In need of some inspiration this Christmas to be crowned the hostess with the mostest? Party Architect to the royals, Johnny Roxburgh, has revealed his expert hosting advice. He has produced a series of tips around festive entertaining, ranging from the practical to the outlandish. And we know the late Queen was a fan of his work!
"The Royal Household is famously, and correctly, very careful about costs," he explained to HELLO! during a collaboration with Habitat back in 2021. "When I organised the annual Christmas dinner which HM The Queen hosted for her staff, I had to find an ingenious way to transform the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace to create a magical party setting without spending money.
"I saved decorations throughout the year to create something beautiful but economic. One year I had a 35-foot-high Russian tree dismantled from another party and re-erected in The Palace Ballroom. I added some more English decorations and it stood looking magnificent flanked by the wonderful chandeliers." Read Johnny's incredible party tips below...
1. Distinctive Door Décor
What better way for a host to make an impact right from the outset... Door makeovers are a hot trend which sparked from lockdown. I usually favour a dazzling royal blue which is the trend of the season. If you do paint your door blue, pair with pops of gold décor (wreaths and baubles) to ensure it looks festive and stylish. Get creative with your wreaths which will leave guests wowed before they've even set foot inside.
A faux wreath is a warm welcome, without the maintenance or expense of a real one each year. Style it up with bright mini baubles, lights and red velvet ribbon; then hang it to the very top of the door using drawing pins so all the decorations dangle gracefully.
2. Candles are out
I'm not talking lavish candelabras and crystal chandeliers here. Low lighting is an easy way to make your Christmas setting instantly stylish. Opt for reusable LED candles, a practical and safe alternative to the real deal. They flicker magically on a dining table without the worry of Christmas cracker ends catching or wax covered tables. They're a great addition to any household and far more cost-efficient than candles (even the Royal Household are famously careful about Christmas costs). Similarly, LED lights outside the front door create a glorious glow that will impress guests upon arrival.
3. It's all about floorscaping
This Christmas, we're decorating the floor. Forget decking the halls, 'floorscaping' is the latest trend to know. This is the cherry on top of Christmas decorating and is well worth the clear-up job, your guests will be impressed. Utilise the floor space by weaving garlands between presents under the Christmas tree and adding fake snow to corners and the bottom of table legs.
4. Make your glassware serve a performance
Having planned over 9,000 parties for A-list events, an easy faux pas to avoid at home is to ensure drinks are served in the correct glassware. This means long drinks in a hi-ball and martini glasses for martinis. The only exception to the rule is serving bubbles in a retro-chic champagne coupe.
The ultimate host will also wow guests by serving drinks before their very eyes on a drinks trolley. They help steer clear of clutter, are relatively affordable and add a touch of glamour to the evening
Glassware from Habitat.co.uk
5. Multi-coloured lights are back
People normally steer clear of coloured lights but sometimes, too much harsh white light can end up looking a bit clinical and tired. It's an easy way to add festive flair to your setting, they also give your outdoors a 'retro' Christmas feel.
6. Don't put food on the table
Forget putting all the food on the table which ends up like a game of Tetris trying to squeeze in the turkey around your table decorations. It's all about a buffet station. Utilise your kitchen workspaces or a side-board which you can put place mats on to mark out where the serving bowls sit, weaving thin wire lights around this.
7. Put your Christmas tree on the table
Yes, you heard me! Embrace the outlandish, forget dried flower bouquets, this year it's all about decorating your table with tabletop trees. Habitat saw a +50% search growth in tabletop Christmas trees last year. It's an unexpected show-stopping centrepiece and a great conversation starter. Arrange half parasol Christmas trees down the middle of the dining tables. It creates a dramatic look and ensures your guests can see one another easily.
8. It's not about extravagant gimmicks
The royal party planner has revealed that less can sometimes mean more, and that it's mainly about being a good host. "You can't just stand there. It's knowing how to introduce people," he told Business Insider.
Wooden tree from Habitat.co.uk
9. Novelty is the new 'retro'
It used to be seen as gauche or passé for anything novelty, but times are changing and anything vintage is now seen as retro nostalgia. Novelty plates, serving platters and mugs for hot drinks are fabulously full of character. The sign of a good host is always having nibbles on offer to keep hungry guests happy before the main event. It also allows you more time in the kitchen if needs be. Creative flare goes a long way; place decorations amongst the snacks in large novelty serving bowls to add some festive theatre for your guests.
10. Never put the tree in a corner, make the most of your space
Unless you have a huge room, it’s always difficult to know where to put the tree. The best way to spark tree envy this year is to put your Christmas tree in the window and decorate your windowsill, especially if you don't have a front garden. More for the world to see and not just reserved for the living room corner.
Alternatively, a simple, elegant wooden Christmas tree will look marvellous and is great for young families who want to avoid clutter. Weave fine wire lights around the tree and gold tone decorations on the tree shelves. This is an effortless way to incorporate a Scandinavian twist into the home.
11. Don't sit couples together
A good host will always have a seating plan. Christmas is a time for mingling, so sit couples separately. A long, narrow table is a great option so that there's no shouting over one another and you can talk to people opposite. Lots of my celebrity clients love a u-shaped table (easily recreate at home with three tables from around the house) as it makes it easy to clear plates without the awkward shuffle behind guests. It also creates a performance space for after-dinner games.
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