As the temperature drops and the leaves begin to fall, our attention shifts from the exterior to the interior and our homes truly come into their own. Days out are swapped for nights in; summer layers are tucked away in favor of trusty slippers, and we start to think about ways to make our living spaces warmer and more inviting in anticipation of the coming holiday season, a time full of joyful get-togethers with friends and family.
The biggest such event on the horizon is Thanksgiving, and despite our affection for it, many of us work ourselves into a frenzy in preparation—drawing up seating plans, reserving turkeys, planning menus and getting our homes ready for guests after a busy summer. This is heaven for some and exhausting for others. Our Co-Founder and Creative Director Sue Jones is a firm believer in the laid-back approach to hosting for the holidays—she suggests including a weekend of relaxation for yourself and your guests in your plans following the big meal on Thursday. Trust us, cozy afternoons in front of the fire with friends and family are something she has down to a T. Here she shares her expert advice on how to fully enjoy these occasions; after all, they’re what Thanksgiving weekend is truly all about.
Her first piece of advice is to make the best of being indoors when it’s chilly and gray outside. “You want your afternoon to be completely guilt-free, one where not even the dog wants to go for a walk, and everyone is feeling smug that they’re nestled inside,” she muses. There’s nothing more mellow and welcoming than a roaring fire; if this is a feature of your home, make the most of it: “I always like to put cushions on the floor next to ours, so people can warm up as soon as they step inside,” says Sue. If, like Sue (and many of us at this time of year), your “door is always open,” then a stack of comfortable pillows also makes for useful seating for unexpected guests.
Whether gathered around the fire or not, the most important thing is that “guests are warm and comfortable.” Keeping plenty of throws on hand not only checks this box but is an easy way to introduce a pop of seasonal color to your home—think soft alpaca wool in mossy green, fiery orange or rich brown hues. In Sue’s sitting room, there are always blankets on the sofa so the dogs can come up for a cuddle, too. “If you’re a dog owner, you’ll understand that an afternoon without them isn’t quite as nice, so try and make it known that they’re welcome (or indeed, if they’re not),” she says.
“If you’re a dog owner, you’ll understand that an afternoon without them isn’t quite as nice, so try and make it known that they’re welcome (or indeed, if they’re not).”
With the sun going down much earlier as we approach November, mood lighting becomes more important than ever. According to Sue, “there’s nothing less relaxing than stark overhead lighting,” so think candles, candles, candles—they provide a lovely twinkly glow which the season calls for. “They’re flattering too; everything, and everyone, looks better by candlelight,” she chuckles. For a classic look, you can’t go wrong with plenty of pillar candles or tea lights. LED varieties are a good choice if you have an older, drafty home or you’re concerned about children or pets.
Long, leisurely afternoons with friends and family, especially ones that fall between Thanksgiving and Christmas, wouldn’t be complete without a little overindulgence. In fact, it’s almost the point of these occasions; what’s more decadent than languishing on the sofa in good company? You don’t want to miss a second of that, so rather than whipping up big lunch spreads on top of the meal you’re still recovering from, Sue advises having lots of nibbles on hand—“I can always rustle up bowls of Maltesers and Quality Streets, they’re everyone’s favorites to graze on.” If you’ve never been to Britain and thus haven’t had the good fortune of sampling these popular candies, pick your personal favorites instead. Equivalents in the States might be Whoppers malted milk balls, M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses. For those that want to drink, give someone you trust with the cocktail cabinet the role of bartender; in Sue’s house it’s always her husband Alex. Their go-to tipple? “Something classic. It’s never too early, or late, for a Dry Martini or a Cosmopolitan.” If you’re serving simple or pre-mixed drinks, never underestimate the power of beautiful glassware—everything tastes delicious when sipped out of an ornate flute.
Last, but certainly not least: the entertainment. If you’re catching up with rarely-seen loved ones, it’s likely that all you need is each other, but it can be nice to have classic movies rolling in the background as well. Sue’s advice is to “look to something that’s tried and tested, like Pride and Prejudice, and be careful with who gets their hands on the remote!” If your nearest and dearest are a little less Austen-inclined, the crowd-pleasing and seasonally appropriate Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Home Alone are safe bets. If you’ll be hosting a mix of age groups, take a leaf out of Sue’s book and hold a game tournament. Whether the competition involves cards, boards or dice (Sue’s favorite), they’re always a fun way to bring everyone together.