It’s still too early to safely have large gatherings in a home or anywhere else this festive season. But whether it’s just immediate family or a small group of friends who’re in your bubble, the prep is the same, the same details must be taken care of. And, since we’ve spent a large amount of time cooped up at home, the festive season is a good time to rejig and spruce up the home. From reclaiming living rooms that have been transformed into home offices to clearing all the supplies you’ve hoarded through the months, these designers and tastemakers will guide you through a checklist to make your home holiday-ready!
Spring Cleaning Your Home For The Season
Before you begin planning anything, it’s a good idea to start with a fresh, tidy home that’ll work as a clean canvas for all your party planning. Interior designer Pooja Bhandary shares her tips for a methodical spring clean.
1. Change the layout of your spaces—if you have a separate dining and seating space in the same room, move your furniture in a way that adds more fluidity. Pushing your dining table towards a wall will help create more space and open the room for movement and accommodating more people. Set this table for a buffet-styled meal so that guests can help themselves.
2. Rework your tabletops. Coffee tables and console tables can be cleared completely to double as a station for small bites or desserts. The same applies for desks or worktables which can be used for hosting games or placing floral decoration.
3. Try to switch up the colour palette of the home. While neutrals and pastels may be your go-to hues, it’s time to infuse a bit of colour and sparkle with easy décor pieces such as bright cushions, planters, metallic candle holders and floral settings in each room. Scented candles or home fragrances in each room will give each space an instant freshness.
4. Declutter the entire home—clear out the countertops of all the bathrooms (especially the ones which will be used by guests. Your personal items and products must be tucked away in the vanity drawers or elsewhere in the house away from sight. Swap these with a simple hand wash and hand lotion on the countertop, along with enough hand or paper towels for all your visitors. In these times of Covid alertness, it’s best to have disposable paper towels. If there are any leakages or repairs that are pending, it’s a good time to tackle them now. Empty out all your magazine and newspaper racks, as well.
5. In the kitchen, keep the countertop clear at all times, stowing away all storage boxes, cutlery, raw produce, and items that don’t belong in your festive décor. Your counter-top should only be used for plating when you have guests over.
Stock Up Your Home
For the perfectly stocked home for any gathering, celebration or even surprise guests, Eeshaan Kashyap, partner at PassCode Hospitality, shares his go-to checklist.
1. Stock up on winter spices, fruits and red wine to make mulled wine before your parties—these can be stored in decanters for days… the older the better!
2. Your bar cart should always have fresh herbs, a soda maker, champagne coupes, martini glasses, a cocktail shaker, and a generous number of napkins (you can never have too many!). If you’re brewing hot toddy or eggnog, a set of brandy balloons or even Irish mugs will come in handy. For teetotallers, sipping hot soup or herbed infusions in these will make the festivities even more special.
3. Always keep pairs of tongs handy for your ice buckets, snacks and canapés and, even, for garnishing your cocktails—this will provide the best solution for keeping things germ-free.
4. In a pinch, a stock of snacks, crisps, papad and Indian namkeens will work as bar snacks or quick eats before the food is ready. A box of chocolates, truffles or even mithai should always be kept in the fridge for guests with a sweet tooth.
Setting Up The Home For A Gathering
Srila Chatterjee, curator and co-founder of BARO, shares the 10 steps she follows in the run up to a gathering at her home.
1. Order enough ice so you don’t run out.
2. Plan your table setting—from the dishes you’ll use to the number of accessories, plates and napkins you’ll need to account for as per your number of guests.
3. Check every bulb, fan and the air conditioning or heating so that there are no last-minute surprises.
4. Make sure the bathrooms or powder rooms have soaps, candles or a small festive centrepiece.
5. Plan for your pets—if they love parties then get them bathed, brushed and ready! If they don’t, keep them where they are happy and safe.
6. Set up the right mood with lighting, candles, flowers and music that will work perfectly without needing constant attention and rework.
7. Make sure you are ready and set at least half an hour before the time your guests are meant to arrive—no matter how unpunctual they might be!
A Room For House Guests
If you have relatives or friends staying over for the holiday, interior stylist Samir Wadekar shares the steps you should follow to make sure they have a comfortable stay.
1. A guest room usually turns into a dumping ground for unnecessary pieces, which should be cleared out and aired a day or two before your guest arrives. Empty a section of the cupboard or a drawer for them to unpack their belongings.
2. Change the bedding with fresh sheets and pillowcases, and wash the guest blankets as they sometimes have a musty smell after being in storage for too long. Leave an extra blanket and pillow in the cupboard, too.
3. Keep a pair of house slippers for your guest and a set of fresh bath and hand towels (one for each guest) in the bathroom. A small tray of toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste and earbuds) is a thoughtful gesture, and can be used in case they forget to carry their own; along with a laundry bag to store used clothes in.
4. Place a small stack of magazines or coffee table books which your guest would find interesting; otherwise, books on travel and art are a safe option for any room. You can also include a few comic books to pique their nostalgia! If your guest is arriving in the morning, a set of the day’s newspapers can be placed in the room, as well.
5. A few cookies or snack boxes on the sideboard are great for hunger pangs between meals. You could also stock your guests’ favourite candy in a jar!
6. Most houses have a signature scent—use a room spray, diffuser or incense burner the day before to freshen up the space. You could also do this in the evenings before dinner so that the room has a pleasant scent by the time your guest goes to bed.
7. Place a bottle or carafe of water on each bedside table, along with a small radio clock, a notepad and pen, and a card with details of the house and passwords for the Wi-Fi and other technology. An extra phone charger can be placed in the drawers, as well as the Netflix password if there is a television in the room.
Things To Keep In Mind
While the right planning and stocking in advance will promise the perfect get-together, pandemic-era gatherings require a little bit more thought about safety. Editor-in-chief of BeautifulHomes.com Manju Sara Rajan is always prepared before hosting any guests.
1. Ensure there is small table for a sterilizer and disposable tissue papers accompanied by a small waste bin, just by the side of the front door.
2. Make sure you have some disposable masks available at home for folks who need one on their way out.
3. Appetisers that don’t require sharing work best.
4. Use an open space, if possible, to gather, like a balcony, or a terrace rooftop, rather than an airconditioned closed space.
5. Always be prepared by having a plan in place to routinely check on the food, the cleanliness of the home, if the décor is in place, and, most importantly, the bathrooms.
6. You, or someone else, must also make sure the powder rooms are clean, restocked and dry at all times.
7. Make provisions for waste. Keep small waste baskets, or an extra plate on the table, to dispose paper towels and small refuse.
8. Keep an emergency box of any supplies that may come in handy—a first aid kit, female hygiene products, safety pins, hair ties and bobby clips, wet wipes, a pair of scissors, and anything else you foresee your guests needing. Place this in a neat box on your bathroom’s countertop or in one of your vanity drawers for guests to find easily.
9. Leave a room spray within sight in the bathroom for anyone who wants to mask the embarrassment of unwanted odours.
10. If you have valuables around the house that you fear could break or get damaged during the festivities, save yourself the heartbreak (and your guests the embarrassment) by putting them away for the night.
Planning For The Children
As a new mother of a one-year-old toddler, interior designer Sonam Gala Gosalia now includes the kids and their friends when planning her home for a celebration. Here are her fail-proof ideas.
1. When hosting a festive celebratory party at home for friendswho have toddlers, demarcate zones in the house—the kid- friendly zone and the parents-only zone. It helps in handling free-minded toddlers better, while managing the party.
2. Make a table arrangement not only for the parents but also for the toddlers, which is lower in height and at their eye level— that way, they can help themselves to the food they wish to eat.
4. For a real party, place a small bathtub or inflatable pool in the bathroom for kids who want to play in the water. A generous number of bath toys will go a long way. If this sounds too messy, you could always fill the tub with plastic balls instead.
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