash back and forth from the kitchen.

In a smaller dining room, try a simple bar cart topped with drinks and light nibbles.

How to choose a lamp

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5. Add Good Mood Lighting

Beyond candlelight, make sure your dining room is well-lit all around—overhead, along the walls, or a table lamp or two placed strategically on a buffet or a small table.

The idea is to have enough lighting around your dining room so that you can easily switch off a few to create a moody ambiance.

If you have a single pendant above the dining table, consider hanging a chandelier for a show-stopping light source that adds more sparkle. Learn more about what lighting to choose for a dining room with our guide to choosing a lamp!

leather chairs and a wood dining table make for an sleek but cozy vibe

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6. Warm Up Your Floors

A captivating rug is sure to set a cozy, festive note. Choose a low-pile option (one that’s not shaggy) in a color or pattern that draws focus to your dining table.

Or opt for a natural-fiber rug with a large-scale design that’s easy on the eyes and stands up to foot traffic. (These can also handle the occasional spill because let’s face it—it happens).

Not sure what kind of rug to get for your dining room (or if you need a rug at all)? Check out our guide to dining room rugs to learn more!

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Thanksgiving Prep: Easy, Last-Minute Tips to Get Your Dining Room Ready

Hosting a Thanksgiving gathering and feeling frenzied? You’re not alone. Between cooking and coordinating, there never seems to be enough time for Thanksgiving prep. But setting up your dining room with the right flow and flexibility can help you easily host a comfortable holiday meal.

If you’re pressed for time, we’ve got some tips that are easy to implement, even at the last minute!

Here are our favorite quick tips to help get your dining room ready.

thanksgiving prep

1. Accommodate Extra Guests

Be prepared to have a seat for the extra family member or the friend-of-a-friend (who forgot to RSVP) by pulling in ottomans, benches, and stools from other areas in your home.

These moveable pieces are a practical and perfect, last-minute way to accommodate additional guests at large gatherings. Ready a few around the room—guests can perch here with their cocktails before dinner, or simply use them as a spot for placing bags and coats.


2. Make Drinks Self-Serve

It’s as simple as pulling in a bar cart to allow guests to stir up their own drinks. Choose an option with casters, AKA wheels, that you can easily move around.

This allows you the flexibility of placing your bar cart in the corner for cocktail hour and then moving it into another room for post-dinner drinks and coffee.

thanksgiving prep

3. Make More Room to Gather

Expandable dining tables with leaves are perfect for hosting big events. They ensure you’ll never be short on space when having a dinner party, but won’t take up too much room on a daily basis.

Stylist Tip: Choose a rug that’s sized to your table when it’s expanded. We recommend that your entire table and chairs sit fully on top of a rug. You won’t have to worry about the rug getting caught under chair legs as your guests scoot in and out.

4. Eliminate Trips Back and Forth

Just as you would have a drinks station for your guests, create a buffet area on a credenza for appetizers and desserts.

This will keep you from having to make trips back and forth to the kitchen. Not to mention, once dinner is over, everyone knows exactly where to find the sweets and pies. Keep some extra plates and napkins in the cupboards of your credenza and you’re all set.

Ready to pep your space for hosting?