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Silver spray paint transforms rocks into place cards and twigs into a centerpiece.

Holiday Entertaining: It’s All About the Details

This is part three in a three-part series offering tips on hosting the perfect midday celebration. 

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In an effort to find a better, less frenzied way to entertain this holiday season (and beyond) we’re taking a cue from one of our favorite restaurant trends and doing brunch. This three-part series turns the dinner party on its head and provides tips for hosting a midday meal at home. Don’t forget to check out Part I in the series on setting the mood, and Part II, which focuses on the ever-important brunch menu.

Part III: Get Creative

In the third and final installment of our brunch series, we talk with stylist Erica McNeish about how to create a Pinterest-worthy spread at home. McNeish, the style-mind behind the gorgeous pages in Boulder chef Eric Skokan’s new cookbook, Farm, Fork, Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm, as well as the cover of our very own 5280: The Cookbook, advises on the importance of choosing a theme, gives tips on how to create a chic look on the cheap, when to break out the china, and even how to use paper plates.

5280: How can people create a magazine-worthy spread at home?

McNeish: Start with one simple idea and build. Create a theme. Find a color pallet and stick to it; it helps organize your head better. Once you select a theme, you start noticing objects in your home—you start seeing everything you have. You have something [that works] 100 percent of the time. But when it’s in your own home, it can be invisible—like a vase or a tin that can hold forks or knives and dress up a buffet.

If you do shop for styling props, what should you look for?

I try to be seasonal and use what’s in the grocery store. I think flower arrangements scare the crap out of people. I like to buy my flowers at Safeway to go with the color theme. If my color theme is white, I’ll get white lilies, white roses, and white Alstroemeria. If you stare at your backyard, you are going to find something that looks great. Take dead sticks from a tree and spray-paint them silver. You could even break out your glue gun and add wax paper flowers—simply crinkle up circles of wax paper and glue them on. Or, just get plastic ware from the dollar section and spray-paint it some modern color and it becomes something cool. Get that ugly grandma vase and paint it robin’s egg blue and it’s amazing. Plus, you spent one dollar. Get a bunch of things and make a whole vignette.

(Editor’s note: We took McNeish’s suggestion and made our own winter cherry blossom branches by hot gluing wax paper flowers to found sticks (pictured above). We preferred plain—not spray-painted—sticks for a more natural look. When creating your own, we found it best to first arrange the sticks in vases before doing any gluing. This helped us identify “flower” placement and cut down on mishaps, as the paper flowers easily tore from the branches when knocked.)

I think everything in my home is about to be spray-painted! How about dishes? What if you don’t have enough matching plates for a group?

If you don’t have matching plates, just find what you have the most of and then supplement from someplace like Goodwill. If the color theme is white, but you use all different this and that—all different, but all beautiful.

What if you want to go formal?

Holidays present an opportunity to use the china. When do you ever want to use all the wedding china? Try that out! Use the Waterford at the bar or put it out on coffee table for appetizers filled with popcorn, mixed nuts, and cheese.

The opposite of china—is it ever okay to use paper?

Yes! But, if you’re going go in, go all the way in. Make it a full paper theme with paper flowers, or, for the holidays, you can do paper snowflakes. You can get cute pressed cafeteria-style plates, punch a whole in the corner, and tie with a ribbon. Get a new galvanized trashcan with a “recycle here” sign and wrap it in fabric remnants. One of my favorite things with paper cups is to get plain cups in all different sizes and then stamp them with an ink stamp. Kids could do it. It’s casual and easy.

(Check out all the stories in the 5280‘s Holiday Entertaining Guide)

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