Mikel Welch knows a thing or two about creating an inviting space. As set designer for The Steve Harvey Show and former contestant on HGTV Design Star, Welch dreams up creative solutions to design problems and takes a sophisticated yet unstuffy approach to interiors. This Sunday, November 16 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Welch will host a free mini-seminar on designing traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner parties at CB2 (800 W. North Ave). Ahead of the event, we chatted about centerpieces, his Turkey Day playlist, and tips for making guests feel comfortable.
What's the best seating arrangement for the holidays: one large dining table with a ton of chairs pulled up or more casual groupings of seats around a home?
A large communal table helps corral everyone in and creates the perfect setting to promote conversation. You can break tradition by using a fun assortment of chairs so the mood is less formal and more inviting.
What are your favorite centerpiece and table runner ideas?
I love a beautiful assortment of persimmons, lamb's ear, and miniature pumpkins. This grouping of fall foliage is so easy to arrange and really helps set the holiday mood. I also like to ground my dining table by creating a unique table runner using Liora Carpet Tiles by CB2. The carpet tiles are stylish and also double as trivets for hot dishes.
Should you add floral elements anywhere else in your home—near the front door or in the bathroom?
I believe in spreading holiday cheer throughout the home as long as it's done in a tasteful manner. A small cluster of painted gourds and pumpkins can spice up your porch steps, entryway or mantel. Get creative and try painting your pumpkins using painter's tape to create a cool chevron or stripe pattern.
How do you make guests feel comfortable?
The quickest way to make guests feel comfortable is creating a causal and relaxed environment. I love to have mini game sessions while dinner is being prepared to break the ice with guests that might not know each other that well.
Would you recommend any mail-order products or services to ease the hosting load?
Preparing for a large dinner party can be a major undertaking with all of the planning and prep work required. I would highly recommend hiring a cleaning service to help whip your home into shape so you can strictly focus on the meal. This will truly help take a load off.
What songs will be on your Thanksgiving playlist this year?
I’ll definitely include a few classics such as Dinah Washington’s "What a Difference a Day Makes," Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer’s "Baby It's Cold Outside," and Frank Sinatra’s "Let it Snow."
What’s your favorite cocktail that’s as easy as it is impressive?
My favorite cocktail, hands down, is an Old Fashioned. Simply whiskey, bitters, sugar, cherries, orange peel and water together. It's one of the most classic cocktails that you can order and screams class and sophistication.
Do you have any recommendations for day-of activities?
I’m all about making mimosas and curling up on the sofa watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's the perfect stress reliever before I start prepping for the big dinner.