Perk Up with Pillows
Banish those pillows with spring and summer motifs, and bring on a big touch of winter in the way of the Loren deer pillow, $135, Neiman Marcus,Troy. With a feather/down fill, the 24-inch rustic adornments evoke instant cozy. Comes in black and red. — Tanya Zager Chisholm
Roll some practical-cool onto the party scene with the Warner Island, $4,619, Arhaus, Troy, Ann Arbor. Could be an instant prep space, a bar, or a kitchen island. Whatever it’s doing, form and function combine in its industrial look, which features solid oak, zinc, and iron. Curved glass doors allow you to store and display your favorite platters and servewear.
Let Your Inner Prep Out!
Have guests spending the night? Accessorize your spare bedroom with a Crocoknit throw from Lacoste Home, $95, metro-area Macy’s stores, macys.com.
Hands-down one of the best accessories for entertaining, a tray is both practical and pretty. Solid lacquer wood trays (square or rectangle), $29 to $59, West Elm, Birmingham
“My entertaining go-to is a rustic vintage fruit tray (with a handle), because it’s festive and functional,” says Gretchen Diver, of Clarkston-based Cotton Bucket Design. “I have used it to display holiday decorations, to serve mugs of hot chocolate, to stack small-size gifts for guests, and more. I found mine at Around the Farm Antiques in Birch Run, but it’s also available at Rusty Relics in Clarkston (where Diver and a friend have a booth).”
Tea towels, originally used for practical chores, now come in a variety of colors and patterns, including gorgeous French-inspired, hand-stamped prints from Couleur Nature Fine Linens, $48/three, The Italian Dish, Birmingham.
Ready, Set, Go!
Where to put the water glass? On which side of the main fork should you put the salad fork? It’s all explained in Which Fork Do I Use? Confident and Comfortable Dining by Rosemarie Burns and Linda Reed. Dining etiquette, manners, and setting the table are becoming lost arts. Bring them back with this comprehensive guide, $24.95, amazon.com and metro-area Barnes & Noble stores, barnesandnoble.com.
Sense of Place
The Pebble motif placemats (inspired by stones on a beach) from Chilewich, $10/ea., add instant style to any tablescape. Metro-area Macy’s stores, macys.com; metro-area Sur La Table stores, surlatable.com; and A Touch of Lace, Bloomfield Hills.
TWIG candlesticks, designed by Jocelyn Deris and available in a variety of finishes, including white or copper lacquer, light up a table with style, $540/ea., Roche Bobois, Birmingham.
Shake It Up!
Rosanna Dore’s gold salt and pepper shakers, $26/set, Waiting on Martha, shopwaitingonmartha.com, add just the right bling to your table.
Just Fur You
Cute critters are invited to the festivities, with Rachel Kozlowski-designed Dapper Animal dinnerware, $10/plate, West Elm, Birmingham.
Bowl of Merries
“I bring a gift for the host or hostess — some sort of delectable in a unique container or vessel from, say, Lori Karbal (Birmingham), that has it own artistic merit,” says Jon Jordan, WDIV Local 4 style editor. “That’s guaranteed to ‘bowl’ them over.”
Serving wine? The Krups Two-Bottle Wine Aerator enables you to offer guests their fave wine, chilled to perfection. $500, metro-area Macy’s stores, macys.com; metro-area Bed Bath & Beyond stores, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Take dessert to new levels with the Krups Barista Fully Automatic One Touch cappuccino machine, which allows you to pick from 17 exclusive recipes, catering to everyone’s preferences and turning your home into a mini café. $2,500, Bed Bath & Beyond, bedbathandbeyond.com, and Williams-Sonoma, metro-area stores, williamssonoma.com.
The new Twist 1586 glassware collection by Saint-Louis is perfect for wine novices and experts alike. Once the wine is poured, the Venetian-style pattern magnifies the crystal’s luminosity, enhancing the wine’s color and flavor. Water tumbler, $125; champagne glass, $170; young wine glass, $170; mature wine glass, $170; bottle stopper, $125; wine decanter, $635; Neiman Marcus, Troy.
Coffee and a Danish
The Royal Copenhagen Star Fluted Christmas cup and saucer combines the spirit of Christmas past and present with cozy Danish design, $75, Neiman Marcus, Troy.
Inspired by the Vasque of the French wine tradition, the Alessi Noè ice tub/wine cooler can hold up to five bottles of wine or two magnums. $350, store.alessi.com.
Good morning, guests! Who’d like a cup of tea from an old-fashioned electric kettle? Smeg ’50s retro-style kettle (available in seven colors), $130, Williams-Sonoma, metro-area stores, williamssonoma.com and West Elm, Birmingham.
Nothing kicks off a party better than a festive cocktail prepared ahead of time and ready for guests as they arrive at the door, notes Laura Zender of Laura Design in Ann Arbor. “My go-to concoction is always champagne mixed with a splash of Pama Pomegranate liqueur. I present it in a gold-rimmed champagne flute garnished with a sugar cube and fresh cranberries.”
COOKina Cuisine’s reusable green/red baking sheets are nonstick and easy-clean, and offer a healthy (PFOA-free!) cooking and baking experience. Ideal for using as an alternative to aluminum foil, parchment, or wax paper. You put the sheet right on a baking tray. $13, Organize-It, Shelby Township, metro-area Home Depot stores, homedepot.com.
A Perfect Pot
The vibrantly colored, conical-shaped pots from IMUSA’s GlobalKitchen can be used to bake meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables to perfect fork-tenderness — going from stove or oven to tabletop with artistic ease. The collection includes a stockpot, pressure cooker, wok, paella pan, and ceramic calerdo. $19-$59/ea., metro-area Target stores, target.com. — Honey Murray
Stir Up Some Comfort Food
In Laura Frankel’s Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy (Surry Books, $15, amazon.com and metro-area Barnes & Noble stores, barnesandnoble.com), holiday favorites simmer in the ol’ slow cooker, and voila — you get everything from tamales to Moroccan chicken!
Make it Fast!
Fiskars’ fast-prep herb shears, $10, allow you to mince herbs in seconds without a knife or cutting board, not to mention helping you get other kitchen chores done in a snap. Metro-area Jo-Ann stores, joann.com.
Kate Spade introduces its All in Good Taste fun-loving cooking items, featuring words and sayings — like this wooden cutting board, $30, metro-area Macy’s stores, macys.com.
“When my wife and I entertain, whether it’s an informal gathering or a big party, there must always be a luscious, gooey chocolate dessert that I made that afternoon,” says Birmingham’s Randy Forester, who’s crazy about the Farmstand Brownie recipe below. He owned Studio 330 (high-end gifts/bridal registry) in Bloomfield Township and now volunteers with the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary. For festive gatherings, he serves brownies either on a Depression glass small cake stand (1930s) or on a simple Annieglass (California company) Roman antique oval platter.
Farmstand Brownies (makes 16)
3½ cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 20 oz.)
1 cup unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups chopped walnuts
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Generously butter foil. Place chocolate and butter in medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Add espresso powder and vanilla; stir to blend. Cool 15 minutes. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl. Add walnuts; toss to coat. Whisk eggs and sugar in large bowl just to blend. Add chocolate mixture; stir until just blended. Add flour mixture; stir just to blend. Pour into prepared pan. Bake brownies about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Cover and chill six hours. Invert brownies onto work surface. Peel off foil. Trim crisp edges. Cut into 16 pieces.
Taste of the Season
Any gathering can be made all the more memorable with a tray of soft, buttery, homemade, and ready-to-grab caramels, available by the piece to serve on one of your favorite platters, $40/50-piece box (order ahead of time). Kelly’s Karamels, Troy. — Honey Murray
An Apple (Truffle) a Day
When biting into one of Edible Arrangements’ apple fruit truffles, whether it’s from a gift box assortment or a convenient slim-box sleeve, the response is “Wow!” Instead of a typical truffle’s usual creamy, sugary center, Edible Arrangements’ apple truffle is a crispy, tart-sweet sphere of Granny Smith apple coated in fine chocolate. Salted caramel banana fresh-fruit truffles are also available. $9-$45, 19 metro-area Edible Arrangements stores, ediblearrangements.com. — Honey Murray
A Slice of Nice
The busy folks at Original Murdicks Fudge (opened in 1887, and now with five shops in Michigan and more on the East Coast) are keeping their Mackinac Island Main Street store open for much of December to roll out Pure Michigan treats. Several fudge flavors, caramel corn, English toffee, and more will delight your party guests! Prices vary/customize any order for delivery. Order at originalmurdicksfudge.com.
Stick To It
Set out a platter of sliced caramel apples (or present a whole one as a parting gift!) and your party will be the one guests talk about forever. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory turns out a bounty of dipped varieties with seasonal toppings. Auburn Hills, Clinton Township, Troy, and Roseville. — Honey Murray
Achatz Pies is whipping up a unique cannoli pie that features the company’s renowned vanilla pastry cream mixed with cream cheese, slivered almonds, and chocolate chips. $20, Troy, Oxford, Armada, Shelby, Chesterfield, and Beverly Hills.
For 31 years, Gayle Harte and her team have been making delectable chocolate creations in Harte’s Royal Oak flagship shop. Her cookie-size Mammoth Caramel Nut Clusters are a historic favorite, $6/ea/, $46.25/eight . Also carried at Plum Market in West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Township.— Honey Murray
A Tart Brings Good Tidings
“I serve Trader Joe’s raspberry tart on a large, white Limoges plate,” says Grosse Pointe Farms-based interior designer Pam Evans. “I like to add a few basil leaves and a few sugared blueberries and strawberries for ornamentation.”
Light the Way
Your guests enjoyed the meal you prepared and now, as they contentedly sip their coffees, a simple touch of your finger to Lutron’s GRAFIK T dimmer lowers the lights to the perfect level of warm ambience. The GRAFIK T faceplate is smooth, elegant, architecturally striking, and — with a variety of colors and finishes — it enhances any décor. The patented technology permits great energy-efficiency, and has the ability to be integrated into wireless and remote operating systems. $67-$249, lutron.com. — Honey Murray
Treat your powder room guests to a sensory hand-washing experience with Rosemary Mint or Pomegranate Acai-scented hand soaps from Essenza Luxury Hand Soaps. Beyond the scent (which features essential oils, shea butter, and aloe), the soaps add a cool pop of color to the bathroom. $4-$5, metro-area Bed Bath & Beyond stores, bedbathandbeyond.com.
A-round the House
Wreaths certainly add a touch of holiday and/or wintry warmth to a home. One of our favorites? The natural pinecone and faux antler wreath, $50 at metro-area Pier 1 stores, pier1.com.
Say it like you mean it with clever bronze nameplates and plaques from Rocky Mountain Hardwar (Please Remove Your Shoes, $121) and (Private drive, $379), Herald Wholesale, Troy, and Russell Hardware Co., Bloomfield Hills.
There’s no bloom that says “holiday” more than the amaryllis. Varieties range from the bright-red Red Lion or the snow-white Mont Blanc to the deep cranberry-red Benfica, starting at $13, metro-area English Gardens, englishgardens.com.
Go Bright and Shiny in the Ornament Department
Consider decking your halls with these vintage handblown beauties,$12-$32, Restoration Hardware, Troy. — Tanya Zager Chisholm
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
“I set out an arrangement from Blossoms,” says realtor Ginny Fisher, of Hall & Hunter Realtors in Birmingham. “I still have one of their beautiful containers (red metal) that I continue to use. The fresh arrangement may be for the sideboard, the dining table, or the living room.”