How to Host a Minimal-Maximalist Dinner Party This Winter (From Decor to Dessert)

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Welp, 2022’s come and gone (evidently, time flies when you’re making up for a pandemic). But if there’s one look that’s following us into 2023, it’s the vintage aesthetic —with a twist, of course. See, last year, our homes were defined by nostalgia. From the return of '70s walnut wood to the revival of Bauhaus-style lighting, each trend seemed to be more sentimental than the last. Hence why this year, designers in France, Italy and the US are pairing down the look with a total oxymoron: minimal maximalism. “It’s working with clean, neutral or tonal palettes (borrowing from minimalism), then keeping things visually interesting by incorporating ornamental furniture or a variety of textures (hello, maximalism),” explains editor Candace Davison. 

Our first reaction? We gotta cozify this look for winter. So below, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to creating a minimal-maximalist dinner party—from decor, plates and serveware to cocktail, dinner and dessert recipes.

dinner party 1
RW Guild

The Theme

First thing’s first: A winter dinner party needs an ultra-cozy vibe. So, for a minimal, seasonal base, look to hygge Scandinavian gatherings for inspiration. Think:  tapered candle clusters, natural woods and neutral textiles. Then, for the maximalism part, turn to retro,‘70s-inspired tables. Basically, you want to create a neutral, textured base that can be complemented by organic statement pieces. Take it from the inspo above, where RW Guild founders Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch blend crisp linens and classic crystal glassware with metallic candles and scalloped statement pieces.

The Plates and Serveware

The key is keeping the base clean. For interesting texture and layers, look to plates that showcase an organic shape (like the ones from Crate and Barrel and Lenox shown above). You want to look to modern takes on classic silhouettes—from scalloped edges and freeform rims to hand-carved accents. And, if you want our two cents, always keep the larger stoneware pieces white—they make food look amazing. 

Shop the Look: Marin White Dinner Plates ($11); Marin White Salad Plates ($10); Marin White Large Oval Serving Platter ($40); French Perle Scallop Platter ($143; $100); French Perle Groove Bowl ($26; $18); Perla Lola Medium Bowl ($95)

The Cutlery and Glassware

Before we get into the delicious dishes and cocktails you can serve up (below), you’ll need something to, uh, eat everything with. Since this particular evening is all about literal warmth, try to mirror that by using tableware in the warm spectrum, like coppers, golds, or wheats. (P.S. Here’s how to lay your cutlery like a class act.) Then, for the glassware, you want everything to have an ‘inherited by Grandma feel’ without it being too antique-y (and feel free to break out that inherited crystal glassware if you’re looking to take it a step further). 

Shop the Look: Buchanan Stacking Double Old-Fashioned Glasses ($8); Juliet Red Wine Glass ($13); Gold Chefs Table Salad Servers ($70; $35); Marin Copper 20-Piece Flatware Set ($150)

dinner party 2
Crate & Barrel

The Linens

To nail the Scandi look, keep your linen palette earthy and neutral, and don't you dare touch that iron. (Creased? Please. It's called organic). Above, you can see how a simple fringed runner and oversized napkins—which can be folded into fourths—add texture and drama to the edges of the table.(Just, whatever you do, no disposables.)

Shop the Look: Frange Fringe Table Runner by Athena Calderone ($90); Frange Fringe Napkin by Athena Calderone ($13)

dinner party 3

The Decor

Before you do anything else, make sure you’re adorning the table with tons of tapered candles. (And if you’re worried about starting a fire, this flameless option from Riverbend Home is basically indistinguishable from the real deal.) Then, once you’ve set the mood, you want to surround the table with equally toasty centerpieces. It can be anything from an oversized vase to a ceramic stoneware pitcher to a polished metal fruit bowl—just be sure it breaks things up by drawing visual interest from the dishes below.

Otherwise, if you’re looking to save a penny, make like the Danes and forage for natural decor. A walk through your local park can yield a handful of dried florals that can be placed in a vase, along with a bunch of branches, pinecones and bark to bring the natural look together. Another money-saving tip: When you're cooking with fresh herbs, remember they doubly earn their keep as decor. (Leftover sage and rosemary, for example, can provide the perfect pop of color when laid atop a napkin or plate, and of course, the food itself.) 

Shop the Look: Reed Candlesticks in Burnished Brass ($250); Vase Sorori ($88); Yellow Wax Flameless Candles Set of 3 ($74; $66)

cozy dinner party under 5
Claire Matern

The Appetizer

Homemade soup: it's so easy, so beautiful and so. Darn. Cheap. This easy and customizable carrot soup is perfect for warming up on chilly nights and can be made days in advance. Psst: Don’t forget to garnish each dish with those aforementioned herbs. (The little things make all the difference.)

cozy dinner party under 4
Claire Matern

The Entree

Don't get us wrong, we love carbs—but this is a special occasion. For festive wow factor (dietary restrictions pending), we always look to meat and fish over pastas and pizza. The key is to pick a recipe that you don’t have to babysit, so you can simply pop in the oven as you get yourself (and the table) ready. This rack of slow-roasted ribs with apple and onion is way less intimidating and expensive than it looks.

cozy dinner party under 3
Claire Matern

The Dessert

Two words: chocolate sandwiches. Literally just melty chocolate chips between two slices of toast, these desserts are whimsical, adorable and easy as can be. If you want to get really fancy, add a dusting of cinnamon sugar or some flaky sea salt to elevate the presentation.

tinto amorio wine review two bottles of wine on a table
Katherine Gillen

The Cocktails

At last, we’ve reached the fun part: Booze. For this look, it’s best to hone in on the “organic” element. Hence, why we’re loving Tinto Amorio, a wine brand that offers a natural wine subscription. Our senior food editor Katherine Gillen says, “We’re no wine connoisseurs, but we found [Jajaja] juicy and extremely drinkable—a red that we’d want to serve both at a summer backyard bash and a cozy winter dinner…[It’s] a light-bodied Zinfandel that’s meant to be served chilled, and, according to the brand, has notes of cola berry spice, rhubarb and bramble.”

Or, if you’re looking for something lighter, there’s a new agave-based aperitif that senior food editor Katherine Gillen is calling “sunshine in a bottle”: Le Moné. “It’s all at once light, citrus-y, complex and balanced. It’s tart but not too mouth-puckering, sweet without being cloying and just bitter enough to keep you coming back for another sip,” Gillen explains. “When we tried Le Moné, we were worried that the lemony profile would seem out of place at a [cozy] dinner—it sounds more fitting for a summer patio soirée—but unlike a heavily spiced winter cocktail, it was pleasantly bright and refreshing.”

Shop the look: Jajaja - Glou Glou Red Wine ($45); Le Moné Meyer Lemon ($35)

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...


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From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.