Holiday Entertaining in A Small Space With Cassandra LaValle Of coco+kelley

Written by on December 9, 2012 in Entertaining, Lifestyle - 9 Comments
Holiday Entertaining With Cassandra LaValle | Photography by Julie Harmsen
10 of 19
  • What’s your holiday entertaining style?
    When it comes to the holidays, I tend to be very classic-meets-kitschy. It’s the best time of year for extra sparkle, traditions, and nostalgia! I entertain keeping all of those those pieces in mind. I want people to feel like things are just a little over-the-top, while still comfortable and fun! I also think it’s a great time for different circles of friends to meet and mingle! During the year, I usually keep to dinner parties where most people know each other, but the holidays are the perfect time to bring everyone together!

  • How did you pick a theme for your holiday décor?
    My holiday decorating always starts with me putting up the tree. Whatever I do, my palette has to work with that….and I have a black tree! (It sounds crazy, but I love it!) This year, I was super inspired by the Burberry Prorsum Spring RTW show—there were so many fun, bright colors! But I loved the idea of cobalt blue and teal—it felt so sophisticated! I added in my signature green and some gold for sparkle.

  • “My tree this year (yes, it’s black!) was inspired by a rich palette of blues and greens, balanced by gold baubles and peach paper balls. The green tinsel also helps with the sparkle factor! I even added a strand of green lights to the white ones for a little extra color.”

    Get the “holla” sign here (we just did!).

  • “I like to keep small spaces feeling cohesive, so we put the same paper balls in the tree by the bar—and I made my own fun metallic fringe! Creating a spot like this where people can mix their own drinks is ideal for those whose friends (like mine!) have specific tastes when it comes to cocktails. Another idea is to limit the bar to basics and then set out a couple holiday recipes for guests to follow.”

  • What are your top five tips for holiday entertaining in a small space?

    1. Don’t be afraid to move furniture to create space! Store it in your bedroom or ask a neighbor to house it for the night (and invite the neighbor!).

    2. Separate the bar and the food so people can easily access both without crowding.

    3. Keep decorations off of valuable surface area—instead, hang festive garlands or wreaths.

    4. Assess the surfaces you have to work with and get creative. For example: using bookshelves to house glassware for people to pour drinks rather than setting them out on a table.

    5. Keep food bite-sized—chances are, you won’t have space for people to sit and eat a whole meal.

  • What are your must-haves for entertaining?
    For my own parties, there are a few ‘rules’ I follow to make things easier for me and fun for my guests! First off: a signature drink. Unless you have the space and budget for a large bar, it’s nice to offer one or two signature drinks for the evening along with the recipe for people to make it themselves (or, have it premixed, if possible!).

    Secondly, great lighting. Candlelight and the dimmer switch will be your best friends for setting the mood. The third ‘rule’ is really an overall mantra—making the party an experience. That means thinking about the details of the evening from beginning to end. Break out the good china, put up some festive décor, treat guests to little parting gifts, or add a fun element like having them help decorate the tree, enjoying a hot chocolate bar, or playing some holiday karaoke! In other words, make your party different in some way than the one they just went to last weekend.


  • What’s on your holiday party playlist?
    I love classic Christmas tunes. Think Ella and Louis, Dean Martin, and Rosemary Clooney.

  • “Three of my favorite things: a shimmery holiday dress, a big sparkly cocktail ring, and a martini! Don’t forget to stop and enjoy your own party!”

  • Can you share a few tips for styling a bar for a small space?
    Keep it simple! As I mentioned before, sometimes having a signature drink is the best option, along with selections of wine, beer, and—of course—champagne. Using trays and ice buckets to contain items will help make sure they get back in their original spot instead of starting to spread around the table—and, they look good! You could fill the tray with faux snow or tie some ornaments around the bucket to make them more festive. I always like to put out a few nibbles at the bar too—like assorted nuts—along with a mini floral arrangement.

    “Small space doesn’t mean sacrificing style. If you can, make sure you’ve got all the elements for a festive holiday party. Fun décor, a few little floral arrangements and votives to spread throughout the space, and champagne ready to drink or pour! To make the most of your tabletop space, consider tiered serveware, too! “

  • What’s typically on your menu for your holiday parties?
    I like to do a mix of sweet and savory for most parties, but especially holidays! I think people get a little overloaded with food this time of year, so I like to keep things fresh and light. These little pear and cheese bites are a current favorite, and I love these little cranberry and brie bites as well.

  • “I’m obsessed with these zig zag paper placemats—we put a few of them together to create a runner for the table that can be tossed after the party (no need to worry about stained linens!).”

  • What are your favorite places to shop for holiday entertaining?
    There are a couple great places for decorations in Seattle, but lately, I’ve been spending most of my time at Display & Costume. I usually end up wandering around for a good hour considering all the options! Crate & Barrel is also wonderful when you’re in need of extra glassware or dishes—they have some incredibly affordable pieces! I refuse to use plastic or paper when entertaining.

  • Favorite holiday cocktail?
    I love anything with champagne, but my current favorite is actually mochas with a splash of gingerbread liquor (the recipe will be up tomorrow on coco+kelley, actually!).

    “The apartment totally set up and ready for guests! The bar was set up where the TV usually is, and the dining table shrunk down to its smaller size so guests can easily gather around and use the settee for extra seating. Extra chairs around the table can be pulled wherever needed (or stored if they’re in the way!). “



  • “A few favorite necessaries for the coffee table: candlelight, coasters, and sequins for sparkle!”

  • Hostess outfit of choice?
    I think it’s up to the hostess to really set the mood, so if you’re a little over-the-top, it’s okay—but make sure you’re comfortable! After all, you’ll be the one running around the whole time! I’m actually sharing my favorite hostess outfit on Wednesday, but I’ll let you in on the secret. It’s this tulle skirt from Anthropologie paired with a cozy flannel from Madewell.

  • “I like offering a variety of glassware to guests—it makes it easy for them to keep track of their drinks.”

  • Lauren Maxwell

    I love these tips. You have me wanting to go home from work and plan a party. :)

    Lauren from Flee to the Cleve

  • Amanda

    So pretty! I’d love to know where those black and white striped cocktail napkins came from..

  • Erin

    Gorgeous. Where are those glasses in the last picture from????

  • c

    gah! You guys (GG, not CK) should really build slideshows to be clickable (like on facebook) or put the arrows embedded to the side of the photo. It’s super annoying to have to scroll back up after every photo. Cassandra looks lovely though!

  • Jessica

    Wow, there are a lot of really great ideas here! I’m impressed! I love this article.

  • Donna

    I’d love to know more info on the 3-tier server. So classic.

  • Lauren | Seventeenth & Irving

    Would love to know more about Cassandra’s dress! I didn’t see details about it in any of the descriptions?

  • Pingback: Small Space Entertaining This Holiday Season |

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