Oh, what fun! Atlanta designer LAUREN LOWE shares her festive tips and tricks for creating a joyful and memorable holiday soirée
Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles: You’re known for your fresh and elegant style. What was your inspiration for this tabletop design?
LAUREN LOWE: We wanted to come up with an elegant but playful holiday scheme that incorporated pieces my client could use to mix-and-match year-round. We started with our client’s neutral Themis Z plates and a tablecloth that plays off the colors of the drapery. Then we layered in festive pops of red and green. Textures like acrylic and tortoise add an element of chic and the adorable cracker place cards keep things light-hearted.
AH&L: Your tabletop mixes both traditional and contemporary components. What’s your advice on mastering the mix to achieve a collected, yet personal setting?
LL: If something seems a little out of place but you love it, then by all means, find a spot for it! We’ve used everything from taxidermy birds to a great grandmother’s butter dish that didn’t match a single thing on the table. The elements that feel a bit off or unexpected are often the elements that make a table memorable. Sometimes just “pretty” can be pretty boring.
AH&L:Not only did you design this tabletop, but you are also the designer of this home. Tell us about your style and what your must-have decor items are during the holidays.
LL: I am a true traditionalist and sentimentalist at heart. I love to create classic spaces that feel fresh and maybe even a little bit cool—that’s the secret sauce I am always working to achieve. The holidays are a great time to add a little “cool” and whimsy to a space. I like to use very simple live garlands and wreaths (cedar is a favorite) as the backdrop and then pepper in more thrilling holiday pizzaz. This year I am really excited about an overabundance of chocolate brown velvet ribbon and loads of bright and cheery vintage ornaments. And a wreath on every window—inside and out—is an absolute must!
AH&L: Entertaining during the holidays can be chaotic. What’s your secret for the perfect holiday party?
LL: Good catering! Creating ambiance and flow for a party is always my focus and I would rather let someone else prepare the food.
AH&L: This home allows fluidity between a formal dinner setting and more casual gathering. How do you prefer to entertain guests in your own home?
LL: The great thing about the holidays is that once you have your decorations up, your home instantly feels company-ready. We reserve casualness for family events like Christmas morning or New Year’s lunch. Otherwise, we tend to lean more formal for holiday entertaining. My New England-raised father taught me that dressing up is part of the holiday fun. Our favorite parties during the season have included jazz music in the background, whiskey drinks at the bar and old black-and-white holiday movies playing on mute.
AH&L: The holidays are a time for sentimentality. What tradition holds a special place in both your heart and home?
LL: My family and I always went to church on Christmas Eve and then had our next-door neighbors over for an intimate holiday buffet. I loved going to the grocery store with my dad to buy gourmet tidbits before setting out the linens and serveware with my mom. We would light all of the candles and my dad would play classical Christmas concertos. It was the best time to admire all the hard work my mom and I did together on decorating the house. Now with young kids at home myself, we’ve tried to keep up the same tradition, but we’ve swapped the gourmet buffet for Chinese take-out from Grand China. We still eat on pretty dishes and light all the candles though!
“We always spent the holidays with my grandmother and her signature drink was a Campari on the rocks with a twist. With fragrant-infused Campari, this holiday Negroni always makes me think of her!”
Holiday Negroni (serves 8)
8 ounces Campari
2 oranges, divided
4 star anise pods, plus more for garnish
3 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons crushed pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon clove
8 ounces gin
8 ounces sweet vermouth
Add Campari and zest from half of one orange into a lidded container. In a pan over medium-low heat, toast star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant (about 3 minutes). Add spices to the container, shake and let sit at room temperature overnight. Strain and discard solids. Mix 1 ounce infused Campari, 1 ounce gin and 1 ounce sweet vermouth. Serve over ice and garnish with orange zest and star anise.