So here’s what happened—you pulled off an elaborate Thanksgiving gathering, and even though your guests left wildly impressed, you were a little spent. A month later, you didn’t learn from your mistake, and decided to invite everyone back to your humble abode to ring in the New Year. Expectations are high. Your energy, however, is low. It doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, with a bit of smart planning—plus a hard-and-fast goal for doing things with as little effort as possible—you might even kick back and relax the day you bid farewell to 2017. This is your guide to throwing a shindig everyone will be talking about without going stir-crazy.
1 – The hassle-free hors d’oeuvres
Serve up some hors d’oeuvres that are fancy without being difficult—a smorgasbord of cold meats and cheeses (you don’t even have to do the cutting, just leave a few cheese knives out), all sorts of cool and creamy dips with a variety of scoops. If your repertoire needs a bit of oomphing, try adding foods-on-sticks that require absolutely no cooking skills. String cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls and basil on a skewer for a caprese-like snack. Or a combination of grape, Spanish manchego cheese, and spicy chorizo. These are all apps you can put together in a jiffy.
Go a step further:
…and put the oven to work by whipping up bacon-wrapped dates, a definite crowd-pleaser. All you need to do is wrap bacon (opt for turkey bacon for your health-conscious guests) around pitted dates, secure with a toothpick and pop them into the oven. Here’s the recipe for this simple, salty-and-sweet goodness.
2 – The libations
The booze should be the least of your worries, because it really is a no-brainer. Whether you go with the sweet-and-fruity Prosecco or Louis Roederer’s exuberant Cristal Champagne, a steady flow of bubbly equals a happy crowd.
Go a step further:
…and set up a DIY cocktail bar. Print out a few recipes of your favorite drinks and have your friends try their hand at mixing and shaking. Make use of the spirits you have on hand, and let lime juice pull triple-duty. That bottle of vodka? Add lime juice, Triple Sec, and cranberry juice, and guests can whip up a Cosmopolitan. Got some tequila? Add lime juice, Triple Sec and optional salt for a classic Margarita. Gin? All you’ll need is Rose’s lime juice for a perfect gimlet. Don’t forget the most important ingredient: ice, ice, ice!
3 – The decorations
Chances are, you’ve already spruced up your digs with Christmas decor, so let your christmas tree do most of the talking. To make your decorations more NY-specific, hang the obvious “Happy New Year” garland. Don’t limit yourself to the curtain rod. Some no-hardware-needed adhesive hooks—like this and this— add to the ambiance and are plenty festive for the occasion. (Or go for the invisible variety). No need to think too much about what to tie, tuck or wrap the thread around.
Go a step further:
…and pull together an insta-friendly photo booth. Companies like SnapFiesta and PhotoBoothPro offer an array of services that make for great dedicated photo ops with features and offers like delivery, props, an attendant, unlimited photos and prints. That is, if you and your wallet are up for the splurge. Otherwise, opt for the DIY approach. That friend you helped move? The other friend you drove to the airport at 4 a.m.? Rally them up for a little you-owe-me-a-favor craft session before guests start trickling in. Purchase a backdrop stand (which run for as low as $30) and get to decorating with those garlands.
4 – The plates
The good news is that serving bite-sized appetizers require no cutlery for consumption. But who wants to clean those plates after midnight? Not you—which is where disposable plates come in. No, not of the tacky, birthday variety. There are plenty of cool and stylish options. Take this fun pineapple-inspired pack, or this gold pine-patterned set. For something a little more muted, perhaps Wasara’s simple-but-classy plates will do the trick. Based in Japan, the company prides itself in producing products made entirely out of renewable materials like sugar cane fibers, bamboo and reed pulps.
Go a step further:
…by going completely dirty-dishes free! These recyclable toasting flutes with curved stems are fun alternative. Or this modern take.
5 – The conversation
Before you ring in the new year, you’ll need a plan for how to have David from finance and Lauren from marketing get along. Surely, having a NY’s playlist (try Spotify’s) helps drown out the silence. But say you need something more to break the ice—it’s good to have bailout options at the ready. Party games like a white elephant gift exchange or holiday-themed charades will keep the party abuzz and require little to no effort on your part.
Go a step further:
…by setting up a “game” station. Fish out those old board games you haven’t played since college and stack them on a table. Even a silly challenge like Connect Four can be fun, especially with a glass of sparkling vino in hand.
Photo credit: Bacon-wrapped dates, From Jenny | HealthyCrush.com
You might be all set with your dream house. But say you haven’t honed your design chops yet. Say you can’t quite settle on a plan, no matter how many Pinterest boards you scour. And say your style, much like your blank-canvas house, is a work in progress. Enter astrology. Not only does your horoscope spill the beans about your personality—like your tendency to get cranky at the flick of an emotional switch, or your ability to face danger without batting an eyelash—it also speaks volumes about your aesthetics. To fuel your next home project, we’ve put together some suggestions, zodiac sign by zodiac sign, taking our cues from the stars.
Aquarius | January 20 – February 18
Don’t be fooled by the “aqua” in Aquarius. It is very much the element of air that’s attached to your zodiac sign. Translation: You gravitate toward higher spheres—the bright, free-flowing and even thought-provoking. Because of your constantly wandering mind, you need a design plan that’s both calming and reflective of your forward-thinking personality. Think: A modular sectional covered in soft blue linen, warm yellow hardwood floors, a fireplace that says cozy, but not too cozy. Large-leafed plants can also be sculptural while adding a dash of life to the space.
Pisces | February 19 – March 20
As a water sign, you often want to feel uninhibited, like a fish in a vast, vast ocean. Although we’re far from building dwellings underwater, you can recreate the openness of the sea with floor-to-ceiling windows sans drapes that blur the lines between the indoor and out. Even if your digs are on the smaller side of real estate, there’s a lot of space that can be achieved with picking the right colors. White or brown flooring always creates the illusion of space. Opt for pastel colors when you’re picking wall paint. Since Pisces’ are also a creative bunch, section off cozy corners for your creative pursuits.
Aries | March 21 – April 19
You’re a ball of fire. You have a natural instinct for leadership, and a tendency to go with your gut—which is why you’re more than willing to take risks with your interior design. Marry bold colors with spirited patterns. Take, for example, this palm frond wallpaper, which amps up the energy in any bland living room. Turn it up even more by throwing splashes of yellow—aka, one of the most vibrant primary colors—in pillow form. If you do it right, come fall or winter, your crib will be the go-to spot for a cold-weather escape.
Taurus | April 20 – May 20
You like being engulfed by beauty, and which is why indoor plants—tall fiddle-leaf fig trees or snake plants, to name a few—will work well for you. Because you are hyper aware of your senses, you can benefit from toying with different fabrics, textures and shapes. Take, the feathery-like fronds and bulbous trunk of a sago palm (if there are no pets romping around since these cycads are poisonous). The wood flooring, softened by a thick, fluffy shag rug you’ll want to sink your feet in. Trade in a more robust, stony floor-to-ceiling wall of a fireplace for a cushioned look.
Gemini | May 21 – June 20
As a Gemini, you’re pegged as the life of the party—and for good reason. You’re smart as a whip and have plenty of conversation topics at your disposal. Create a space that would accommodate guests when the hankering for a good chit-chat strikes. You need an inviting space—with a warm palette, a strategic arrangement of seating spots and a bookcase that shows off your knack for reading. Be aware of your fleeting interests. Because you change your mind quickly, don’t go with fast-moving vogues.
Cancer | June 21 – July 22
As a Cancer, you belong to a traditional bunch, meaning you place an emphasis on family and roots. A love for family gatherings calls for a comfortable and cozy residence. You’ll need a space that welcomes you, your kiddos (and perhaps even their kiddos)—a cocoon that wraps around you like a fuzzy blanket when it’s kind of gray and drab outside. Save that shelf space above the fireplace for your display of sentimental knick-knacks. Keep a hand-woven wool carpet underfoot. An array of knitted throws and pillows all do well to warm up a space. Also good ideas: A dark wood side table, a few indoor plants here and there, and a large, curved reading lamp that hunches over an armchair.
Leo | July 23 – August 22
Ruled by the sun, Leos have a penchant for the luxurious. You gravitate toward a den that stands out from the norm. Let a sumptuous upholstered leather couch take on a starring role in your living room. Contrast a dramatically dark dining room table with an otherwise white-walled interior. Allow for a towering sculpture (because, you’re the type that goes big and takes it all home) to elevate your digs to show-stopper levels. It is a sure-fire way to impress any guest that enters your royal lair.
Virgo | August 23 – September 22
You’re practical, with a let’s-get-down-to-business approach to your style. Opt for a quiet palette—shades of grey, taupe and white. Simplicity is key. You need a space that triumphs because of its functional appeal. Think: clean lines and a clutter-free living area. But just because you value function, doesn’t mean you’re an absolutely-no-frills kind of person. In fact, a little frill here and there, like showing off, instead of hiding, your ceiling pipes, can add a bit of industrial personality to your quarters.
Libra | September 23 – October 22
With you, it’s all about balance. You like a space where everything sort of, well, fits. Create a satisfying harmony by plucking hues from a large painting and curating your furniture pieces around that color scheme. Remember that balance can also be achieved through asymmetry, so don’t be afraid to let things look a little out of whack. As a Libra, there’s a special place for aesthetics in your heart. Since trend-spotting is your forte, go for carefully curated wares and fashion-forward finishes and furnishings.
Scorpio | October 23 – November 21
If there’s anything you’re known for as a Scorpio, it’s your passion. (That, and your raw sensuality). Scorpios hew to more fiery palettes—shades of red, emerald green or orange. And there’s no reason not to put those colors to work. Got a room with lots of windows and light? Try painting the ceiling a high-gloss metallic red. In the morning, the sunlight will soak the room with much-needed brightness. In the evenings, the dark color will give off the illusion of a lower ceiling, which immediately evokes a sense of intimacy. Don’t forget to let your fun side come out to play with gold accents and an eclectic mix of pieces that boast your confidence in your unusual style.
Sagittarius | November 22 – December 21
As a globe-trotting Sagittarius, you’re driven by your curiosity to explore. Which is why you do well surrounded by pieces that transport you to far-flung locations. Don’t be afraid of a stylistic and cultural mash-up and open up to juxtaposing pieces like Moroccan glass lanterns with southwestern-patterned poufs. Play up your whimsical side with a playful Moroccan tile floor that’ll help with all your Instagram shoe photography needs. Word to the wise: it’s easy to get carried away from trinkets from buzzy travel destinations, because there’s a fine line between a chic traveler’s haven and a cluttered home turf.
Capricorn | December 22 – January 1
The cliched saying “less is more” could not be truer in your case. As a Capricorn, you’re drawn to the understated. But just because your place is unfussy doesn’t mean you skimp on quality. In fact, the few pieces that make up your living space are chosen with calculate care and attention to craftsmanship. You are also sure-footed and bound to earth, and chances are, you’ll pick pieces that you’ll stick with for a while. Therefore, go for interesting over-the-bed or above-the-couch minimalist statements that you won’t get bored of quite so easily. Let large windows decorate your room with a view of an ever-changing foliage.
As interior design aficionados, we’re always looking into the horizon for what’s to come, for the latest thing to spruce our homes with. Maybe we’re also antsy to replace those reclaimed wood chairs that were in style this year, but petered out in mere months. So we asked Lori Evans—our resident design guru who has a keen eye for spotting trends—about what to expect going into the new year. Here, we’ve rounded up some predictions for 2018, all of which are heavily influenced by social media and Instagram in particular.
1 – Big, bold colors and patterns
What’s an Instagram feed without generous splashes of color? “Bold colors, pattern on pattern mixing and bold patterns,” says Lori. “Thanks to Instagram, people want to post what they’ve done to their house, and as you know, bold color pops and gets more likes.” High-energy features like a bright mishmash of pillows, geometric prints and eclectic accent pieces attract a slew of comments and likes. Not to mention, Insta-obsessed friends wanting to take advantage of the backdrop.
2 – Insta-worthy walls
Coffee shops, hotels and restaurants have already accepted the idea that a good, photo-worthy wall equals a steady flow of customers. Taking that concept to a residence is not that far of a stretch. For social media enthusiasts, it doesn’t get easier than a having a prime photo spot just around the corner from their bedrooms. “I think we’ve seen it really all over,” she says. “A wall of succulents, a reclaimed wood wall or brick wall. You almost create a destination in your own house. I’ve seen that, and social media influencers are pushing it as well.”
3 – Fun, photo-op decor
Instead of scattering small decor items around the house, folks will be investing in big, singular and striking pieces that demand the attention of anyone perusing through social media (and also, stir up some major design envy). “Interesting, unique pieces that create a photo [opportunity],” says Lori. “Things that photograph well, like a really fun chair or a really crazy table or an old-school turntable. A piece that looks good in person, but really looks good in photos. Again, people want to show it off.”
4 – Light-drenched spaces
Every avid Instagrammer knows that lighting makes or breaks a photo— which is why curtain-less floor-to-ceiling windows will become even more of a desirable home feature that it is now. “People want as much light as can come in. They want all windows. We’re doing a house now and we’re stacking windows. A full window on top of a full window, so [the space] is flooded with natural light. People can’t get enough of that. And I think I agree. Natural light makes a room and a house more open and fresh and clean.”
When it comes to weddings, spring hears its fair share of “I do(s)”—and for good reason. There’s something about trees bursting into bloom that marks the start of something new. As long as rain doesn’t crash the party and the temperature hovers well below makeup-melting degrees, spring makes for ideal ceremony weather.
Picking the season is a no-brainer and arguably one of the easiest decisions you’ll have to make as an engaged couple. In the midst of your wedding planning extravaganza—creating a budget, drafting and sending invitations, settling on a venue and everything from napkins to flowers—your wedding registry might not get the attention it surely deserves. Which is why we put this registry guide together. It ensures you have your bases covered, while you’re occupied deciding between a four-tiered red velvet and a vanilla cake with sugar flowers and hand-rolled fondant.
Lucky for you, you don’t have to waste time prowling a store with a hand-held scanner anymore. In fact, don’t fret if you can’t stick to a single store. Websites like Amazon and apps like Zola allow you to pick and choose from all the essential brands you’ll need for your new, together-forever grown-up digs, and most of our recommended products can be found and scooped up there.
For all your cooking rituals
Kitchen appliances and tools get the most love when assembling a wedding registry, and understandably so. Guests can find valuable items at various price points they’re comfortable with. Even a small, nifty gift, like an oven mitt, can really make things a whole lot more convenient in the kitchen. Note: We assume you’ll do your homework and cross-reference these items with what you already own.
Hailed as one of the finest and most versatile cookware, the Le Creuset Dutchoven should top your registry checklist. Why? It’s perfect for cooking just about anything—soups, stews, sauces and even braising meat. Not to mention, it lasts a lifetime (No, really. It has a lifetime warranty). A good, sturdy set of knives comes in at a close second. (This set, which comes with its own sharpener, gets the thumbs up). Also include an 8-10 piece set of non-stick pots and pans and bakeware, as well as and the holy grail of all stove-to-oven cookware: an old-fashioned cast-iron skillet. One too many photogenic meals cooked in a cast-iron skillet have achieved Instagram fame, and the pan’s durability makes it a coveted item in every married couple’s kitchen. Go fancy with Finex or opt for the humble-but-equally-reliable skillet from Lodge.
Because its ability to whip up some seriously delicious meals, couples swear by thecrock-pot, which will prove handy for all those days you won’t feel like putting in too much effort into dinner. A stand mixer also makes life in the kitchen easier, and KitchenAid has been churning out equipment that truly stand the test of time. Not to mention, the mixer comes in a spectrum of colors, including a very plush millennial pink and mint green. Also, consider this: no kitchen is complete without an aesthetically pleasing and sophisticated cutting board. (Proteak offers a variety of options to choose from, from butcher blocks to bread boards.)
Aside from big-ticket items, think of smaller, but-just-as-handy items you might need— a set of multi-piece storage jars, oven mitts and this beast of a kitchen-tool set from Berghoff, which thoughtfully groups together the basics like measuring cups and slotted turners, but also the not-so-basics, like a bamboo salad spoon and fork. Lastly, if you feel like throwing out your old plateware and starting anew, this five-pieceset should work as a fine and stylish replacement.
Optional: peeler,can opener, grater, tongs, ice cream scoop or snag thissix-piece setwhich covers all these items in one fell swoop.
This portion of the registry largely depends on how you and your partner like your coffee—or if you like coffee at all, in which case, feel free to skip this section. You don’t have to be an uber coffee snob with a love for single-origin, artisanally crafted beverages to appreciate the value of a good coffee grinder. When it comes to the actual coffee-making part, choose between a pour over setup, a kettle and a french press, a stovetop moka or turkish coffee pot, or a hipster-approved siphon coffee maker. For a fast and easy coffee fix,Keurig’s brewing systemshould do the trick. (Note: Zola even allows you to register for a personalized coffee subscription, which delivers bags of artisan coffee right by your doorstep.) And if you like a strong cuppa with your post-dinner dessert, remember to include a tea press.
Optional: coffee spoon,milk frother, tea storage box and tea infuser.
Bedding and linens are hardly anything to get excited about. But trust us—after a long, hard day of moving in and unwrapping these gifts, slipping into a cloud-like bed will be nothing short of satisfying. Add a few sets of bedding to your list, two for each bed in the house (because, well, laundry day). (Here’s our guide to picking out the perfect bedding if you’re still having wavering between Egyptian cotton and flannel). Another important ingredient: a warm and toasty down alternative comforter for winter, and a cooler, more lightweight version for those hot summer days. Don’t forget your washable duvet covers and matching shams.
Optional: table lamps, closet storage baskets, a makeup stand, and an accessory tree or jewelry chest to grace the top of your dresser.
Morocco Linen Indigo Bedding design by Pine Cone Hill, photo credit: Burkedecor.com | Tosca Accessory Tree by Yamazaki, photo credit: Amazon.com
For a swoon-worthy living room space
The living room is where you’ll be spending most of your waking time at home. It’s also the first thing your neighbors and friends will see when they come over for a shindig. In other words, this is where you get to show off your decorating prowess. Whether you’re a mid-century modern kind of couple or have a knack for country decor, building your living room’s design from scratch can be a little daunting, but there’s a method to the madness.
Start with your statement piece, aka a focal point that’ll lend your living room the wow-factor. Think: bold, oversize artwork, a textile hanging, or even an eclectic arrangement of several pieces grouped together. Go with your gut. Next, pull colors from the wall art and use them to pick your pillows. A healthy amount of bright, perhaps even tasseled pillows work well to add color and vibrancy to your space, especially when joined forces with a snuggly, textured throw draped over the arm of your couch. Finally, you’ll need an area rug that ties everything together.
Optional: decorative vases, a large indoor plant (preferably low-light, low-maintenance plants like a fiddle-leaf fig or a money tree), candles and candle holders and a wall clock.
When browsing for towels,opt for neutral colors that never go out of style, like white and ivory. You can always introduce a bolder color later. Now, pick your towel ensemble—two sets of bath, hand and face towels per person—keeping quality in mind. This combed-cotton cocoon, which comes in several hues, topped a few consumers’ choice best-of lists. Add a bath mat and shower curtain to match.
There’s nothing like being swaddled in a fresh, warm towel that’ll make you feel like you just emerged from a luxurious bath experience, which is why we encourage you to add a towel warmer to the list.
Optional: a soap dish, a toothbrush holder, curtain rod rings, a scale and a laundry hamper (like this bamboo hamper with a lid for a neat and clean look).
For your at-home cocktail hour
Needless to say, your home bar needs to be stocked with more than just liquor. Hit nine birds with one stone and get your essential tools in one gift, like this handy set, which includes a double jigger, a strainer, a cocktail shaker and more. Make sure you have appropriate glassware at the ready—wine glasses, double old-fashioneds, martini glasses and the like—will make up for that one time you served margaritas in solo cups back in college. Not to mention, it shows your guests that you’re always prepared at hosting and entertaining.
Photo credit: Pexels.com
For your work/study nook
The home office is often overlooked when assembling gifts for a wedding registry. But the truth is, more and more people are forgoing a commute to the office for a chance to make their living remotely. And even if you are not a telecommuter, having a workspace where you can catch up on a personal research project, file taxes, pay bills or pursue that online language class you’ve always wanted to take, is important to every household. The key elements of a functional workspace are good lighting and a clever organization system, so a desk lamp, expandable drawer organizers, a divided file-slash-letter organizer and a storage box for your stationery are a few things to toss into the mix.
Finally, you’ll want—scratch that, you’ll need—a few more items to help keep your new abode in good shape. We’re talking cleaning appliances. Wedding registry etiquette tells us to keep things under the $200 price range, but there are plenty of best-selling vacuum cleaners that fall well below that limit. We’re also true believers in Swiffer’s WetJet floor cleaner, which we’re sure you’ll putting to work almost every week to keep dust and grime at bay. And for all those times you’ll leave your clothes in the dryer for a little longer that you should,this portable steamer will zap wrinkles into oblivion. Don’t forget to add a handy tool kit, which encompasses a plier, hammer, screwdriver, wrench, to name a few, to your registry. You’re going to need it when decking up your blank walls.
Starting a business? Building a brand? Phew. That takes a lot of work—and good content. You know, the kind that speaks to your potential clients and stops them in their tracks. Whether you’re looking for someone to pen weekly blog posts for your website, massage the text on your landing page or whip up some well-crafted biographies that showcase just how cool you are, I’m here to help.
My fees are based on the average prices listed in the 2019 Writer’s Market.
Blog Posts: $150 – $300 per 700-900-word post, depending amount of research needed.
Advertorials: $1.92/word or $550/page
Press/news release: $297/page
Book copyediting: $4-6/page
Ghostwriting, no credit: $1.65/word Article manuscript critique (magazine features): Depends on project, contact for details