On New Year’s Eve, the stroke of midnight will find me … in bed, fast asleep. (Sorry to be so boring, but after working a gazillion hours during the holiday season, by the time we close the doors of Nell Hill’s on New Year’s Eve, I’m ready to crash!) But if I had the energy to celebrate late into the night, I would want to be at a grand and glorious outdoor fete like my friend David’s. Come peek in on his stunning winter soiree and be inspired to bring in the New Year in style at your home. 

Create an Outdoor Setting Worthy of a Celebration

Don’t you want to just disappear into this magical fairytale like setting? That’s the reaction I had when I saw David’s home dressed for a decadent midnight champagne and dessert celebration. Those of us who live in colder climates shy away from hosting events outdoors this time of year. But if you’re in a part of the country that is more moderate, take the party outdoors on New Year’s! Illuminate your outdoor room with yards of twinkling lights, like David did when he wrapped the carved colonnades of his portico with miles of fresh pine garland dotted with tiny white lights. For romantic outdoor lighting, I also like to suspend votive cups from the branches of my shrubs and line my walkways with lanterns.

Even if it’s too cold and snowy in your part of the country to stay outdoors too long, don’t ignore the great potential of your outdoor rooms. If you have an outdoor hearth, set it with a blazing fire and toss cuddly blankets on your outdoor furnishings so guests can snuggle by the fire. Can it get more romantic than that? You can also use your outdoor room for a bar service, eliminating the need to ice the drinks.

But if the thought of trekking out into the cold in completely abhorrent, treat your outdoor space as a decorative element. Hang glass votives in your trees and bushes, then fill them with battery operated candles, so guests can look out on a magical vista of sparkling lights. Or, line your walkway with candle-filled lanterns. I really love the battery operated candles we sell at Nell Hill’s that work on timers or have remote controls because you can turn them on at dusk every night without having to go out in the cold.


Fine Finishes Outside? Why Not!

Shake things up a bit by using fine indoor furnishings and trims outside. It’s so unexpected to find such luxury on the patio that it feels positively indulgent. David does this masterfully on his portico. His outdoor furnishings feature a mix of materials, all of which can handle the stinging Midwest weather and still look like a million bucks. The winged back chairs, which look simply smashing in this setting, are covered in white vinyl so they can handle rain, birds, leaves – you name it. Just a wipe with a rag and they are sparkling new. David’s outdoor color scheme of black and white is one of my all time favorites, and I’ve reinvented this time and again on my own porch.


Decadent Displays of Fabulous Food

On January 1, the diet begins. So on December 31, indulge! Even if you don’t taste a morsel from this glorious display, you’ll feel like you spoiled yourself.  Those of you who know me know that I do not cook. Ever. So when I entertain, I purchase ready-made foods that are visually stunning, like this dreamy layer cake. Then, I pull out my best serving pieces to present the prepared food in the most dramatic way possible.  My mantra is presentation over preparation, and it’s served me well.

Everything looks more regal when placed on a riser and covered with a glass cloche. Even this simple moon pie looks fit for a queen when presented in such a fashion, doesn’t it?

A mistake people often make when setting up a food service is to cover the tabletop with a sea of flat platters and bowls, al la church pot luck. The secret is to employ a mixture of serving pieces that give you a variety of heights. Why does this display on David’s serving table work so well? He started with a gorgeous backdrop – a breathtaking floral display in a classic Nell Hill’s black iron garden urn. It’s tall and dramatic and arresting. Next, he used a mix of tall risers and jars to hold the cake and candies that repeat the red and white color palette. The foreground is reserved for just a few low-to-the-table necessities, like the dessert plates and silver coffee service.


Create a Drinks Service Worthy of a Toast

When the clock strikes midnight, you want to have plenty of iced bubbly to pour into your guests’ glasses. Instead of hiding pretty bottles of champagne or prosecco in the fridge, incorporate them into your party décor. Fill a silver punch bowl with ice to display the drinks. Or, find another interesting container to be your ice bucket, like a wooden dough bowl, a blue and white cachepots or even a rustic bird bath.

Instead of just lining up your champagne flutes on the tabletop, ground them on an elegant silver tray. Beautiful trays are another one of my ace-in-the-hole serving pieces because anything you put on top of them is instantly elevated from ho hum to magnificent.

Isn’t David’s drinks station glorious? The simple white temple jar gives the display dramatic vertical height. Shining silver accents, like a candlestick and gazing ball, add a bit of sparkle. And the party’s color palette of red and white is repeated in the little bouquet of red roses and the fluffy snow ball of a cake that looks so yummy on the glass riser.


Here’s to a Fabulous 2013!

No matter how you celebrate the end of 2012, whether you’re at a grand party with legions of guests, an intimate gathering with your closest friends, or, like Dan and me, curled up under a pile of quilts getting some well-earned post-holiday sleep, I hope the evening finds you happy and well. I wish I could personally thank each one of you, my dear friends and loyal customers, for all you have done to enrich my life in the past year! I can’t wait to go through 2013 together, having a blast as we celebrate our style and make our homes lovely!

P.S. We are packing the Nell Hill’s 2013 calendar full of fun and interesting events, like a special February visit (complete with elegant dining under an event tent) by one of the most gifted designers I’ve ever worked with, Holly Blalock with CR Laine; open houses at my historic home; and sales, sales, sales! Stay tuned ….

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18 Responses to “Ring in the New Year in Style”

  1. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    I find it hard to believe we are already looking towards New Years. Don’t want December to end. I had my party with a heavy heart. I’m sure it was hard for any of us to focus on our plans due to the tragedy. Such sadness. I’m sure our prayers are being heard for the families. I had my gathering and all were so excited with the way I decorated this year, so different from the other years thanks to this blog, Mary Carol’s books and home and that incredible house tour. I incorporated the outdoor statures inside, the pinecones and greenery into my trees and garland and decor, decorated my urns, and used the fabulous thick plaid felt ribbon I bought at Nell Hills. I went over Mary Carol’s entertaining book and made a check list of all her details and fabulous pointers and I believe my party was a success. I also used what Mary Carol points out in this post, using different heights on your table. I used my temple jar as well as various size cake stands and mason jars to adjust the height of centerpieces. Such great tips. This is an excellent post as well. Luckily my friend host the New Years Eve party and I can sit back and relax. Thank you for all these wonderful and useful ideas.
    Merry Christmas

  2. Mary Riley Says:

    I just love you E Mails!!!! Keep it up!

  3. Polly Hada Says:

    Been following you for about a year now and long to make a trip to your neck of the woods. I have one of your books and will be getting more. LOVE your blog and so glad I signed on. All of the December posts have been fabulous. What a talented gal.

  4. Franki Says:

    That snowball cake, etc. lush!!! Bring on the sparklers, too!!! franki

  5. Phyllis Airington Says:

    Without a doubt you are the greatest.
    Came to your open house this year and what a great time. Not only going thru your home but your store with my daughter and her neighbor and my sister in law..
    Enjoyed a good lunch of Mexian food also.
    You are so friendly with people and truly feel like I had known you for years.
    Looking foward to 2013 and learning from you and visiting your Missouri store.

    Phyllis Airington
    Kansas Cty, Mo.

  6. Debbie Cantales Says:

    The different heights on the table is always more appealing. The candy in the jars is a nice touch, but I hesitate to use candy because no one eats it. How do I get over this hurdle? I guess I could bring the leftover candy to my office since I don’t eat it either ;o)

  7. Joan Fore Says:

    Your blog was beautiful as always.

  8. Mary Carol Says:

    Happy New Year (early) to all of you! Lisa, I wish I could have been a “fly on the wall” of your party – sure all was lovely! Debbie, I usually think of the candy as more of a design element than a snack when it’s part of a display like this, under a cloche. But you could easily modify it and put fresh fruit or veggies on the risers. I do that a lot with 3-tiered servers – put a cluster of grapes on one, some cheese and crackers on another, etc. It’s beautiful, plus all the goodies get eaten and there is less for Dan and me to snack on as we clean up, which is a good thing. Polly, welcome to the Nell Hill’s family! DO come see us in 2013 — it’s my New Year’s resolution for you :) To the rest of you girls – love you and thanks for your kind comments (you put gas in my tank)!

  9. Diane Bailey Says:

    Don’t feel badly. I am in bed early too.. Looks beautiful tho’….What would we do without our “work”??. Happy New Year.. Diane Bailey ASID

  10. lynne Says:

    I look forward to your weekly blog spot full of inspirational ideas. I’m used them over and over in my home as well as my shop. In between posts I pour through your books and pictures. From our home to yours I wish you a Very Merry Christmas!
    Lynne @ Lynnesgiftsfromtheheart.com

  11. Mary Carol Says:

    Thank you so much, Lynne. Merry Christmas to you, too! Diane, a toast to the sleepy heads!

  12. Mary C. from Olathe Says:

    Thank you for all the beautiful items you always have for sale. Also all the ideas you give us. You carter to all styles and all budgets. You make shopping and decorating fun. You are very special. I will be looking forward to all the fun things you have planned for us next year.

  13. Susan Says:

    Thank you for the beautiful new years inspiration.
    I never tire of reading yr blog.

    We visited your lovely home in the fall and my sister and I
    fell in love with the framed poem on yr living
    room bookcase. It was abt growing old and written by Mary
    Garretty Can u shed any light on the poem?
    I too hope to grow lovely when old.
    Merry Christmas.

  14. Gretchen Says:

    Wonderful holiday spirit! Thank you.

  15. Nancy Potter Says:

    What a wonderful year your public has enjoyed. We have looked, learned, and yearned for the beauty of Nell Hill. But the big question—-Will we have the pleasure of a new book purchase in 2013. Nancy

  16. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Susan,
    for years we thought Dan’s grandmother penned the poem shortly before she passed away, but it turns out it was an existing poem that she had written out by memory. Dan happened upon the poem when he was going through her things and it touched him so much that I had it framed and hung it in our living room. I’m so glad it brightened your day, too.

  17. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Nancy,
    Yes, I’m excited to share that I will have a new book out the fall of 2013. The working title is Nell Hill’s: Rooms We Love. It’s going to be filled with images of wonderful spaces and is sure to inspire us all as we decorate our own “rooms we love.” Stay tuned – we’ll have more info to come about the book release!

  18. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait for that new book! How exciting! Gonna start my countdown until fall 2013. How fun! More ideas and one more beautiful book to cherish.

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