Now that we’re deep into November, we’re getting close to that special time of year where holiday parties and gatherings are just around the corner! Are you hosting any events? Need to start planning and preparing your home for visits and get-togethers with family and friends? Take a deep breath, there’s no need to panic! Preparing your home for the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated, especially if you can take it one simple step at a time. Creating a home that reflects the warmth and joy that you want to share with your loved ones is a hugely rewarding experience, and it can even be fun, too!

Where will you have your guests gather? Gathering rooms can be traditional living rooms, family rooms, great rooms, dens, and even outdoor seating areas (depending on the weather). Ideally, the space you use to entertain and socialize should be inviting and comfortable, while also being versatile and accommodating to your needs.

To help prepare your gathering spaces, here are four simple, easy tips to get you started:

Start by Setting an Intention

Whether you have a single gathering space or more than one, begin by setting an intention for each space. If you have a partner, spouse, family, or roommates, you should set the intention together. An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be and feel; when you set an intention for your gathering space, ask yourself how you and your family want to feel in the space? Similarly, how do you want your guests to feel? When you determine what your intention is, then you have a starting point to help you orient your space so that it will reflect that intention. For example, your intention for this holiday season might be to create a peaceful, relaxing oasis that simply helps to bring all your family and friends together. At this point, try not to worry too much about having enough space, seats and so on—there are always creative solutions!

What is the Focus?

Every successful gathering space needs a focal point, which is usually the first thing you see when entering a room: the TV, a fireplace, or a wall of windows looking out to a gorgeous view. Identifying the focal point centralizes your space-planning efforts and helps the other furniture pieces fall into place. If you don’t have a focal point, create one using a larger piece of furniture. After you’ve established that, orient your other furniture—chairs, area rug, end tables, lamps and so on—to help point towards this focus.

Lay Out Your Furniture

Take time to move through the space, imagining you are a guest in your house. Walk into your gathering room—how does it feel? Are there choices of where to sit or stand and have a comfortable conversation? If you’re thinking about how to add more seating for a party, do you have stools or a bench that could easily be moved around in the space? How about a couple of ottomans? You may also consider actually removing some furniture if you’re entertaining a large group, as long as you don’t mind your guests standing for a period of time. Another idea is to have an assortment of floor cushions so guests can simply lounge on the floor (just make sure your floors are clean!).

If you have an outdoor area available, this can be a great way to expand your entertaining space. Treat your outdoor area the same as your indoor area by first setting an intention and then deciding what the focus will be before arranging your other pieces of furniture. If you live in a colder climate, consider investing in a fire feature; it’ll help keep your guests warm, and it also makes for a wonderful focal point.

Additional Furniture, Accents, and Lighting

Flexible seating is not only practical but can also be a fun way to play with accents. Stools, benches, poufs, cushions, ottomans, folding chairs, woodblocks, and so on are all versatile and attractive options. Plus, some of these can double as a table surface. Find creative ways to integrate holiday decorations that don’t take up too much space. Ideas include trimming your fireplace mantle or stairway railing with garlands of fresh greenery, arranging floral bouquets, and playing some festive music to help set the mood.

Lighting is also an excellent way to create an atmosphere and make your room feel welcoming. Soft lighting complemented with candles is great for creating a relaxed and magical feel, and is perfect for the holidays. Try scented candles, as they can help freshen the smell of the space, too. For your outdoor space, candles glowing around your patio and string lights hanging from tree branches will create a lovely ambiance to watch the starry night.

For other ideas to celebrate fall and the holiday season, check out these blog posts:

Home Décor Ideas to Celebrate Fall

How to Create a Practical Thanksgiving Tablescape

Holidays at Home

Simple Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining

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