By Nancy McKeon
AS WE TIPTOE back into entertaining friends and family in our homes, we’re noticing that it’s pretty dark out there. Actually, very, very dark.
Time for lights. Time for candles. Time for glittery things that will reflect those lights and candles. And time for little interior touches that will signal warm hospitality at a time when we most need it.
Entertaining pros have lots of tricks. We have only a few, but here they are.
Come on, baby, light your fire. It may be humankind’s most basic social instinct: gather around the flames for warmth and light. Your fireplace is decorative only? Fill it with pillar candles. No fireplace? Consider doing what I did: order a Real Flame electric fireplace from Overstock (actually, Real Flame fireplaces are available to order from lots of places) and slap it against the wall (have a carpenter take off the baseboard molding first). Result: instant focal point and my all-time-favorite electrical appliance.
The bottom line is that a fire in the fireplace, real or facsimile, means a warm welcome to guests.
Another sign of warmth and welcome: a sheepskin thrown over a chair. Mine, above, from House of Fluff, is fake, as is the small, white Gullviva ($29.99) at Ikea. A fluffy (genuine) alternative is the 20-inch-square Mongolian pillow cover (you supply the pillow insert) from Frontgate. (It’s $119 and comes in four colors.) The real curly lamb fur catches the light and offers guests a snuggle.
Reflections. A caterer’s trick, perhaps, but a center mirror can amp the candle glow of your tables, whether a series of rounds or one long buffet table. A big plus is that you may already have a version of this centerpiece on your bedroom dresser holding perfume bottles. If not, centerpiece mirrors are available at TableclothsFactory.com, the source of the image shown (available for pre-order, they’re $19.99 for a four-pack of 16-inch-diameter rounds), and Joann shops ($7.99 each for 16-inchers). TableclothsFactory also offers round mirrors in smaller diameters and a six-pack of 10-inch-square glass mirrors that can be marched down a long table. The square six-pack is $16.99.
Potentially tacky alert: I’m planning to weave star tinsel garland among the candles on my tables to try to reach max glitter.
Glittery, meet super-glittery. Gump’s of San Francisco calls this Gold Floral Jeweled Wreath, above, “a glittering whirl of hand-jeweled metal flowers,” and who could argue? Designer Eric Cortina’s extraordinary 19-inch-wide metal and crystal confection is aimed at the wall, but who’s to say it couldn’t be just as extraordinary as a table centerpiece? Over the years, you could amortize the $1,950 price tag by alternating between wall and table. (Just watch the ketchup.)
Slightly lower in the stratosphere but also a candidate for wall or table is Suzanne Kasler’s Jeweled Wreath. Fashioned of gold wire and cut-glass leaves, the wreath is 18¼ inches in diameter and on sale for $89.10 at Ballard Designs.
Bar none. When they first arrive, guests want to gravitate toward the bar. And if you don’t have a bar cart or other designated watering hole? Consider sending some of your books into exile for the holidays and dedicate one or more shelves to drinks material (it’s actually not enough real estate: you’ll probably want a table below for the wine bottles, ice and dozen or so glasses; but the bookshelf bar will give newcomers an eye-level signpost of sorts).
The White Company in London calls these “gin glasses,” but they would be just as special holding Diet Coke, no? The big bowl—it holds a whopping 20 ounces—speaks of its host’s generosity, and the chunky base will help keep the drink frosty. Made in Poland of lead-free crystal, the Halden Gin Glasses are $44 for a pair.
Skip to the loo. Yes, even the powder room should be glammed up before the guests arrive. And these hand-poured artisan intaglio soaps from Reprotique are just the things to do it. The ivory Venus Intaglio soaps (above, right), two ovals to a package, also comes in Wedgwood blue, $20. Round intaglios come four disks to a package in several colors, including charcoal gray and Wedgwood blue, shown, for $20. They’re made in Richmond, Virginia, for Reprotique, brainchild of art historian Susan Stanley Sprinkle, whose shop also sells other home goods, all based on historical drawings and artifacts.