Alex Evjen is someone who always finds a place for playful at the table—even when that’s a glamorous holiday table set to sparkle with chic. There’s a fuzzy little llama that looks right at home among the elegant gold-rimmed glassware. Shiny metallic napkin rings and glimmering candles cohabitate with stripey paper straws and handwritten “xoxo” love notes tucked into weathered wooden crates. The overall effect of the stylist and social media superstar’s creation for Coca-Cola is the very definition of inviting. This is the unmistakably festive-season vision of a host who wears sequins with jeans, who works with some of the world’s top fashion and lifestyle brands and has… comfort food simmering on her stove.

An Interesting Spin

Classics with the Evjen touch are part of the reason why her nearly 1 million Pinterest followers continually look to her for her exquisite-yet-still-deliciously-accessible imaginings of style.

“When I drink Coke, I like to have a burger. They just go really well together. The jeans and a cheeseburger, too,” says the 30-year-old Phoenix-based founder of A.V.E. Styles. “So why not turn it into a soup? Then you can make it a day or two beforehand and just leave it on the stove. It frees you up to focus on the whole reason to entertain, really enjoying time with the people you love.”          

Such a sensibility—people over pins!—first attracted Evjen to the collaboration with Coca-Cola this fall. “One of the things I love most about the brand is that it celebrates community and connecting with each other,” she says. “That’s something that means a lot to me.”

Simplified but Gorgeous Entertaining

With our current attachment to phones and photos — and the constant stream of apparent perfection that comes our way — it makes sense that Evjen has created such a massive following by being a bit different.

“Sometimes social media can create these tremendously high expectations for entertaining. I wanted to strip it down and simplify it,” she says about her highly-analog, multi-textured holiday table. Evjen chose to shoot in her own home, using a lot of objects she already had, table to cake stand to scented pine cones, because she “wanted it to feel organic.” (The llama, however, is a loaner, from a vintage store up the street: “I don’t have a llama. Now I want a llama of my own!”)

Alex Evjen
Alex Evjen, the 30-year-old Phoenix-based founder of A.V.E. Styles, has close to a million Pinterest followers.

Evjen is a champion of the beauty of the lived-in, the belief that we all likely have a crate sitting around somewhere collecting dust, so why not repurpose it?

“You can do so much by clipping branches from the trees in your own yard or buying a few things at the grocery store,” she says. “We never want to get caught up in consuming a product or image or the right recipe so that we miss out on what matters.”  

So much of what matters, “happens around the dinner table during the winter,” she reasons. “You’re in because it’s cold outside. You’re with family, you’re making memories. I love the idea of creating a moment when people gather over good food and good drink.”

As testament to the power of the holidays to pull us together, whatever the windchill out there — Arizona is not exactly snow-kissed — Evjan set about creating a winter wonderland at home. She shares hers with her husband, their two-year-old daughter Noelle and a Goldendoodle. Meaning attempts at strict, fussy art direction are not only futile, but not desired anyway.

“I think there’s something inviting to an environment that’s not perfect, even in the shapes you put on a table,” Evjen says. “The dinner plates are organic in their form, not a perfect circle. The greens are more messy than you’d see in a floral arrangement. Maybe you don’t have a chandelier in your space, but you probably have a table you can just lay branches on. The table runner was literally raw fabric. I didn’t even hem it. I just cut it off with scissors. I didn’t use placemats on purpose. Everything is attainable.”

Curating With Coke

Rare but never rarified, she lent her stylist’s eye to selecting particular pieces from the Coca-Cola home décor collaborations: Riedel drinkware; an American Retro cooler; Tablecraft bottle opener; OPI nail polish. They’re of course incorporated with a sprinkle of her signature fairy dust, well beyond pairing silvers and golds and greens with classic Coke red.

About the cooler, she recalls, “I’d never seen anything like it so I wanted to focus on it. Then I thought, What are you going to do with a cooler in the winter? You could just stick your drinks outside and surely they’d stay cold or even freeze.” So rather than present it as a utility, she celebrated the cooler as a luxury. “I had this idea of a winter picnic, a really great way to have a date night. So here’s how to pack a romantic picnic for you and your significant other, when the holidays have everyone so busy you can just kind of miss each other.”

The Riedel glasses spoke to her for their simple, modern lines and unique shape. “You know it’s Coke. You don’t need a word,” she says. “Then you see it next to the product in the traditional glass bottles. Who doesn’t love to drink Coke that way?” To pop that cap off, she chose a bottle opener that’s “just cool. I wanted one because it looks like a little Coke bottle. And it’s really good quality, has this nice weight to it.”

It’s a heft that you can hold in your hand, one you just can’t conjure on Pinterest—not even if you’re someone whose individual pin might reach, say, 5 million people. Ultimately it’s those closest to home we all want to connect with this season. In the case of Evjen, that means Cheeseburger Soup on Christmas Eve, then driving over to her in-laws’ the next day, the whole family dressed in pajamas. High-style for the holidays from a pro.