“Come on Barbie, let’s go party!” — Aqua’s 1997 song may be on your playlist thanks to Greta Gerwig’s big hit. Setting up your home for a New Year’s Eve (NYE) party is also about creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. From choosing the right lighting, cleaning tables and countertops, to rearranging furniture to create comfy seating areas, and setting out a finger food buffet, it’s important to set the right tone for the evening.
Sumit Dhawan, Founder and Principal Architect, Cityspace’ 82 Architects, says the NYE party house has evolved beyond the confines of decor, transcending into an immersive and sensorial experience. “The celebrations involve a strategic fusion of design elements, emphasising colour palettes and materials to evoke the desired atmosphere,” he says. “Opt for warm, inviting hues like earthy tones or calming pastels that encourage conviviality and relaxation,” he adds.
As the sun sets on 2023, follow our tips to throw the ultimate house party that will leave guests talking about it for years to come.
Set the stage, create an ambience
The living room, often the largest in a house, is the perfect place to host a new year shindig. If the place doesn’t seem enough, rearrange the furniture to promote easy movement. Use the chairs and tables to create specific designated areas — for mixing drinks, socialising, or dining.
Dhawan says it’s vital to consider the flow and functionality of the house. “Open floor plans encourage movement and social interaction, seamlessly connecting indoor and outdoor spaces. Smart design elements like sliding glass doors or large windows blur the boundaries, allowing guests to transition effortlessly, and enhancing the overall experience,” he says.
Swati Patel, a Vadodara-based interior designer, says access to an outdoor space, be it a backyard, patio, or a terrace, changes the game. “Combine the open space with the living room/ dining area to create a larger space that takes advantage of natural elements.”
She suggests using “creative lighting options such as a string of bulbs or a series of candles, opt for comfortable seating arrangements, and set up themed food stations that make accessing snacks easier,” she says.
Dhawan says string lights, comfortable seating arrangements, and portable bars set against the backdrop of a starry sky create an unforgettable experience. “Utilise this space for intimate gatherings or as a vibrant extension of the indoor festivities.”
Plan the menu, set the table
Whether you host your party indoors or outdoors, food plays an extremely important role. Figure out your menu based on the kind of party you are hosting: a casual cocktail hour, brunch, lunch, sundowner, or sit-down meal.
Camille Styles, author of bestselling book, Camille Styles Entertaining, suggests asking yourself three questions when planning a menu: “What’s in season? How many people am I serving? Do my guests have dietary restrictions?”
“No party gets started without a lineup of finger foods, dips, and little snacks to nibble and share,” says Meenakshi Parikh, an Ahmedabad-based party planner. “Anchor your menu with heavy finger foods such as sandwiches, samosa chaat, skewers, fish and chips. A one-pot meal like biryani and an array of little desserts is the best way to end the meal,” she says.
Focus on the tablescape, creating a setting that wows your guests. Nina Hendrick, Founder of Nina Hendrick Home and a decorating and entertaining expert, says a tablescape is meant to elevate an entertaining experience. Juxtapose your regular china with fancy pieces, bring out the candles and votives, and decorate with everyday objects like citrus fruits and leaves.
“It’s a way to show your guests that you care about them and that the meal is special. This doesn’t have to be something that you spend a lot of money on. Some of the most elegant tablescapes I’ve ever seen have included flowers picked from the yard and everyday white plates,” she says.
A DIY cocktail bar lets guests mix their own drinks and experiment with spirits, mixers, and garnishes. However, make sure there are non-alcoholic options for designated drivers or those who don’t drink alcohol.
Organise the entertainment, add finishing touches
What’s a NYE party without some great entertainment? Be it music, dancing, photo booth, board games, or karaoke, make sure you plan the entertainment well ahead. A curated playlist is vital — it keeps everyone on their toes! Invest in a top-notch sound system after considering the venue size, budget, and desired volume levels.
Mix up the guest list by mixing age groups, careers, incomes, and couples. As cookbook author and TV host Nigella Lawson famously said: “I like to have a few new friends, a few old friends and the grown-ups, if you know what I mean.”
Make sure the lighting is not clinical; it should make everyone look good. Eschew overhead lighting in favour of lamps and lots of candles. “I prefer using groups of three pillar candles on a bed of flowers/leaves in the centre of a big table, and then accentuate it with sets of three. The rule of three works well,” says Sonali Desai, a Vadodara-based designer. Or else, do as Colin Cowie, the author of Dinner After Dark, does: use big bowls of eggplants and oranges — or coconuts, limes and kiwis — as centrepieces.
If you want to throw an unusual party, set up something to do: charades, a fancy dress party, a theme event, or a murder mystery dinner.