Setting the Stage
Behind some of life’s greatest celebrations are the thoughtful room design, beautiful materials and comfortable furniture that set the stage for memorable holiday gatherings.
Whether your style leans toward formal French empire, soft contemporary or classic traditional, a home sets the stage for a festive gathering of friends and family that people will remember for years to come.
“The home provides the background, but the people are the characters in the play and the real entertainment. They’re the ones who are important,” says Bill Armstrong, a Turtle Creek resident who entertains regularly. “Everything else is just the set design.”
With that in mind, for no-fuss holiday window dressing, consider an appetizer buffet that includes a couple of homemade treats along with favorite foods from local spots: that incredible red pepper and onion dip from the gourmet shop, spring rolls from an Asian restaurant, an amazing salsa from the neighborhood Mexican place. For the ultimate in simplicity, offer one fabulous cocktail, a house wine and non-alcoholic options.
Another fun and festive holiday idea is a wine and cheese potluck. Invite a mixture of old and new friends, and ask everyone to bring a bottle of wine and one kind of cheese to share. You supply crackers and French bread for the tasting, and coffee and cookies for later in the evening. Hand out paper and pens and ask everyone to comment on the wines; then compare notes after tasting.
Or, you might invite friends who have no family of their own in Texas to an “extended family” parry at your home. Ideally, you’ll supply the location, plates, napkins, utensils, cups, glasses and beverages, and everyone else brings ham or turkey, side dishes, breads, snacks and dessert.
Finally, why not simplify the Christmas tree ordeal and start a new tradition by inviting friends to an annual tree-trimming party? Make a few dozen cookies and ask each guest to bring a tree ornament, then serve a simple buffet of sandwiches.
Whichever style of holiday entertaining you prefer, from pot luck to a sit-down, six-course dinner, remember to enjoy the greatest gift of all: time to share the joy of the season with those you care about most.
Many busy executives and empty nesters who relish the convenience of high-rise living have discovered that maximum style can still be achieved in minimum space.
For example, Bill Armstrong, who has lived in Turtle Creek North for 21 years, regularly hosts parties for up to 65 people in his 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. One of the older buildings along Turtle Creek Boulevard, the building was originally built with high ceilings and generously scaled rooms … perfect for widows moving out of Highland Park with large furniture and period pieces that require more room to breathe.
Armstrong finds the space perfectly accommodates his signature French empire/English regency style, inspired by his dear friend, the late Sigmund Mandell, a well-known collector in Dallas. “He had the most incredible taste of anybody I have ever known. I’m doing just a fraction of what he did here … the same kind of period, same feel,” Armstrong says.
Armstrong enjoys mixing pieces from different styles and periods that fit his unique look. His philosophy: buy what you love. “If you have a sense of style and an eye for quality, you don’t have to spend a fortune and always buy the most expensive things,” he remarks.
Guests who visit during the holidays are often treated to a visual feast from Armstrong’s extensive collection of German nutcrackers, holiday china and Christmas tree decorations. He adds luminous touches such as antique silver, crystal, glass and mirrors for shine and excitement during the season. “I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to collecting,” he admits with a smile.
While he enjoys living in a formal space, Armstrong says his goal is to have everyone who visits his home relax and have a great time. “When people come over, they always comment on the warm ambiance my home has, which is what I’m going for. Once people see that I’m not at all uptight and I take my shoes off and put my feet up on the furniture, I think everyone realizes that that’s what this home is all about: being comfortable.”
And when he invites people over, Armstrong makes sure that his friends have plenty to eat and drink – presented in an interesting or unusual way that reflects his unique style. Even when serving casual fare, he’s apt to offer it on priceless 18th century china or a 300-year-old antique silver serving tray snared from a favorite haunt in New Orleans or Europe. “I don’t like really fou-fou food. I love serious party food presented in a fabulous and formal way,” he says.