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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Game Room Decor: Our Best Tips for Designing This Entertaining Space

Do you love gathering friends or family together for a game night? Or just love the idea of having a space in your home that’s solely dedicated to having fun? Then it might be time to consider adding a game room design to your home!

Game rooms or recreation rooms are fun, secondary spaces in your home devoted to playing games—whether that’s board games, cards, billiards, video games, or even watching sporting events! These spaces are all about hanging out with friends or family, relaxing, and having fun.

But when creating gaming areas in your home, it’s important to consider the design of the space. It’s a fun space, so you don’t want it to feel bland, but you also don’t want it to be cheesy. You also want it to be a practical and comfortable space that’s large enough for the groups you like to host.

Ready for some game room decor ideas? Keep reading for our designers’ best tips for creating a game room ready for entertainment and fun!

How Will You Use Your Game Room?

Before you start designing your game room, you’ll want to consider how you’ll use the space. What kind of games and activities do you want to design for? Are you a tabletop game or cards person? Or does your preferred gaming involve billiards, foosball, or table tennis which requires at least one larger piece of furniture? And we can’t forget about the video gamers, who need a place for their game consoles and a large screen for individual and group games!

Identifying how you’ll use your game room helps you assess the furniture pieces you need to include—ensuring your game room is both functional and stylish. Perhaps your game room is also a rec room for your kids. Or maybe it doubles as a home gym. Is this also the space where you want to have friends over to watch the big game? These secondary purposes will help you further hone in on what you might need to include in this space.

Now that you’ve thought through how you want to use your game room, you can get to the fun part: designing your space! We’re sharing some of our best tips and game room decor ideas to help you bring a rec room to life. (And if you don’t have a full game room, don’t worry! We’ve got tips for you, too!) We’ve broken down the tips by the 3 core types of game rooms, which will help you find the game room ideas that are most relevant to your needs.

game room with shiplab

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The Grown-Up Game Room

We love the idea of creating a sophisticated lounge space, either in a finished basement or a large bonus room toward the back of your house. The idea of this space is to give you room for several different activities, making it a bit more multipurpose (but still with gaming at the heart of it).

Here, we have space to watch the TV from a comfortable and casual sectional sofa. This is perfect for watching sporting events or hosting a movie night! And the coffee table is large enough to play board games and cards. A foosball table allows for more active competition within this space. And bar seating means snacks and drinks can always be close at hand!

The design of this space is perfect for having friends over to watch games or movies, hosting a casual game night, or just hanging out!

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1. Prioritize Comfortable Seating

If you’re watching sports, hanging with friends, or playing tabletop games, you definitely want somewhere comfortable to sit. So, choose furniture that’s plus and that you can sink into, in an upholstery that’s durable and easy to clean. (We love leather for these reasons—plus it adds to that lounge-like vibe.) And make sure the sectional you choose has a good seat height for playing board games.

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2. Add a Bar Area

Having snacks and drinks readily available is a must in a game room setting. Adding a narrow bar-height table offers a practical surface for a spread of snacks, and tucking a beverage fridge underneath means a cold drink is always on-hand (while conveniently saving on floor space.) Bar seating adds to the fun, casual atmosphere while also creating a few more seats for game day TV viewing.

dark blue game room

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3. Make it Sophisticated Rather Than Themed

Just because you’re designing a game room doesn’t mean it needs to feel like a dark basement or bachelor pad. (Translation: it doesn’t have to be a sports-themed room, even if it’s where you watch sports.) You can elevate the room with sophisticated yet casual decor and furniture. Here, we designed the space with a mix of modern industrial and desert southwest styles, with the clean-lined leather sectional anchoring the space and setting the tone. Finishing touches like wall art, layered lighting, rugs, and decor will give personality and style to your game room while making it feel like a more intentional space within your home.

pool table in eclectic style

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The Family Playroom-Game Room

A space like this is intended to cater to the whole family. There’s a space for younger kids to play with simple games and toys, a pool table for teens and adults, and accessible storage for all.

This space has a fun and bright design, but it still feels elevated and stylish enough to make everyone feel welcome and at home. Just make sure you use our kid-friendly design tips when creating your family game room!

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4. Cater to Your Hobbies

Game rooms are personal spaces, and how you design and use them depends on what you like to do! If you love playing pool with your teenager, include a pool table. Or if ping pong is more your speed, swap out the billiards for table tennis. If your family is constantly playing board games, maybe you want to prioritize a full-size game table over a coffee table set-up. Does your kid love hosting video game tournaments? Make the TV the central focus, with storage for game consoles. The idea is to personalize the space to the needs of your family members, then focus on finding the right tables and seating to meet your needs!

Game room with gemoetric wall paper

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5. Opt for Flexible Seating

In a family game room like this, we love the idea of having seating that can easily be moved around the space—like a modular sofa, chairs on casters, or even low-profile bean chairs. This allows you to use the space for multiple purposes, and adjust seating depending on the activity at hand and the number of people using the space. Here, we opted for modular and comfy bean chairs gathered around a low coffee table, which creates a space for your family to play board games. But the chairs can also be pulled back and pushed together for movie nights!

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6. Have Some Fun With the Decor

This isn’t a serious space—especially if it’s a place for kids to play or the whole family to play. So, keep the design light and playful! Add bold or unique design elements that you perhaps wouldn’t include in other spaces of your home, like graphic wallpaper, colorful poufs, or a whimsical chandelier.

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The Board Game Nook

You don’t always have a full room to dedicate to gaming. If this is the case, you can still carve out a small corner of your home for a gaming area! Your gaming nook could be a corner of your living room, family room, or three-season porch; your day-to-day breakfast nook that transforms into a gaming space on special occasions; or the far end of a multi-use space within your home.

This is the perfect spot for hosting weekly card games, working on a puzzle, or gathering friends for a tabletop role-playing game (we see you, Dungeons and Dragons fans!) where all you need is a flat surface to get rolling. Generally, a round table is best for tabletop gaming. And even if you opt for a round dining room table, upgrade from dining room chairs to something a bit more comfortable—especially if you plan on being around the table for hours!

7. Create a Design That Fits Your Space

This gaming nook proves that you can still have a game room, even if it shares the space with another room in your home. As long as the essentials are there, you can make it work. But don’t try to fit more into this space than you have room for. Keep the game table proportionate to the nook, while keeping in mind that you’ll also want a bit of room for nearby storage.

coastal gameroom

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8. Choose the Right Storage Pieces

When it comes to storage furniture, what you need depends on what types of games you tend to play. If you’re more of a cards and dominoes person, you don’t need as much storage space. But board games can be bulky, so you’ll want to buy storage that comfortably fits the boxes. In any game room—but especially in a shared space—concealed storage is great, as it keeps the space tidy and less visually cluttered. (Though, this design proves you can make open storage work, too!)

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9. Align the Design With the Rest of Your Home—But Also Have Some Fun

Unlike a sporty lounge or a playful family game room, you don’t want to be as bold with the design of a gaming nook, since it’s a shared space. Use similar furniture styles and colors as you do in the rest of your home to create a cohesive space. But have some fun with a bit of cheeky accent decor that gives a nod to the game theme and adds a note of playfulness.

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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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