Tis the season! Chances are, over the next two fun-filled months, you are hosting some type of gathering in your home. Whether you’re just having a few friends over for drinks or it’s your turn to host the entire family for Thanksgiving dinner, we all know that throwing a memorable holiday party of any size takes some planning. We asked three Louisville tastemakers — Gretchen Black, co-owner of Lulubelle’s Boutique; Amy Streeter, owner of Susan’s Florist; and Fran Murphy, owner of Fran Murphy Design and founder of Green Street blog — for their tips on throwing a terrific holiday party. These talented ladies share some ideas you’ll definitely want to use. Read on to learn how to throw a memorable party in your home without blowing your budget.
ENTERTAINING EXPERT: Gretchen Black, Co-owner of Lulubelle’s Boutique
TIP #1: Wrapping paper isn’t just for gifts.
Hosting a dinner party means more than just preparing your grandma’s famous sweet potatoes — the table sets the scene! Talented interior stylist Gretchen Black, co-owner of Lulubelle’s Boutique in Norton Commons, suggests using wrapping paper as a placemat. Pick a thick, quality wrapping paper that coordinates with your tableware (like this beautiful Rifle Paper Co. gift wrap, available at Lulubelle’s), and cut each sheet in half. Gretchen was able to get six placemats from one roll of paper. So clever!
TIP #2: Shop your house.
If you’re trying to stay within a budget and would rather save your money for your holiday gifts, try shopping your house for table decor. Gretchen says to reinvent what you already have — pull those brass candlesticks off your bookshelves and borrow candle holders or lanterns from your mantle to make your table shine.
TIP #3: Don’t forget the finishing touches.
To complete her tablescape, Gretchen opts for simple ribbon and greenery to adorn her napkins and highlight her place cards. Again, this isn’t an expensive idea — simply use a roll of ribbon you already have on hand (surely you’ll be wrapping lots of presents this season!), or buy a coordinating color at the local craft store. (We spied some lovely Christmas ribbons at Digs Home and Garden; you could coordinate your entire tablescape around these beauties!) Cut some greenery from the evergreen bushes in your yard, arrange them casually around the table, and voila! Your table is holiday ready! (Now you better hope that Grandma’s sweet potatoes are on point this year!)
Gretchen’s last tip for throwing a terrific holiday party may be the most important one yet: “When a friend asks if they can bring something, say yes!” Truer words were never spoken. For more interior decor inspiration, be sure to check out Lulubelle’s Instagram and more eye candy on Gretchen’s Instagram.
ENTERTAINING EXPERT: Amy Streeter, Owner of Susan’s Florist
Besides tasty food, tasteful floral arrangements might be the next most important component to a fabulous party. Amy Streeter, owner of Susan’s Florist, has hand-picked flowers for many a Louisville bride and even a Triple Crown winner as well! (StyleBlueprint featured Amy as a FACES of Louisville back in 2014; a year later her garland of roses for American Pharoah graced the pages of Vogue.) Amy comes from a big, gracious family (and has four children of her own), so entertaining comes naturally to this Louisvillian. But even a florist knows that not every casual cocktail party or ladies’ night ornament exchange needs a custom bouquet; Amy encourages you to mix florals with items you already have at home.
TIP #1: Shop your grocery bag.
For a Thanksgiving meal celebrating a bountiful harvest, Amy combines hydrangea, sunflowers and roses with autumnal-hued fruits and vegetables from her grocery bag. While unloading your Thanksgiving grocery haul, pull out a few particularly beautiful items from the produce department for a show-stopping centerpiece. Amy chose Granny Smith apples, lettuce, pomegranates and even red and yellow bell peppers to create this colorful harvest bouquet-on-a-budget.
TIP #2: Reuse bourbon bottles and add some berries.
And don’t forget the bar! We know you’ll be well-stocked with bourbon for your holiday parties, but don’t forget to keep a few bottles out of the recycle bin to reuse as floral decor. Amy cut some evergreen branches and berries and simply placed them in rinsed bourbon bottles to create a festive look perfect for a cocktail party. A grouping of these bottles and berries will look fantastic near your bar or serving station. (Don’t have a holly tree or nandina in your yard? No worries. Just kindly ask your neighbor before you go into her yard with clipping shears in hand!)
TIP #3: Keep it simple with white.
When it comes to December parties, don’t always think of only red and green for your color scheme. Don’t forget white — it’s the perfect neutral, and it will carry you through the Christmas season into New Year’s Eve! Amy only used three white roses for this simple arrangement, and the pinecone and ornament filler is something everyone has on hand. So an inexpensive bouquet of white roses could yield several of these bowls — perfect to line the center of your holiday table or to sprinkle on surfaces throughout your home.
ENTERTAINING EXPERT: Fran Murphy, Founder of Green Street blog & Fran Murphy Design
Fran Murphy began writing about home interiors and decorating on her blog, Green Street, in 2009. Since then, her hobby evolved into an e-design business, an Instagram account full of eye candy, and since moving to Louisville in 2013, decorating for local clients who share her love for timeless, traditional interiors. She believes the key to a successful party is making guests feel welcome, surrounding them with beauty and special festive touches so they feel relaxed and comfortable in your home.
TIP #1: Make room for a crowd.
If your holiday guest list suddenly expands at the 11th hour, don’t panic. Welcome your cousin’s girlfriend’s parents with open arms and simply pull up a chair. Or pull in a chair from another room, actually. No one will know your normal dining room only seats six when you get creative and mix and match your seating. Fran uses living room wing chairs at the head of the table and comfortable kitchen chairs for extra seating in her Thanksgiving dining room. What if your table isn’t long enough? Don’t be afraid to use an ugly folding table; just make sure you cover it with style!
TIP #2: Cover it up.
How do you dress up your dated kitchen table or dingy folding table for the holidays? Fran warns against buying expensive tablecloths and runners and instead suggests buying a yard or two of fabric for under $10 at Jo-Ann. (Burlap, buffalo check, ticking stripe and plaid are all on trend this year.) If kids will be in the mix, take a cue from family-friendly restaurants and use kraft paper. Provide some crayons or washable markers, and you have a cute tablescape and your entertainment all in one. Win! And another brilliant “use what you have” idea (notice a theme here among these stylish tastemakers???) is to layer your favorite blanket scarf on top of a plain table covering for an on-trend punch of color. You’ve seen these plaid scarves everywhere — Work the Metal, Hallmark, and M.E. Modern Elegance, to name a few local shops — and now you can get double duty out of them.
TIP #3: Go green.
One of Fran’s favorite decorating tricks at Christmastime is to use an abundance of fresh greenery throughout her home. Again, search your own yard and neighborhood for holly, cypress, pine or magnolia trees. Buy seeded eucalyptus from Trader Joe’s for only $3 a bunch, and while you’re there, pick up a few inexpensive evergreen wreaths. Then get to work. Weave the eucalyptus in your dining room chandelier and your room will smell heavenly! Use those holly clippings to spruce up the basic evergreen wreaths, add a festive ribbon, and hang them over mirrors, headboards and, of course, on your front door. But don’t forget interior doors — that’s where your family will get the most enjoyment out of your wreath! Use the clippings from your Christmas tree to scatter greenery throughout your home; Fran places random clippings in blue and white ginger jars, bud vases, julep cups, footed bowls, sugar bowls and urns in built-ins, kitchen hutches and on bookshelves.
Thank you, Gretchen, Amy and Fran, for these fantastic ideas for how to make our homes ready for any holiday party, large or small. The most important component of a party is the guest list; once you have that decided, shop your house (or your grocery bag or your closet!), move decor and furniture around, and add florals and greenery to create a festive atmosphere. Dim the lights, cook a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs and throw them on a fancy silver platter (shhh … we won’t tell!), pour a drink and enjoy the company of friends and family this holiday season.
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