I’ve heard it said that time is our greatest teacher when it comes to realizing what truly matters, how we want to live and engage with others, and how to authentically pursue our priorities every day. In many ways, our learning process has been accelerated by the unique challenges of the past 18 months, and we’ve emerged with a new appreciation for the sanctity of life and a sharper focus on sharing our lives with one another.
As we stand on the cusp of the holiday season and the transition into a new year, I find myself particularly grateful for another opportunity to make memories. As a host, I want to showcase this gratitude by creating a holiday ambiance that gives guests a sense of joy, festivity and warmth. As a human, I want to make the experience count in even more enduring and memorable ways, like an irresistible song that you can’t get out of your head for days.
So then, where should we begin? As the backdrop for many of this year’s best holiday memories, I recommend the fireplace:
Focus on the Fireplace
It is no coincidence that many of the coziest, most nostalgia-tinged moments of the holiday season take place around the fire. That’s why the area around the fireplace has become such an iconic element of various seasonal traditions and a focal point for holiday design and décor. From artfully displaying family stockings, to lighting candles during holiday evenings, the hearth is the hub for some of our most enduring traditions.
Fireside areas are often where we engage in casual conversation with loved ones, reenact scenes from our favorite holiday films or take family photos. To make your fireside focal point as elegant and memorable as possible, consider how it sets the mood for the entire living space and focus your efforts on a few details you can use to give it an extra bit of prominence.
Enhance Your Fireside Flow
Some of the best design decisions you can make throughout the year and in any space in the home involve reducing distractions instead of adding them. Nevertheless, holiday decorating season represents perhaps the single greatest exception most of us will make to that rule. As you look for ways to enhance the look of your fireside space for holiday gatherings, don’t assume that you need to go big to be bold.
Minimizing your holiday décor and distancing a few seasonal accent pieces from the area around your fireplace will often have a greater impact on the ambiance of the space as a whole because it will feel less cluttered or claustrophobic. Trimming back the tinsel and trinkets can also allow the everyday aesthetic of the room to shine through, while keeping guests from feeling tightly packed as they mingle.
(And yes, even the Christmas tree might need to find a new spot in the room to give your fireplace the showstopper status it deserves.)
Make New “Mantel Memories”
One of the other benefits of decongesting your holiday display is that the inevitable photos with family and friends will have a bit more potential for year-round showcasing. Parents, neighbors and friends might see the fireplace as a true destination for snapping photos that will then live on their mantels for the next several years, and they’re more likely to do that when you’ve selected a festive pop of greenery to live above your mantel this year
Also, don’t be afraid to mix things up and build new traditions around the things you and your family enjoy the most. If your guests are lively and love to stand out, a group activity like holiday caroling is an easy way to keep them engaged. For a more calm and casual gathering, there’s no better place than next to the fire for a time of reflection and remembrance.
If you have young kids, prepare a few mugs of hot cocoa and cozy up for a fireplace campout when your guests have all gone home. You can even use the hearth to keep the mugs warm in between sips!
Our living spaces shape our experiences, and you don’t have to search too hard for a dose of holiday “magic” to make your get-togethers memorable. Ultimately, it just takes a bit of preparation and the willingness to see things through once you’ve thought through how you want your guests to remember their time with you.
This year, let’s make every effort to create holiday experiences that reflect our gratitude in the gatherings themselves, and that celebrate the connections that infuse every moment with meaning.
As Director of Marketing and Portfolio Management, Sarah has successfully coupled her design talents with business acumen to refresh, refine and distinctly position five standout brands in the North American market and abroad. She continues to provide design direction for the brands’ variety of best-selling modern profiles and trend-forward color palettes while enhancing the prestige of the category among masons, builders, designers, architects and consumers.