On Thursday, event planner Colin Cowie hosted a holiday party sponsored by Proctor & Gamble at Toronto's Thompson Hotel. Cowie filled a dreamy suite with sparkle and charmed us all with his South African accent and approachable personality. Having organized events for celebrities like Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey, he brings grand style to events with every detail covered. Colin's site says, "What you smell, touch, taste, feel and hear are carefully orchestrated to create the ultimate experience for Colin's clients." And that's exactly what he did for the event. Take a look at photos from the party and try some of his ideas when entertaining for an event that appeals to your guests' senses.
Fragrances Use unscented candles in the dining room and anywhere people are eating, and welcome guests with subtle scents in the entryway and living room.
Fresh Flowers Poor carnations have such a bad rep, but en masse in a solid colour they look stunning. (Am I the only one who likes to touch flowers that look so soft?) Create a piece like this with dome-shaped floral foam placed atop a vase. Stick an ornament or decoration inside for a festive touch. Don't stop at the tables — consider placing fresh flowers in your Christmas tree, too, for a consistent theme.
Soft Fabrics Lush upholstery, soft pillows and throws give the ultimate cosy feel. (Hello, winter decorating 101!)
Clean Surfaces Cowie focused on using P&G brands like Swiffer, Mr. Clean, Cascade, Dawn and more for all his holiday entertaining supplies — ensuring every surface was dusted, scrubbed and wiped before guests arrived for a polished look and squeaky-clean feel. And yes, he really did display dishwashing supplies in the kitchen. Great to have it on-hand as soon as you have a full load, or tucked away nearby.
Food Decorating for the season takes time — consider buying appetizers, baked goods and even pre-cut veggies to save time. Display snacks creatively on tiered trays and in glasses. This is a great time to use all those dishes you have locked away in your sideboard or hutch and buffet.
Drinks Have a delicious cocktail ready for guests once they're settled in to the house. For ease, stick to one signature drink and keep the recipe simple! Create a buffet table or food station equipped with plates, napkins and utensils so everyone can help themselves. Notice the lack of obstacles (like chairs) around this table — easy access and room for mingling is crucial.
Theme Keep your holiday decor consistent from room-to-room for a seamless transition. Colin focused on golds and silvers, right on-trend with the mixed metals look. "It doesn't tell a story," says Colin of homes where decor is mismatched throughout. He kept surfaces clutter-free as he says "Great style comes from ruthless editing."
Lighting Install a dimmer switch and light candles — it's flattering and creates the perfect ambience. (Honestly — we attended this event at 1:30 p.m. but it felt like 7 p.m. thanks to perfect lighting.) Cowie filled the space with candles — votives, pillars, tapers, you name it. To customize store-bought candles, he gave glass holders a gold leaf treatment. Crafty!
Sparkle Lay mirror tiles on a tablescape and top with votives and sparkling objects like bead garlands and ornaments. You can find mirror tiles at your local hardware store. Glittery pillow covers brought out for the season added extra glam to the living room, too.
Party Playlist Prevent holiday music fatigue and mix merry jingles between your usual tunes — create a playlist with 80% dedicated to your favourite songs and 20% to holiday hits. (There's only so many times I can listen to anyone crooning "Santa Baby.")
Hope these entertaining tips help you at your next soirée. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us, Colin! Here's to happy hosting.