December 2, 2014

Holidays at Our House & How it Functions

We had a full house on Thanksgiving and I was able to snap a few pics of our tables before it got crazy so I thought I’d share.  We usually do Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at our place and love having our families over.  We’ll usually do the meat, drinks and a couple of sides, and then the family all brings other sides, appetizers or desserts, which makes it easy. 


 {My cousin’s beautiful pumpkin pie!!}


I’m VERY last minute with my tables and keep them simple- meaning I use whatever’s around- but this time, I remembered to add some sort of flowers  to the grocery list as Dave made a last-minute grocery run  (“whatever they have that you think I’ll like!!!”) and we also ordered more (daily/ stainless steel) silverware a couple of days before so that we’d have enough for everyone.  (Our spoons end up gradually disappearing with yogurt lunches sent to school with the boys… so we only had six or so left for our family of five which was even impractical on a daily basis.)  Something as small as having enough silverware really made it easier this year.  (My mom usually brings some with her and I mix and match.)


{A mix of metals, vintage plates & glasses, wood, linen and daily silverware on the dining room table}


We set up two tables in the breakfast room off the kitchen and then have our dining table in the dining room.



There will be a day when I have table cloths made (maybe before Christmas???) but for now it’s still my good old kantha quilts.  


We move the old church pew from the stairs…

{photo by Brittany Ambridge for Domino}

…to the table for the boys to sit on:

{Their toy kitchen usually lives here.)

My dining room, which was originally my NEMESIS when decorating the house is now one of my favorite rooms,  We’ve been eating in there almost every night since it started getting cold.  (Also, being pregnant right now, the upholstered chairs feel so much better to me!!)  We keep a pair of dark towels in there to throw over the chairs for the boys to sit on.  (We do have slipcovered chairs but I don’t want to have to wash them multiple times a week.)


A little drink station sits in the corner:



That room is so dark and cozy with the candles that I sometimes just want to fall asleep there…

(I ate my dessert in there alone this year… haha weird and creepy I know…  but everyone sort of hung in the kitchen around the island and at the other tables and forgot about the dining room and I was longing for a soft place to sit… so I found myself in the dining room alone stuffing my face with pecan tassies and pumpkin pie.  It was bliss.)


Having big groups over always makes me think about function and the way houses work.   I have to say that entertaining go much easier for us in this house.  As we were planning the house & the kitchen, we thought about big open parties and how they would work.  I sometimes regret that we made our dining room smaller to accommodate  an office that we’ve since moved out of the house because we really only have room for six (or eight if we really squeeze) in there and I would love for more people to fit…  but then I think of all of the storage that we have in the five foot wide mini bar room (pic below) and go back to being good with the small dining room.  (In the photo above, it’s through the black pocket door you see in the back of the dining room…  We moved a bar and a massive armoire for storing things like paper towels, toilet paper, crockpot, etc. into the five foot wide room that used to hold two desks.  It’s odd and small and dark but incredibly functional.  I also like that it becomes its own little conversation spot during parties.)  Moving the drinks station out of the kitchen during parties and to the little bar room. “the elevator” as we call it, frees up space in the kitchen and forces flow through the house a little more.  Things feel less crowded.



But anyway, I’d say for anyone planning a kitchen renovation that a big island (or peninsula if an island can’t work) is ideal for entertaining.  Obviously it’s great on a daily basis as a workspace/ mealspace but it become such a central gathering spot in the kitchen during a party.   Ours is deep enough so guests can be on the other side of the kitchen while the people working in the kitchen are sort of protected from the traffic and can keep on doing their thing while chatting, eating and still generally being a part of things.  I like having the island between me and all the action.

{All the “work” happens on this side of the island.. photo by Helen Norman}

I also love having open shelving during parties because I don’t get asked where things are as much and everyone stacks desserts on the shelves and the counters stay clear.  In essence, open shelving makes a kitchen more self-sufficient for guests and frees me up.

{We pull out cake stands and the left set of shelving ends up being the perfect pie rack at Thanksgiving and Christmas}

  And I’ve noticed two other tiny things that really help to keep us organized during parties and give me a weird little bit of satisfaction…


The first is our set of coat hooks in the foyer which I’m not sure I’ve ever shared pics of.  (Probably because I don’t think they’re that pretty and have always planned to upgrade to something cooler but haven’t gotten around to it.)  We’re not lucky enough to have a coat closet (I stole it for a powder room = much more important to us) so we hung two rows of hooks up in the foyer.  In general, as much as I would like to keep our foyer perfectly clear of all “stuff” and don’t love that people get greeted by hooks, I kind of love them.  We use our back garage door / mini mudroom most of the time so we don’t keep very much hanging in the foyer on a daily basis, but I love it for when we have people over.  It keeps the coats out of the main living space and we don’t need to go digging through closets to find people’s coats on the way out.  So easy.

{love the low hooks so the kids can hang bags and coats up on their own}


The other tiny thing that I’ve noticed keeps things organized during parties is the random table at the bottom of our stairs.  A sculpture sits on top of it but the magic lies in the empty bottom shelf where purses and bags get stashed during parties.  (Any member of the family or friend who’s reading this…  THIS is where your purse or camera went.  Yes, I compulsively put it there.  Sorry.)  I think people are starting to get the hang of it though and it really helps with keeping things open and as neat as they can be during parties. (no more tripping over random bags everywhere!!)


Anyway, just some very random observations but thought I’d share.  If you can add a purse spot in your house, I highly recommend it!!  Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little peek into our holiday…

On another note, I got the book manuscript IN!!!!  It hasn’t quite hit me yet… maybe because I’m sure the editing process is going to be a big deal… but it was weird to go to bed last night without the manuscript either up on my laptop or printed out for editing.  I didn’t know what to do.  (So,…  we watched a wonderfully cheesy Christmas special on netflix- what else???!!)  We decorated our tree last night and I can already feel life returning back to normal.  We head to NYC for some meetings and a wedding this weekend but after that- haha besides the holidays- things will be slower for us.

Things are great at work…  we have some really exciting projects in the works and all of our clients are seriously nice people.  We are in that crazy pre-Christmas phase of waiting to find out exactly when certain pieces of key furniture will arrive to see if we can have a couple of installations before Christmas, which is always a little stressful, so we’ll see how that goes.  I’ve learned the hard way that half-completed installs are not an option and have a pretty hard-and-fast rule regarding complete installations. (But you either get to be Santa or the Grinch: “No Christmas for YOU this year!” or “Guess What?  There will be a Christmas after all! Ho ho ho!”   Fun.)   Fingers crossed that we get to be Santa not the Grinch this year for a few families.   We’re also in the process of finalizing plans and finishing touches for a couple of full house projects that will be completed this Winter and I cannot wait to see everything in person!!  Will keep you posted.  

My next side projects up are a new fabric collection- focusing on it heavily this month- and planning my dad’s lake house.  (I’ve got to place all custom orders ASAP so my dad can hopefully get some use out of it by later Winter/ Early Spring when the renovation will be finished.) I am DYING to go visit that place even though I know it’s just subfloors, raw framing and construction dust right now.  The kitchen and bath cabinetry has been ordered and I need to finalize the electrical plans & furnishings ASAP.

Anyway, sorry for the novel.  Hope your Thanksgiving was great!!!

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