‘Tis the season for entertaining guests. Whether hosting a big holiday bash or a small, intimate dinner party, you want your lighting to set the right tone and to feel as special as the holidays themselves. Although the season brings to mind all things “merry and bright,” that doesn’t necessarily extend to your lighting. Follow these tips to achieve an inviting lighting scheme that will make your guests feel reluctant to leave.

The key to party lighting is to combine softness with sparkle. Soft light sets a warm, inviting tone that makes your guests want to linger. Dim or darken overhead lights, and allow accent lighting to create warm pools of light around conversation areas. Dimmed lighting will also let your Christmas tree or other holiday lights shine more brightly, creating a festive holiday mood.

Add to the ambience with candlelight by spreading votives or pillars around the room’s perimeter. If you have a fireplace, light a fire (if it’s a faux fireplace, light a grouping of pillar candles in the hearth). If there are children in attendance, consider battery-operated flameless candles or LED tea lights. You can also emulate candlelight by stringing clear holiday twinkle lights across the mantle or along bookcases, creating soft, ambient light with a hint of holiday glitter.

The kitchen has a tendency to become Party Central, There, once the cooking is done, the same guidelines apply. Dim overhead lights and turn up the cabinet lighting for soft ambient light. If you haven’t installed under cabinet lighting, run strings of holiday lights along the back of the countertops, and on top of the cabinets if there is space. Group candles on the countertop or island, or as a centerpiece on the kitchen table. If you have a crystal chandelier connected to a dimmer switch, turn it up just enough to show off the chandelier’s sparkle without flooding the room with light.

Keeping the lighting soft and bringing in subtle festive touches will create a relaxed party atmosphere that encourages your guests to hang out and enjoy themselves, and places the focus on the company instead of on the lighting. Happy Holidays.

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