Getting Ready for Holiday Guests

Whether greeting carolers at the front door, serving dinner- or cocktail-party guests or hosting friends and family for overnight stays, find some creative, crafty and downright clever ideas to make yours the ideal home for the holidays.
By: Melissa Macron

A Grand Entrance

Your guests' holiday experience begins at the front door and entryway. Greenery, tasteful lights and decorations set the stage. Customize your seasonal decorations with some DIY touches. "Welcome guests at the door with a fresh wreath made from a treestand studded with things you forage," says stylist and author Matthew Mead. His wreath features pinecones, acorns, berries and roses in water picks to dress up the greenery. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Fresh Hues

"Colorful produce is a fragrant and easy way to add style to the entry," Mead says. "Inexpensive fruits like green apples, tangelos and lemons" add interest everywhere, from centerpieces to the staircase, and create engaging focal points, he says. "Berries and sprigs of evergreen add a festive touch." Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Holiday Touches

Stylist and designer, Tara Riceberg likes to decorate a foyer by adding traditional seasonal touches to everyday home accessories. Here, the hallway table houses a glittering tinsel tree, wrapped gifts and a plant sparked with a little holiday glam. "To simply transition from fall into the holidays, dress up plants with your favorite keepsake ornaments," she says. "Choose a plant like an orchid that can easily support the weight of decorations and isn't too leafy, so you get a great view of your (treasured accents)." Photo courtesy of Tara Riceberg.

The Best for Guests

Mead doesn't miss a trick when he "feathers a nest for a guest." His checklist includes a reading light, cozy throw blankets, a big basket with bottled water and snacks. (Try mixed dried fruits and sweet-and-salty pecans in cellophane bags.) Evergreen sachets scent the room, while lavender-spritzed linens encourage sweet dreams with visions of sugarplums.

Smart tip: Mead reminds that high-tech guests will definitely appreciate an iPod docking station, an outlet strip for extra cords and a small note on how to use the household wi-fi. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Deck Your Plants

Riceberg adds a selection of current magazines and a gift of plush slippers, and she never underestimates the power of pretty plants. "They literally breathe life into the room," she says. Preferable to fresh-cut flowers for their longevity and easy maintenance, plants can easily add holiday flair to the guestroom, and throughout the house, with another of Riceberg's simple tweaks: "I like to jazz up plants by switching out traditional moss with pine cones, tinsel or cranberries." Photo courtesy of Tara Riceberg.

For Festive Feasts

When setting the holiday table, Riceberg is always mindful of the details. Special little refinements show not only stylish flair, but thought and care. Here, her candlelit dining room gets subtle seasonal touches with sprigs of holly tucked into silver napkin rings, mini poinsettias flanking a centerpiece of floating candles and garland wreaths along the sideboard. Photo courtesy of Tara Riceberg.

Easy-to-Recreate Place Cards

Mead customizes his sit-down dinners with unusual and handcrafted place cards, such as these delicate paper angels, simply inscribed in elegant script. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Bedeck the Bath

The guest bath and powder room are perfect places for a little merriment. Riceberg adds seasonally scented candles, a teeny poinsettia plant and a festive carved dish used as a sink-top towel holder. Photo courtesy of Tara Riceberg.

Dress Your Halls

Mead adds a simple stand, decked with a potted evergreen (later to grace the outdoors) and dotted with silver accessories, to spruce up the hallway or any overlooked nook in need of holiday cheer. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Rejoice in Repurposing

Mead's terrific touches also include some very clever holiday uses for household items. Here, scrolled drawer-pulls make heavenly napkin holders. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Existing Elements, New Uses

Another favorite trick of Mead's is to use a darling retro apron as an eye-catching Christmas tree skirt. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Dramatic Vignettes

"Use your collections to create a whimsical and engaging display in minutes," imparts Mead. We adore the collection of turquoise glassware he gathered and positioned in a bookshelf to resemble the outline of a Christmas tree — it's even dotted with silvery orbs like the real deal. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Christmas Card Display

Mead's artful arrangement of holiday cards is a simple, star-crossed red-ribbon trimmed with greetings clipped in place by painted clothespins. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Show Off Holiday Plants

Riceberg grouped lacquered boxes atop a long table as a cohesive and graphic display for a selection of traditional holiday plants, a topiary and even a simple sprig of mistletoe. Photo courtesy of Tara Riceberg.

Truly Gifted

A selection of exquisitely wrapped gifts are perfect for pop-over guests and for sprinkling around the house for touches of holiday spirit.

"Welcome guests with a porcelain compote filled with tiny boxes of chocolate wrapped in colorful, patterned paper from a stationary store," Mead says. For kids, "cards, puzzles and mini games can be wrapped and trimmed with candies." He suggests keeping other little pre-wrapped surprises, such as books and gift cards, on hand as well. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

Joyful Sounds

Want a tiny treat that packs a pitch-perfect punch? Says Riceberg, "A great last-minute gift is a memory stick with your favorite holiday tunes or playlist of the evening's musical selections." Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.

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