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Whether you’re making final preparations for a Christmas get-together at home or planning a New Year’s Eve dinner party, read on for last-minute decor tips from three Hong Kong hospitality experts

Entertaining at home—especially over the holidays—is all about creating a warm, welcoming ambience for your guests. 

If you’ve left it too late to put together festive decorations, fret not. We asked three hospitality pros in Hong Kong to share their thoughts on stylish decorations for festive soirees: find inspiration on everything from tablescapes ideas to must-have lighting.

Meet our experts: 

Todd Darling, founder, Red Sauce Hospitality: The restaurateur is behind Hong Kong’s much-loved Italian-American concepts Posto Pubblico, Fini’s and Frank’s, which recently unveiled all-new interiors and a revamped menu. This month, the group also opened Frank’s Records, an extension of the brand offering a sizeable selection of vinyl records as well as a daily menu of fresh and preserved seafood. Expect freshly shucked oysters, caviar, specialty tinned seafood from around the world and more. 

Archie Haig, senior interior designer, Pirata Group: As part of Pirata Group’s in-house design team, Haig created the interiors of oceanfront Italian bakery Pane e Latte; temakaria and sake bar TMK Rap & Rolls; as well as The Sixteenth, a new 18,000-sq-ft dining destination boasting a collection of concepts, including Italian opera house-inspired trattoria La Favorita, to name a few of the establishments she designed. 

Kim Plaggenburg, head of marketing, Feather & Bone: Boutique deli and grocery store Feather & Bone has 11 branches around town, some of which encompass all-day dining concepts. They’re known for beautiful interiors that pay homage to 20th-century British butcher shops. Feather & Bone is also famed for its extravagant festive decorations. “We’re a community business, so we encourage our staffers to make their own mark on each Feather & Bone store,” notes Plaggenburg.

In case you missed it: Christmas 2021: 7 Easy Steps for a Stylish Holiday Dinner Party at Home


1. Find your inspiration

“Growing up, my mother always decorated the house fully for Christmas. She bought and made Santa [decorations], [as well as] different kinds of decorations. We saved and collected them. Putting up the decorations was part of the fun of Christmas.” — Todd Darling

“Our stores are inspired by the archetypal British butchers and grocery stores of the 1940s, so we aim to invoke the same sort of nostalgia with our festive decorations.” — Kim Plaggenburg

2. Create a sense of warmth

“Keep it classic and stick to a traditional colour palette—red, green with touches of gold or silver.” — Kim Plaggenburg

“Decorating for the holidays is about creating a sense of warmth and savouring the yearly rituals of the season. We might not be able to wander down to Victoria Park and gather holly and ivy, but I would suggest going overboard with the greenery. Not only will it fill your home with the most gorgeous smells, but it is one of the easiest ways to decorate.” — Archie Haig

3. Light some candles

“Intersperse your findings with a sprinkling of candles or fairy lights—an elegant and classic way to bring the outside in. Go big on any flat surface you have: coffee tables, windowsills and the dining table. I would also suggest adding some coloured candles. Loewe has just launched its first collection of candles—the beetroot candlestick would look splendid nestled among some festive sprigs, or housed in some classic vintage brass candlesticks.” — Archie Haig 

“Lighting always has to be real candles—never LED. In our restaurants, we don’t use LED lighting unless it’s absolutely essential. It’s not the most energy-efficient way to light the restaurant, but you cannot replace real light with artificial light—and it’s the same at home.” — Todd Darling

In case you missed it: Luxury Scented Candles That Will Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas

4. Add sparkle

“Baubles should not be limited to the Christmas tree alone. I like to hang them around the perimeter of my apartment—along the window sills and anywhere I am able to attach them. I buy them all from eBay and Etsy. I look for baubles with real age and patina to hang off long hand-dyed velvet ribbons. They look fantastic next to any sort of candlelight, or the twinkling Hong Kong skyline.” — Archie Haig

5. Keep sustainability in mind

“We are advocates of sustainable decorations such as fruits and local flora. Mandarins, fresh figs, pomegranates, whole and unshelled walnuts, as well as rosemary make for bright and environmentally friendly tablescapes. It is a pleasure for the eyes—and the taste buds—as you’ll eat it all later.” — Kim Plaggenburg

“Once you buy decorations, you own them, and next year you don’t have to go through that process. If you can’t store them, then recycle them.” — Todd Darling

6. Pay attention to your dining table

“When it comes to tablescapes, it’s all about fresh flowers. I keep my fresh flowers simple, but abundant. Also, I don’t like fillers [in floral arrangements]—like extra leaves or baby’s breath. If you’re going to make a table decoration, it should be just flowers, not other kinds of things.” — Todd Darling

“Before the life of interior design found me, I was a cook, and [making] a hearty festive spread is a lovely way of sharing my passion with friends and family. We have a very tiny storage room that I have converted into a dining space, by building a table from a sheet of plywood to the exact dimensions of the room and adding some trestle legs. This works wonderfully [when] covered by a large table cloth and an array of colourful tableware.” — Archie Haig 

“Grazing tables are all the rage, so if you’re short on time, push the dining table to one side and set it up as a buffet. Use books, overturned saucepans or anything else to hand to create staggered levels. Fill the gaps between plates with festive fruits, pine cones, unshelled nuts, fresh herb stems, champagne corks and so forth. This requires minimum effort but delivers maximum impact.” — Kim Plaggenburg

Read more: 5 Kitchen Appliances to Easily Try Viral Recipes Like Cloud Bread, Garden Focaccia, and Festive Cakes

7. Don’t forget your drinks and glassware

“I am currently lusting after La DoubleJ’s range of jewel-like rainbow glasses—could anything be more festive than [having] a new year glass of fizz out of one of these?” — Archie Haig 

“Always have specialty tonics, fresh juices and good ice.” — Todd Darling

“Save the good stuff for another occasion, and rent where possible. Reusable festive wine tags can help guests keep track of where their glass is, but failing that, have guests make their own mark on glassware with a Christmassy gold pen. You’ll be surprised by how creative some guests can be after a cup of mulled wine.” — Kim Plaggenburg

8. Curate your playlist

“Play the music that you like and be yourself. [When I visit someone’s home] I want to hear the records they have.” — Todd Darling

“The holiday atmosphere is cemented by a good playlist. My festive playlist is populated by classic crooners, archetypal classical pieces—and a light sprinkling of Wham towards the late evening.” — Archie Haig 

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