text by SHANI SILVER
photography by SONYA YRUEL
styling by CHRISTINA VO
calligraphy & singage PATRICIA LIU HU
Holiday gatherings and seasonal gratitude are wonderful with family, but we love our friends, too! We are so pleased to share a festive fall Friendsgiving brought together by three creative minds (and close pals). Sonya Yruel, Christina Vo, and Patricia Liu Hu were kind enough to share their special day with domino. Tallulah’s Shack in Guerneville, California played host to the gathering, and provided the ideal backdrop for Vo’s decor vision. Read on to see how the day materialized, beautifully.
HOW DID THIS FRIENDSGIVING COME TOGETHER?
I was looking for a cabin in the Russian River area to rent with my boyfriend for a weekend, and I came across Tallulah’s Shack. Just from the pictures, I immediately fell in love with the place, which seemed so warm and cozy. I thought the backyard area would be an ideal spot for an outdoor party, if the owners would allow us. I was delighted when I reached out to them and they were incredibly supportive of the idea of us having a party there. We drove up to meet the owners and check out the place in person and I knew it would be a great party
WHAT INSPIRED THE DECOR?
It was simply fall — everything fall — that inspired the decor. We don’t really get a typical fall in San Francisco. We can get some unseasonably warm days in the fall, and we don’t get to experience the changing colors of the fall foliage, so I knew I wanted a lot of colorful foliage to be highlighted in the decor. Initially, I had a simpler vision of the decor, because I wanted to use two or three small branches as the main centerpiece. I even toyed with the idea of going for a non-traditional vibe with atypical Thanksgiving colors, but at the last minute when I was shopping at the flower market, I ended up sticking with what I really wanted which was all the color and warmth of fall.
TALK TO US ABOUT THE OVERHEAD GARLAND–ANY DIY TIPS THERE?
I wanted to give some dimension to the table. After our initial visit to the cabin, I saw the wooden beams above the deck and I knew that it would be easy to hang something above the table because. I hung branches with fishing wire on both sides of the table from the top beams. Above the table, the overhead garland is actually a wreath that I made. I took a 16-inch wreath frame, floral wire and used pistache leaves. You could easily make a festive holiday wreath out of olive branches or magnolia leaves. However, when making an overhead wreath, you have to make sure the top of the wreath frame is covered as well. I attached fishing wire to the wreath and then hung it from the top wooden beam. If you want to get even more creative, you could even add flowers in water tubes to the garland.
WHAT COMPONENT OF THE STYLING ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I found a handful of quotes about gratitude that I printed and placed next to each place setting. I think this simple idea was a reminder – to be grateful for what we have and to appreciate each other’s company and presence in our lives. I think it’s really important when creating parties to do something special, something meaningful that might inspire folks to stop for a moment and reflect.
WHAT WAS THE BEST REACTION YOU RECEIVED TO THE DECOR?
My friends had heard me talking about the cabin for weeks and how perfect the space was, but I think when they saw it themselves they were all impressed by the warmth of the space and the decor built on the beautiful backyard and natural environment of the Russian River area. That ambiance was brought out even more with the decor. It was a wonderful feeling to have created a special day for my friends.
WHAT MENU ITEMS REALLY STOOD OUT TO YOU?
I’m a southerner at heart, having spent many years of my childhood in Tennessee, and then going to college in North Carolina. While I loved everything on the menu, I especially loved the biscuits and the cornbread. We also ordered some additional biscuits from a local market, Big Bottom Market, they make anything from chocolate banana biscuits to sun dried tomato. And, there was even jambalaya that was added to the menu at the last minute, which also stood out in my mind. I loved that it was added impromptu but fit in perfectly with the other items.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF THE DAY?
To be honest, I loved everything about the day. The space was so perfect for entertaining and I appreciated that there were different areas where guests could talk and mingle, so there wasn’t any pressure for everyone to be in the same space or cramped in a living room and dining room. I loved that I could see everyone comfortably mingling and having a good time, and many people having engaging conversations with people they might not have known before. At the end of the day, I am happy about an event and I it’s successful by seeing whether or not people were having a good time. And of course, another way to tell is how long the guests stay – and the Friendsgiving lasted for a very long time.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
I think one of the entertaining challenges that I still grapple with is learning to balance preparation and entertaining. I woke up quite early the day of to begin preparing and had done a number of things the day before, and yet I still found myself running out of time. I was still putting finishing touches on the decor when guests arrived. It’s at that moment when I often feel the struggle of perfecting the decor and being present with my guests.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THROWING THE PERFECT FRIENDSGIVING?
Friendsgivings are such a wonderful opportunity to bring together close friends to celebrate a great holiday and to enjoy good company and cheer. I know that because I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve often been far away from my family, so my friends have very much become an extension of my family. I would advise people to find ways to make your Friendsgiving special and unique to your group.But, on a more practical level, I’d say to find a great space, plan as much as you can in advance and share responsibilities. I think the space is important because it’ll impact how people integrate. As I mentioned above, at Tallulah’s we just had so much space that the group didn’t feel packed and could mingle in different areas. I also think planning is so important, especially with a big group. I also think sharing the responsibilities of the party could be a great thing. I still like to manage everything but if there are more hands that are willing to help, accept that support. It’ll help the day go even more smoothly.