Prepping your Home for the Holiday Season

A small holiday season barIt’s coming… the season of big extended-family dinners, unannounced visitors “dropping by,” impromptu cocktail parties with the neighbors, and endless trips to the wine store for another last minute hostess gift.  The Holiday Season is upon us, and I LOVE IT.  Every bit of it!  But even I have to admit, it is much easier to enjoy this whirlwind time of year when you’re prepared for it.  Here are a few simple things this decorator does just before Thanksgiving to get her home ready for the season:

Set up a Bar
– Even if you don’t host a soul this holiday season, a well-stocked bar makes your home feel festive…  and can help comfort you after a long day of gift shopping.   I love a good old-fashioned bar cart, but any sturdy easily accessible table or countertop will do.   When stocking your bar, I suggest sticking to the basics.  Keep the ingredients for 1 or 2 simple cocktails on hand, or pick a “signature cocktail” for your house this season and just stock those ingredients.  Be sure to include any tools you need to make the drink, like a shaker or a sharp knife and small cutting board for lemons and limes.  In addition to your cocktail ingredients, include a few bottles of non-alcoholic beverages like sparkling cider or ginger ale for guests who may not want a drink-drink.  Be sure to serve up the non-alcoholic beverages with the same panache as a regular cocktail – a twist of lemon and a highball glass can make any drink feel a bit more festive.  Have plenty of cocktail napkins at the ready; I prefer linen or cotton fabric napkins (especially with a monogram!), but there are plenty of beautiful novelty paper napkins available. In addition to being practical, your napkins are an easy way to add color and pizazz to your bar.  I also like to keep a tasty snack that doesn’t spoil quickly, like spiced nuts, on hand to round out my bar.  If you’re worried about things looking cluttered or gradually migrating to cover the entire table, just corral your bar gear in a pretty tray for a look that’s both attractive and easy to clear away if you suddenly need the space for other purposes.

Make Your Coffee Table Easy to Clear – Chances are, your Living Room coffee table has either been artfully arranged to look like something you’ve seen in a design magazine or it’s a landing pad for magazines, remotes, and whatever coloring books and games your kids have left scattered there.  Either way, a coffee table with a lot of items on it, even if they’re beautiful, doesn’t lend itself to hosting guests with snacks and drinks.   The secret behind an easy-to-clear coffee table is a great decorative tray.  A house can never have too many decorative trays!  (Which is why they make excellent hostess gifts as well.)   So find one or two attractive trays that work with your décor and stack your magazines, objets d’art, and other coffee table clutter in the trays.  Even if things aren’t always kept in the trays, it’s much easier to collect things when company arrives.  Then simply whisk the tray away and make room for snacks or cocktails from your new well-stocked bar!

Create a Holiday Card  / Thank-You Note Station
– Whether writing a quick thank you for a holiday party, penning a personal greeting to your child’s teacher, or jotting down a note to accompany a hostess gift, this is the season of hand-written notes.  So make it an enjoyable – and pretty! – task for yourself. If you can’t dedicate a space to this task, dedicate a nice box (about the size of a shoebox) and keep it wherever you like to manage your correspondence.  Stock it with plenty of thank-you and holiday cards.  I’m a big believer that you can never have too many of either; you can always use them next year.  Make sure you have some non-denominational cards to use when you’re not sure of which holiday someone celebrates. “Peace on Earth” and snowflake motifs are always a safe bet!  Keep a book of stamps, a good pen, and blank sheet of paper in your box.   When an invitation arrives, be sure to write down the host’s address on your blank sheet of paper.  When a card shows up from someone who may not have made your list this year, stick the envelope with its return address in the box.  When you find the time to sit down with your box, you’ll have all the information and materials you need to keep up with hostess notes, holiday cards and thank-you’s!

Make Space for Incoming Holiday Cards – My fridge is often overloaded with photos, invitations, and recipes I optimistically think I’ll try to make, so there’s rarely room to add the plethora of Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s cards that arrives this time of year.   Instead, I’m a big fan of turning my holiday cards into ornaments.  I keep a hole punch and some ribbon on the table where I collect my mail, and whenever I open a new card, I create an instant-ornament.  It goes right on the tree and never clutters my countertops.  If you don’t have a Christmas tree, try hanging a piece of ribbon or piece of string over a large doorway or across the soffit above your kitchen cabinets.  Place tiny clothespins, available at any craft shop, on the string and hang cards as you receive them.  It’s a great way to display cards and enjoy them as decoration without having them taking up valuable tabletop space.  If your family enjoys re-reading the notes written in cards or you want to be able to easily pick up and handle cards, try keeping them all in a beautiful serving bowl.  This makes it easy to enjoy them when you want to, and easy to clear away when you need the space.    ©

I hope these simple tips help you and all of your guests enjoy your home to the fullest this holiday season!  For more holiday prepping tips, visit

[blockquote class=blue]Kitty Burruss is an interior designer living and working in Briarcliff Manor.  She works for Barbara Sternau Interior Design.[/blockquote]

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About the Author: Kitty Burruss