Hosting Tips

A Midwinter Night’s Dream

By Camille Styles

A beautifully-set table, flickering candlelight, platters overflowing with rich food, and carefully chosen wines to complement it. Sounds like a dream of a holiday gathering, doesn’t it? We thought so too, which is why we positively swooned when we laid eyes on the Midwinter Night’s Dream-themed dinner party that best friends Gillian Segal and Sophie Collins designed together, brimming with luxurious textures and special touches that would make any guest cozy up to the table and lounge awhile. Click through for all the decadent details, including their tips on wine pairings, and a recipe for their first course creamy tomato soup with parmesan croutons.

photography by christie graham

We love when besties find shared creative pursuits! How did you two start collaborating?

Gillian has an interior design firm, Gillian Segal Design, and Sophie works at a tech company by day, and writes a food, wine and lifestyle blog by night. Whether it be Gillian’s modern and cutting edge eye in one of her many interior design projects, or Sophie’s ability to always bring people together over wine and a delicious spread, we’re always looking for our next project. Our goal is to bring our love of food, wine, interiors and entertaining to a wider audience through seasonal and curated get-togethers.

Sophie is wearing aritzia leggings, michael kors pumps, banana republic sweater (similar here), necklace.

Gillian is wearing le flu by wilfred skirt, aritzia cropped camisole, fur snood.


The inspiration:

Sophie: When we discussed doing a winter shoot, we wanted something that wasn’t so typical of holiday style. We brainstormed something luxurious and gluttonous, which led to the idea of having a shoot that was reminiscent of a winter dream. My undergrad degree was in Theatre and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my first play, so it has always had a special place in my heart. To me, a Midwinter Night’s Dream is all about rich foods, well-paired wines and even some sinful cocktails.

Gillian: I really wanted to do something that was both unique and inclusive.  With family who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, I wanted this to feel like a true celebration of the season and all that it has to offer.  To me, that means getting cozy with family and friends, drinking good wine and eating good food. During the holiday season, I sometimes find myself feeling frustrated with how cheesy holiday decor can often be.  I wanted to keep this elegant and inviting and festive without being too in your face.

(sources: dapper animal plates, linen napkins, gunmetal flatware)

The decor:

Gillian: The dining room happens to be one of my client’s and was shot mid-renovation.  With the Roll & Hill Superordinate antler chandelier we had installed I knew this would be the perfect setting even if we still hadn’t hung any art on the walls yet.  I thought it provided an interesting challenge and the perfect blank canvas to really allow the table to shine.  Because of this I focused on bold colour and texture that would have an impact and would help create that warm, wintery and sexy feeling we wanted to achieve.

Inspired by this idea of a dreamy woodland, I included lots of natural textures like the moss, Italian ruscus (as seen weaved through the chandelier) and feathered spheres. I also wanted to decorate with deep rich fruits that were found in both the flower arrangement, and on the cake tray (I may have also snuck in a lonely eggplant because the purple was just too perfect!).

The finishing touches to add that extra little bit of glitz and glam were lots of furry and fluffy accents as well as gold metallics.  When I found the AKMD candle holder  at Provide Home I knew it was the perfect piece for both my client and the shoot because of it had just enough of modern edge while still feeling warm and elegant.


The wine pairings:

Sophie: Wine pairing is like a fun game where everyone always wins! There are a few basic tips that I stick to when pairing wine with food. But, at the end of the day, you just have to drink what you like!

Pairing #1: Hugues le Juste Viognier & Tomato Soup

The first wine pairing is a Viognier with tomato soup. The tomato soup has some kick in it from the cayenne pepper so I wanted something that had a hint of sweetness to cut through the spice. The other great thing about this wine is the acidity. It balances the creaminess in the soup, so even though you are eating something that is rich, you don’t feel weighed down afterwards.

Click here to get the recipe for this Creamy Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons. 

(source: golden soup bowls)

Pairing #2: Chocolate Block (South Africa) & Barons of Beef Roast Sirloin with Crispy Kale

First of all, who doesn’t love a wine with a great label? I like trying wines from different regions and South African reds are new to me. This wine has beautiful blackberry, fig and blueberry notes on the nose, is very smooth and has slight tannins that stand up well to the meat, which has an herb and garlic coating. This is a wine that you would continue to sip even after your plate is cleared.

 (source: link candle holder)

Pairing #3: Pere Magloire Jack Rose & Chocolate Pomegranate Cake

We knew we wanted to incorporate a cocktail into the mix for a Midwinter Night’s Dream, and we thought the end of the meal would be perfect because it clearly shows, as the hostess, that you’re not ready for the party to end! The Calvados Pere Magloire is a delicate Eaux de Vie that mixes perfectly with grenadine and lemon for an easy and refreshing cocktail. It’s almost a grown up shirley temple. It’s light flavours were a great complement to the richness of the cake, and the grenadine matched perfectly with the bursting pomegranate seeds. I used this recipe.


And how about that cake… take it from the professionals at Sweet Bake Shop on how flawlessly frost a cake.

(source: cake pedestal)

The flowers:

Including fruits into your flower arrangements is a great way to add not only a unique visual element but it also contributes to the atmosphere with a sweet aroma.  Cutting the fruit in half really releases the scent and showcases the beautiful pomegranate seeds and citrus fruit. Use bamboo skewers to hold fruit in place and simply pop them into your arrangement.  Other ideas for the holidays can be using clear containers and floating cranberries, or sliced fruit (such as lemons and limes) and using them to line a clear container.  Having fun with your florals (and decor) by adding a bit of whimsy like this is not only fun to look at, but can put your guests at ease by creating a more relaxed and playful environment.


The Flower Factory provided the flowers.

Dream dinner guests for this party:

Sophie: I would have a boisterous girls night cooked by Giada de Laurentiis, with my best friends (obviously), Reese Witherspoon (love her Southern charm!), and Marissa Mayer (to talk women in business). Also, I think the Camille Styles team would make a fab addition!

Gillian: Good friends and family – people who know how to have a great time and not take themselves too seriously! A guest appearance by Kelly Wearstler (my design idol) would be a dream come true, and I second what Sophie said about the Camille Styles team!

Sophie’s top 3 entertaining tips:

  1. Comfort is key. I always want my guests to be comfortable when they come over. I may have a marble coffee table but I’m no stranger to spills! When you come over I want you to put your feet up.
  2. Plan ahead. If you can, grocery shop a few days before, set the table the night before and have the party on a Saturday so you have the day to prep and enjoy.
  3. Turn up the tunes after dinner. There’s nothing more fun than kicking off your shoes, pouring some more cocktails and having a dance party to your favourite music before the night ends!

Gillian’s top 3 table setting tips:

  1. Think outside the box! Have fun with it, and don’t worry about following the rules. Instead of the traditional centrepiece, in this setting I created a centre landscape (literally – moss was everywhere!).  It was also very asymmetrical. I gathered platters, flowers, candles and a few other fun accessories that created an interesting and unique view from all angles of the table
  2. Candles – you can never have too many! Even if that’s all you choose to use for your centrepiece, the mood lighting they create can’t be recreated with anything else.
  3. Think about height! There’s nothing I hate more than arriving at a party with centrepieces so huge that they block conversation from the table.  Make sure to use items that are low enough or that aren’t completely solid.

Cheers to that! Thanks for sharing, ladies.

A big thanks to Flower FactoryChristie Graham Photography, Sweet Bake Shop, Barons of Beef, and Bacchus Group.

Table styling and interior design by Gillian Segal Design, recipes and wine pairings by Sip Savour Share. And don’t forget to follow Gillian and Sophie on instagram!