All decked out

All decked out

Greet the new year with a relaxed yet beautiful celebration. By Tess Paterson

Each year-end holiday seems to come around more rapidly than the last. Whether you have booked a beach house or are savouring some rare downtime at home, celebrating with family and friends is what this time is all about. From lights that shimmer to party snacks in the wee hours, we look at ways to make it magical. Cheers!

Let’s decorate

While the goal is to wow your guests with a beautiful setting, keeping things simple and pared-down will create an elegant, relaxed atmosphere.

Raw timber tables make very effective backgrounds, especially when topped with masses of tea lights, full-blown roses and your favourite crockery. Handwritten place cards add to the sense of occasion – simply tie them around each napkin with a piece of twine. And a small gift for each guest is always appreciated; wrap them up in brown paper or metallic tissue paper, and include a personal note.


‘For a festive event such as New Year’s Eve, I always start with a colour,’ says Katja Kellhofer of Gloss Concept Floral Couture. ‘It helps to pick a shade that will set your theme for the occasion, and right now I’m loving the tones of rose gold and brass.’

Kellhofer suggests choosing copper containers for flowers and greenery, or accessories such as brass candlesticks in varying shapes and sizes. ‘Don’t be afraid to spray-paint sticks, stems or everyday containers in a metallic finish, but ask your florist for flower spray as the alternatives tend to be flammable.’

Soft pink roses mixed with acid greens work beautifully with metallic tones, but for something more dramatic, Kellhofer suggests black. ‘You’ll be surprised at the effortlessly chic look black brings to a table, either in your vessels or with flowers such as dark arum lilies.’

As a rule, Kellhofer suggests combining flowers in similar tones. ‘Keep to a maximum of three tones, unless you’re after a country garden feel. One of the big floral trends right now is the Dutch Masters look, where a variety of textures are mixed with soft and strong colours. You could also turn to fashion for inspiration, with looks such as metallic, lace or tropical – all trends interconnect.’

Garden greenery shouldn’t be overlooked. As an alternative to blooms, Kellhofer suggests orchids, ferns or long-lasting succulents as decoration.

‘For those on a “recession budget”, as I like to call it, try lining a simple glass vase with green leaves, or bunch greenery in a cylindrical vase and add masses of candles on the table. This garden-to-table approach makes a beautiful statement.’


Light the way

Few things set a party scene like good lighting, and patios are one of the best areas to create this mellow glow.

‘Suspending clusters of glass pendants, whether rustic metal lanterns or more contemporary bulbs, has become very popular,’ says Rodney Fittinghoff of Streamlight. ‘It’s a wonderful way to fill a space without using a large fitting such as a chandelier, which can be overpowering.’

Fittinghoff adds that hanging the glass pendants at varying heights helps to create a delicate effect, emphasised by low-voltage LED globes. ‘Patios are associated with entertaining and mood, so it makes sense to choose decorative pendants that suit the decor, such as a rustic design to complement timber floorboards, rather than a bank of downlights.’

To lend a little magic to outdoor settings, all-white fairy lights are hard to beat. ‘These are fully waterproofed and can be used between tree branches or wound around the trunks,’ explains Fittinghoff. ‘To avoid it becoming too much like a wonderland, it’s a good  idea to incorporate just one or two strings of lights into your overall garden lighting design.’


As with all lighting, whether indoors or out, energy-saving bulbs have become the norm. ‘The exposed-filament globes, for instance, were always of a fairly high voltage,’ explains Fittinghoff. ‘That look is now available in LED format and many globes are now dimmable, making a soothing glow very easy to achieve.’

Rows of safari-style hurricane lamps are a simple way to create a sense of arrival – use them to line staircases, low walls or garden paths. Tea-light candles are another stalwart of the good-looking party; place them in water glasses and run a zig-zag line down the centre of your table.


‘Candles, candles and more candles!’ says Karen Short of By Word of Mouth. ‘You cannot ever have enough. Choose assorted types and sizes and keep them burning all night. And if the wind picks up, make sure you have hurricane vases on each table.’

What’s for dinner?

‘It’s a good idea to plan ahead and prepare as much as you can,’ says Short. ‘After all, you need to enjoy the evening too. I always suggest starting late – ask your guests to arrive around 8 pm. You could begin with a cocktail hour and just enjoy mingling. Do get everyone to dress up – not necessarily in black tie, but have fun and incorporate some kind of theme, even if it’s as simple as all white.’


Short adds that Spanish tapas are a huge trend at the moment, as they’re easy to prepare in advance and always great to look at. ‘Arrange your tapas starters on beautiful platters or wooden boards – any mix of items that you have at home. The idea is to serve some mouth-watering nibbles that guests can help themselves to as the evening unwinds.’

Short loves the idea of serving a generous paella as the main course. ‘Not only is it delicious and reminiscent of holidays on the beach, but you can invite your guests into the kitchen to take part in the cooking.’


‘People are definitely more conscious of what they’re eating these days,’ adds Marlene Strauss of Basics Catering Kitchen. ‘You could serve crudité platters as part of a starter or as a tasty arrival snack. Colourful carrots add great variety to your vegetable presentation, and they’re definitely worth the spend. Use a range of jars to create different heights, which looks more interesting, and add tasty home-made dips such as hummus and tzatziki. Vietnamese vegetable wraps are always a big crowd-pleaser too.’

Are you sitting comfortably?

There’s a lot to be said for keeping your party in full swing, with guests on top form. ‘Don’t make everyone too comfy,’ says Short. ‘Keep people moving around – you don’t want any faders!’ She advises doing a walk-through of your space, planning where your guests will arrive and where you could have a cocktail hour.


‘Initially you want people standing and mingling while they meet other guests. After that you could move somewhere more casual, like a lounge pod or two. Don’t forget side tables here for drinks. After that, it’s time to move to your show-stopper table where you’ll be eating mains. Lastly, you could settle into a more relaxed area to see in the new year – perhaps a couple of blankets or beanbags under the trees.’

It’s at this late hour that your guests will no doubt get a little peckish, and Short suggests serving dessert at midnight. ‘Choose an area where you can set up a buffet-like display of help-yourself celebratory treats. Consider an assortment of mini-desserts, adult milkshake bar, Champagne on ice, liqueur floats or shooter trays. Then team this up with a splendid array of cheese and Port.’

Styling: Shannon Daniell; Photography: Kendall-Leigh Nash/
December 2015/January 2016

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