Holiday Tablescapes: Tips for Decorating Your Holiday Table
We had a great event with Austin HOME magazine this week at Heather Scott Home & Design. Here is a photo from the event, with Scott, Cathy Hale, Austin HOME’s Director of Marketing & PR, and I . The event was to celebrate the launch of the winter issue of the magazine (which Cathy is holding in the photo). If you don’t already subscribe to the magazine, you can do that here:
It was great fun to see a lot of our friends and regular customers and enjoy a glass of wine with them.
I decorated 3 tables as part of the event and this week I am going to share some tips for what I put together and how I approached the decorations. I’ll start with each individual table and then recap the key points.
My first concept was for a “Winterscape” table which I thought could be used for a more mature evening. We all know how popular it is to decorate with the color gray right now, so my color scheme was white, gray and silver. I also wanted to use my existing formal china, which is Wedgewood Sterling, with some accent pieces from their archival collection.
Once I knew my color scheme I looked for an inspiration element that would fit and these snowflake placemats from Dransfield and Ross (available through Heather Scott Home & Design) were a key focal point. They fit my silver and white color theme and added something unique to the table. They are finely made, as well, so I know they will last and will be worth keeping over the years.
I used the snowflake theme in these place card holders which I already had (a gift from Carolyn- thank you!). They aren’t ‘holiday’ but they are silver and white.
I went to Michaels and purchased some white cardstock paper and some snowflake stickers to make the place cards. I used power point to make a small border in gray and then downloaded the font for the names for free from this website: http://www.dafont.com/
I applied the stickers and there you go- a classy, fun, name place card.
For a second tablescape I wanted to do a Southern Traditional table with holiday china. However, to keep the table from being too formal or stuffy, I ‘took it down’ with several elements:
The first thing I did was to mix up the chairs so they were different. I have 2 blue velvet head chairs, a white linen banquette and 2 wood and cane chairs on the sides. This avoided having formal dining chairs lined up like little soldiers. You could borrow chairs from your every day table to mix with your formal dining room if you plan a cohesive design scheme through out your home.
Second, I decided to use a burlap tablecloth. I went to JoAnn Fabrics and just had them cut a couple of yards, leaving the rough edges for effect.
Third, I used inexpensive, gold chargers so the table didn’t feel too antique or ‘precious’.
Finally, I used traditional sterling silver with a twist. Each place setting is antique sterling silver, and are all well known and different patterns.
Now, being confident my table would not be too stuffy, I focused on the key design theme, which were the holly leaves in this case. I found some beautiful holly ribbon (available in our store) and wound it throughout my garland. Additionally, I added some pinecones (also in the holly pattern on the plates) and wine glasses which have holly painted on them. Lastly, I printed some great looking menus (again in powerpoint) by using their clip art feature for a touch of sophistication.
I also placed some starburst mirrors under the garland and put candles on top of them to incorporate a nice reflective element. Finally, to make each guest feel welcome I put a candle as a take home gift at each place setting.
My third table was a table for the young at heart. My inspiration for this table came from the black, gold and red Christopher Radko Holiday Swag china. While black is not your typical, youthful element, I thought I could have a lot of fun with a red, black and white theme.
My foundational element was a square tablecloth in my color scheme. I then found some red sashes to tie on my chairs to raise their ‘holiday’ factor. In the centerpiece, I used a casual, felt ribbon in red with jingle bells and fun holiday sayings on it to keep the theme lighthearted and yet completely appropriate.
Continuing the youthful theme with the china I added bright, red chargers, reindeer plates and mugs (available through Pottery Barn), 12 days of Christmas napkins (from William Sonoma), Vietri reindeer bowls and votive candle holders, and seeded glass wine and drinking glasses.
One thing of note, my reindeer plates have silver rims, but my dinner plates have gold. Traditionally one would think you should not mix these elements, but here is an example where you can mix and match and it works quite well.
I also made place cards for these tables shaped like candy and decorated with fun, colorful ribbon. I got this idea from Martha Stewart’s website. I just purchased colored cardstock and very colorful ribbons (at Michaels), hole punched the paper and threaded the ribbon through. The colors used were red, hot pink and light pink, which further add to the fun and unexpectedness of the table setting.
I’ve shared with you my thought process and approach to decorating 3 very unique tables for the holidays. Here is a recap of the key elements you can use to do the same in your own home:
Work with what you have to reflect your style and be cost effective
- Use your existing formal china and everyday pieces as a starting point- they will look completely new with some decorative accents. You don’t have to have ‘holiday china’- take your existing pieces and pull some accent colors from them to inspire your table theme
- Using what you have is ‘green’ and it will leave you the budget to splurge on items to make your table unique
- Fresh flowers are beautiful but only last a short time, consider investing in elements you can use every year (a garland, ribbon, linens, hurricanes and candles). Purchase the best quality you can afford
Mix things up to update your table
- Just as in furniture no one buys the whole matching set any more, you don’t have to have every piece of china match. Interest will be created by expressing your own style with unique and different pieces
- Items that may not seem to match (gold rim vs. silver rims) may blend if you develop a theme
- Entertaining is less formal these days- look for elements to bring down the formality of your existing pieces (burlap, seeded glassware)
Pick a theme
- Find a unique element to inspire your table, ex. a pretty embroidered ribbon, a fun tablecloth, unique placemats
- Carry the theme throughout various elements, especially on items you can create on the computer place cards, table menus
- Look for ways to personalize individual place settings such as with little gifts or name cards, even for close family
Mix high and low
- Find chargers for as little as $1 a piece at places like Target and Cost Plus
- Your tablecloth doesn’t have to be expensive. Get a couple of yards of burlap for a few dollars at Jo-Ann fabrics and layer it under your nicer elements (placemats, china).
- When using inexpensive items, be sure to add some finer elements to bring the overall quality level up
Now, no excuses, go create a fabulous table setting for you and your family to enjoy this holiday season!
Owner of Heather Scott Home & Design, a retail boutique and interior design firm based in Austin, TX. Winner of the "Best Interior Designer" award in Austin Monthly's Readers Choice Best of the City poll, Best Home Accents Store from the ARTs Awards, Top 50 Retail Star and Best of Houzz.