There’s something so appealing about the way people in Northern Europe decorate for the holidays. It’s elegantly minimalist, yet still festive.
For my husband’s office party, I knew I wanted to capture this feeling, so I recreated my own modern Scandinavian setting with a Nordic Christmas to remember.
Setting a Nordic scene
My friend, Natalie, of Pretty Paper Club, is a paper genius and helped me create the invitation for our holiday celebration. I’m all about keeping it simple with digital invites when appropriate, but I really wanted to set the mood for this special event, and this lovely invitation fit the bill. Because birch wood is prominent in a lot of Scandinavian decor, I wanted to incorporate it.
The thin sheets of birch bark were amazing. Made from blown-down trees, they are thin enough to cut down to size with a normal pair of scissors, but sturdy enough to serve as a great backing for the vellum paper overlay. The raw bark also offered a nice texture. I simply tied it with twine, and added an aromatic rosemary sprig to create a sensory connection before the party even started.
Pro Tip: Think about creative ways to give your guests a feel for your event with the invitation. It will get them excited to be included in a thoughtful and subtle way.
This was unlike a lot of the parties I typically design. I spent less than $50 on linens and foliage. There were actually no flowers in this tablescape, only greenery. When I scoured over Pinterest, most of the Nordic-inspired decor I found had a lot of wood, twigs, antlers, branches, and sprigs of green, but very few flowers; so I skipped blooms altogether. The mercury votive candle holders were from Marshall’s and the antlers were from At Home.
All of the greenery was purchased from Trader Joe’s: $2.49 per bunch for a total of $25. I rented the table runners for $10 each.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a big budget for flowers, bunches of simple, inexpensive greenery can achieve a beautiful setting. Layer them for interest, hiding the stems under other leafy branches. Use decorative objects from your own home to add height in the middle.
One of my favorite places for interesting items is World Market, which is where I found the glass and metal houses. They’re advertised as terrariums, but I can reuse these throughout the year. I’m thinking Spring flowers, Easter bunnies, moss with twinkle lights, flameless candles, succulents, Fall pumpkins… the list goes on and on!
Because wood plays such a big role in this theme, I rented two long tables and four benches, and used an ivory jute runner down the center. We served the food buffet style, which lent itself beautifully to a family-type feel. Don’t you love the cozy look of the sheepskin rugs? Thanks IKEA.
The place setting
Boy-girl-boy-girl is how I like to set the table, but I didn’t want to do assigned places since the bench seating suggested a casual arrangement. Instead, I set out fur deer ornaments for the ladies and green sprigs for the men, each tied to the napkins to subtly indicate the difference and enhance the Nordic theme.
The pewter beaded chargers are my own—I’ve been collecting (i.e. hoarding) these for a few years, so now I have enough for a large dinner party of 30. As always, I waited for sales, free shipping, discount coupons, etc. to lessen the guilt.
And for the finishing touch, I love the “twig” stems of the flatware—perfect for this setting!
Grub and drinks
Contrary to my affinity for entertaining at home, this party was held off-site at a really cool place, Vinum 55. It doubles as a wine storage facility and a tasting venue. Its intimate, elevated back patio was perfect for this fête.
Our membership at Vinum 55 allowed us to bring in our own wine, which we paired with select cheeses for a fun start to the evening. We offered these pairings:
Sancere = Goat cheese
Gewürtztraminer = Brie
French Bordeaux = Gruyere
Napa Cabernet Sauvignon = Parmesan
One of my favorite local restaurants, Sierra Bonita, catered the event, and it was glorious to not have to worry about cooking on this occasion!
Here is the menu we selected:
Fresh greens, blackberries, red onions, blue cheese, spiced pecans, tomatoes, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette
Stacked cheese enchiladas
Spanish rice & charro beans
Smoked green chile pork with warmed tortillas
Brownie bites & lemon tarts
Gifts for the ladies
Tying into the Nordic theme, ivory fur-trimmed gloves fit into the scheme perfectly as a gift for all the ladies. Mark & Graham does a beautiful gift wrap (one less thing to do!) and I found these for 50% off on their website. Score!
Pro Tip: When shopping online, put items from your favorite sites in your “cart” while shopping around. Sometimes the store’s browser cookies will recognize when you’re interested in something and a magical discount may appear.
World Market (who should be sponsoring me by now) has a great holiday display this year with their minimalist wood and fur look. The big laser-cut paper snowflakes were only $7 each, but made a stunning impact when we hung them. The firefly lights made for even more dramatic effect.
You know I love a good DIY element, so here’s what I did for this party. I purchased about 25 clear acrylic bulb ornaments from Michael’s and pushed one sprig of a long pine garland into each one. I used artificial sprigs so they wouldn’t wilt. It was simple, and it looked so pretty with the candlelight. The best part: these cost less than $1 each!
Of course, good music and good wine make a good party even better, so be sure to include those. Add a glass of bubbly 15 minutes to enjoy before your guests arrive, and you’ve just created your own Nordic holiday.