Holiday Entertaining: A Chat with Interior Designer Derrick Walker

Derrick WalkerNo doubt you are very aware that the holidays are here again. Funny how that happens about the same time every year, isn’t it? We thought Liberty Park residents (and Ledger readers) would appreciate some style and entertaining tips for holiday decorating and entertaining from a pro. So we sat down with Interior Designer Derrick Walker to get his take on what’s hot right now, including some do’s and don’ts and a recipe for his favorite signature cocktail to accent your party.

Check out Walker Design Studio online: Website | Facebook.

Monochromatic doesn't have to mean white or minimalist.

Liberty Park: Thinking about holiday décor and entertaining, how would you describe your aesthetic?
Derrick Walker:Simple and uncomplicated. But that doesn’t mean minimalist. I pick one color for my holiday accessories because the monochromatic theme gives me the flexibility to mix and match lots of different pieces. You might think monochromatic has to be white, but it can be any color that appeals to you or coordinates well with your home décor. For me it’s amber. I use amber mini lights on the tree and decorations in variations of amber, caramel, gold and chocolate. So I get layers of textures that look luxurious without overwhelming the senses. I also like florals done en masse to create a very clean yet natural look.

LP: What styles are “in” right now?
DW:A big trend that I see is “rustic holiday.” A lot of aged decorations, river birch or other wood accents, antique mercury vases and ornaments. Also, picking out the “not so perfect” Christmas tree. It may not be the “Charlie Brown tree,” but having one that is more organic than the common perfect conical evergreens. This also carries over to garland. A lot of designers and homeowners are using unexpected fillers for garlands to give an organic, homemade look (below). Gift wraps are simpler and less glitzy, like butcher paper tied with twine. This all leads to a nostalgic holiday experience with a hand-crafted feel.

This mailbox garland is a great example of using non-traditional fillers, such as clay pots, to give decorations a more organic look.

LP: What are the “must-have elements” of a good Christmas party atmosphere?
DW: Soft background holiday music — recorded or live — is a nice place to start. If you are playing recorded music, experiment with the volume level on the mp3 or CD player to find a level that’s “just right,” but won’t have your guests screaming over each other. Next, consider scents. Burn clean-smelling candles throughout your venue, maybe a pine or cinnamon. This will add subtle drama to the party. Also, small party favors for your guests — wrapped or bagged plainly (e.g., butcher paper and twine as mentioned above) — add a heartfelt touch that really says “thanks for coming!”

LP: Do you advise clients to “go all out,” or does the old “less is more” adage still hold true?
DW: It depends. But that should be gauged to your entertaining level. If you are having 30-50 guests, pick a one or two things to accent that everyone can experience, like live entertainment. If you having an intimate dinner party for six, definitely go all out. It won’t go unnoticed, and is less expensive for six than for 50.

LP: We’ve all seen, heard or read the “do this” rules for decorating and party hosting, but are there any “absolutely do not do this” rules we should know about?
DW: If you have a buffet table, do not leave it up to the guests to cut/slice meats and other food items. Always pre-slice or divide so guests can easily grab and go. (Especially once the adult beverages start flowing!)

LP: As far as holiday cocktails go, everyone knows the classics: Eggnog, Hot Buttered Rum, Hotty Toddy, Spiked Cider. What is your favorite? Is there one that you suggest everyone have on hand for their party or family gathering?
DW: A great signature drink is the peppermint martini. Colin Cowie has a classic recipe on his Life & Style blog [recipe follows]. With all the flavored vodkas and mixers out there today, the possibilities are endless. Just do a quick Google search for some great (free!) ideas.

Peppermint Martini, courtesy Colin Cowie

This is a classic recipe for a peppermint martini from Colin Cowie's Life & Style blog.

Peppermint Martini, by Colin Cowie
from Life & Style (visit)

5 ounces high quality vodka
2 ounces of white crème de menthe
1/2 ounce of peppermint schnapps
Mini candy canes

1. Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.
2. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish each with a candy cane.

Yield: Serves 2


[Editor’s note: For a fun twist on the Peppermint Martini, try Martha Stewart’s Candy Cane Cocktail.]