I've long thought of Toronto-based interior designer Jessica Waks as the queen of entertaining; she's an amazing cook, fantastic designer with and eye for neo-traditionalism, and she can style up an event like no other. So I thought it would be so fun to get her expert tips on how to navigate the holidays, and we are especially looking at how she prepares to decorate and host events for Hanukkah. The holiday begins on December 24th this year, and this beautiful 8-night celebration is laden with tradition and symbolism. Jessica so perfectly takes this special 'festival of lights,' and creates a wonderful opportunity for elegant entertaining and spending time with family.
Previously Style at Home's Design Editor, Jessica can now often be found appearing as a guest expert on the Marilyn Denis Show. I'm honored to share a little chat we had divulging all the details of her hosting and decorating tips (all images via Style at Home | photography by Donna Griffith unless otherwise noted):
Photography by Stacey Branford
Jessica Waks: The typical colourway you see is royal blue with silver and gold. I obviously gravitate towards the gold because I'm all about the warm metals, but I also like adding in some soft aqua and lighter blues which feels a touch more current and fresh.
NM: What are your must-have festive greens and flowers?
JW: It's all about layering in beautiful white flowers so I pick up whatever looks fresh and nice this time of year. Mums and orchid branches usually maintain well enough and add some lightness and pretty to the table.
NM: What are your favorite food and drinks to serve?
JW: You can't have a Hanukkah party without latkes! My fave version are grated and fried until crispy and topped with the classics: applesauce and sour cream. I love them savoury too, with lox (smoked salmon) and sour cream and chives. Sprinkle some caviar on top if you're feeling fancy!
NM: Oh my, I think the sour cream and chives would be right up my alley, you are making me hungry just thinking about it!
JW: Does Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song count? Just kidding we don't really have any recorded go-to's but the classic songs I grew up singing in Hebrew school like "Maoz Tzur," always bring on the warm and fuzzies.
JW: A beautiful menorah is essential. It's great that there are more modern versions if you don't want something so heavy or ornate. I also love using gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) as décor. Used as vase filler or sprinkled on table top it looks so festive and shiny.
NM: Go-to winter scent for the home:
JW: Anything that covers up the smell of fried oil from latkes! I bake beautiful dreidel and magen David cookies every season as gifts for clients so the smell of baking sugar cookie and gingerbread dough are my fave holiday scents.
NM: I must say that every year I drool over your cookie baking and icing art, they almost look too perfect to eat. I especially love the appearance of the star of David with a 'stained-glass' style filling.
JW: It sounds so basic but you really do need to prep as much as you can ahead! Everything always takes longer than you think it will so make your list and tackle as many tasks as you can in advance to avoid day-of stress.
Jessica is pictured baking her famous sugar cookies with her mom above, a perfect chance to spend time together as well!
A lovely idea of changing traditional Christmas crackers with the addition of blue paper and the Star of David, sitting pretty as a place setting atop the family's heirloom china.
To see more of Jessica's own design work hop over to her portfolio (her own home is divine), and you can see the full articles on Hanukkah home décor and entertaining via Style at Home here and here. A huge thank you to Jessica for being gracious with her time and sharing these fantastic tips & tricks on how to expertly host such a special event for family and friends! Don't forget to follow Jessica on instagram to see sneak peeks of all her cookie baking & dinner dishes - I promise you it will leave you inspired, and if you are like me, perhaps a wee bit hungry too :)