By Kelly Wearstler
Updated December 12, 2014
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Credit: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

Perenially stylish interior designer Kelly Wearstler shares her tips for an unforgettable holiday party.

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Holiday season has arrived and along with it a packed calendar of family gatherings, office parties, and cocktail soirées. Annual festivities call for a thoughtful, curated approach to party planning. When it comes to the most memorable affairs, the devil is in the details. Personal, unique flourishes tailored to the season and fresh takes on holiday traditions add a sense of excitement and distinction. Whether you are a seasoned veteran looking to top the year before or are hosting for the first time, here are my favorite unexpected tips for throwing an unforgettable bash.

1. Lighting

PHOTO: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

While it might seem like a lesser detail, lighting dramatically alters the vibe of any space. Used effectively, it evokes mood and sets the pace in terms of elegance and drama. When entertaining, use pink light bulbs for a warm, sexy vibe. From candles to dimmer switches or a roaring fireplace, a warm glow adds an inviting allure to the mix. Everyone and everything (from appetizer pairings to the guest list) looks better in great light. Glamour is a perfectly lit party.

2. Pattern Mixing

PHOTO: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

Take risks and break the rules. This especially applies to china. Don’t have enough of a particular place setting to accommodate the full guest list? Mix and match china patterns and glassware for a look that is artful and eclectic. Use complementary colors and a hierarchy of scale and texture that is vibrant yet harmonious. The soulful juxtaposition of metallic and winter whites is my go-to holiday palette. Pattern mixing captures a sense of easy elegance and infuses even the most refined setting with an effortlessly chic spirit, keeping the mood fun and spontaneous.

​3. Signature Scents

PHOTO: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

My flagship boutique on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles is a laboratory of curiosities collected from my travels around the world. I am continually experimenting with different scents to brighten the space and enhance the experience for our guests. Fragrance is such a sensual and comforting luxury. Candles and room sprays bathe the environment in rich, soothing tones. Before an event, try choosing a single scent to place about the space in entryways, powder rooms, and lounge areas. Stick to fragrance-free candles around catering and bar set-ups. Holiday aromas in wood and pine or opulent, exotic frankincense add a festive touch.

4. Themed Cocktails

PHOTO: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

Choosing an easy, signature cocktail for the evening can simultaneously streamline the bar menu and add a whimsical welcome. Even with a full bar, cocktails pre-prepped en masse and served upon arrival keep bar lines abbreviated while receiving guests in style. Colorful garnishes like cranberry or mint add a pop of color. A themed or cleverly named beverage cultivates a vibe that is thoughtful and special.

5. Unexpected Accessories

PHOTO: Courtesy of Kelly Wearstler

From striped straws to bejeweled bottle stoppers, setting the scene with spirited accents and soulful accessories channels an unexpected, distinct voice. Guests will remember the little things that make an event stand out. Elevated barware is my favorite place to splurge. It adds so much to the art of entertaining. Artisanal wine stoppers and bottle openers are an effortless way to elevate any tablescape. There are so many moving parts to hosting an event. Pieces that add sophistication with minimal drama are on my “must” list.

Planning the perfect winter soirée is a labor of love. Keep cool, stay warm, and do not be afraid to explore until you find your vibe. Taking risks is the only way to grow. Lots of love to you and your family as we all celebrate everything the year has brought! Cheers.

For 3 more of Kelly Wearstler's holiday decorating tips, check out