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Darren Palmer's hosting tips for the festive season

When we released our Australians Hosting at Home Trends Report 2023, interior designer Darren Palmer was fascinated to discover that almost half of Australians feel like guests judge their home when they have them over, with one in three even saying that they feel embarrassed when guests see their home. 


To help combat this anxiety, Darren shares his top hosting tips for the festive season so however you choose to celebrate this year, you can be sure to bowl your guests over. 

How do you recommend people prepare their indoor space when entertaining?

According to the hosting report, most Aussies typically host their guests in the living room so this is really the time to show off this part of your home. To start, remove any clutter so you can present this space in its best state. You might need to move furniture around, getting rid of obstacles that obstruct the flow so you create open pathways for your guests to move around easily. When rearranging furniture, create clusters of seating to facilitate conversation. We might usually sit in front of the TV, but when we’re hosting guests, refocus your furniture around more beautiful focal points like a Christmas tree, a grazing board or a vase of flowers. Use a combination of seating options, such as sofas, armchairs, ottomans and floor cushions to allow for flexibility and to accommodate different seating preferences. 


Also, use multifunctional furniture that can serve different purposes. For instance, ottomans can double as extra seating or even as side tables; bar carts can be wheeled from inside to out as required; and sideboards and buffets can be used to section off areas and, of course, as buffets to lay out food and drink. 


What about when it comes to entertaining outside?

Now, more than ever, there is an incredible range of outdoor furniture that’s built to stand the test of time under the Australian sun, so if you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, do take advantage of it. 

If you have a certain interior style or theme for your occasion that you’ve introduced indoors, consider extending this to the outdoors. Whether that’s with similar cushions or a colour palette, this will make your home feel like a unified concept and will be sure to impress guests. 

Make sure you also plan for food and beverage stations and allocate sufficient space and easy access to them. Make your outdoor space work for how you like to entertain. For example, if you want a laid-back experience where your guests feel comfortable to help themselves, consider a bar cart with an ice bucket to store drinks and glassware.  


What tips do you offer people who are hosting larger gatherings?

When dealing with more people in your home, it’s all about creating an illusion. You might need to combine two completely mismatched tables if you’re doing a sit-down event for a large gathering and use a desk or bring in a temporary table, but no one needs to know. Focus on what is happening on top. Cover those tables with beautiful tablecloths, whether they be linen or even paper. Think about what thematics you want your guests to see and create a colour palette. Perhaps it’s modern Mediterranean or gold and silver or a Christmas theme. Whether you’re using paper plates or your finest dinnerware, keep the theme consistent and accentuate it with decor and florals. If you have delicate or valuable items, consider relocating them to a safer area to prevent accidental damage during the gathering.


What other tips can you share to make these occasions extra memorable?

Make your gathering a complete sensorial experience whereby all the senses are stimulated. Think about items like a wreath on your front door or drape garlands above entryways. There’s a great TikTok hack about how to use a shower curtain rod to hang a Christmas garland for a beautiful entryway.

For scent, perhaps it’s the aroma of your cooking, a festive candle or beautiful flowers. Don’t wait until the day of the event to think about music. Save a festive playlist or find a vibe that you want your guests to be influenced by.


Items like glass cloches, cake stands and candle holders are also beautiful additions to elevate your interior efforts and can be paired with real flowers or foliage on a table. You could even use battery-powered fairy lights feathered through a table or decorations to add a really ethereal ambience. 
Selma Nada Rajah 25 November, 2023

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