Hosting for the holidays can be stressful! We all want that perfect, Pinterest-worthy holiday home, but achieving that look, especially in the dining room, can be an intimidating task. A lot of our holiday memories are centered around food and family, and the dining room table is where it all takes place. There is nothing like a seasonally festive table setting on a holiday to set the stage for a memorable family gathering. Whether it is an intimate dinner for two or a large gathering of family and friends, there are some simple strategies for creating the perfect tablescape.
Start by clearing off your table so that you have a blank canvas to work with. I like to begin my tablescapes with a textile decorating template – most typically a table runner. This defines the path and creates a sort of runway down the table. It also helps you to visualize where you will be placing things. Do you lack a table runner? You could also use a large scarf or throw blanket.
Next, place your chargers, so you know where not to place centerpiece elements since you do not want anything going over the place settings. If you entertain or host often, chargers are worth investing in. They instantly dress up a table by adding texture and make any place setting look elegant and festive.
Pro Tip: Choose neutral color chargers so that you can use them year-round!
Gather Centerpiece Materials
Once you have your template laid out, you will be able to see exactly where you can place your centerpiece items. When planning your centerpiece materials, be sure to keep a consistent color palette in mind. This way, all items will be cohesive and seasonally appropriate.
The key to a good centerpiece is varied heights. This will give your table some dimension and keep the eye moving so you can better see all the little details. You want your centerpiece to be the focal point, so adding height variation is essential here. You can use a variety of décor items to achieve this. Things like candlesticks, lanterns, or vases are great options. There are no rules here, so use any items you like; just be sure there is some height variation. Not sure what to use? Browse Pinterest or do an internet search for tablescape centerpiece ideas. The options are endless, and chances are you have items around your home you can use in your centerpiece!
I also like to incorporate fun and unexpected elements into my centerpieces, like the vintage brass pheasants pictured here. Do not be afraid to include your favorite antique finds or holiday accents. Real fruit or produce is also a fun addition – just be sure that it is seasonally appropriate and fits within your color scheme.
A greenery element is essential to any tablescape. Real or faux, it adds a much-needed natural element to your table. You could use floral arrangements, garland, or greenery stems. Again, the options are endless, and there is a lot of great inspiration on the internet! This element of the tablescape works for any season or holiday, and it is a great way to help fill out your decorating template.
The trick with greenery is varied type, texture, and color. If all your greenery is similar it will blend together and look one-dimensional. However, you want each type to stand out, so be sure to choose greenery with varied leaf shapes, colors, and sizes. Pictured here are seeded eucalyptus, spiral eucalyptus, and magnolia leaves.
Start with one type of greenery as the base. Then, cut the sprigs down and start working and weaving them in-between the centerpiece objects. Be sure to work from both sides of the table so you do not have any bare spots. You can go as minimal or as thick as you want with it – it is all about personal preference. Once you have your base layer, go in with a different type of greenery and work it on the ends and in the negative space between the chargers.
Keep working on your natural elements until you achieve your desired texture and overall look. Branches and pinecones are other ways to add in some nature-inspired elements while also adding in different colors and textures.
Pro Tip: Forage for natural tablescape elements from your own yard!
Add Some Warmth
By now, you should have a nice, full layout with various textures, colors, and heights. No table setting is complete without a little bit of warmth, and candles are the perfect way to achieve this! You can go in and break up the greenery with small votives or tea light holders – work them in symmetrically on the ends and in between the chargers for balance. You can never have too much candlelight at a dinner table!
Pro Tip: Avoid open flame around highly flammable centerpiece items. Instead opt for battery-powered candlesticks, votives, and tea lights. Most flicker and look very realistic, and some even come with a remote for easy on and off!
Dress Up Your Place Settings
Now it is time for the finishing touches – your place settings! The trick here is layers, and you have already got the base layer on the table with your chargers. There are a lot of ways to layer your plates, napkins, bowls, cutlery, and glasses. You can go very elaborate or keep it simple, just be sure to include any items necessary for the food and drink you will be serving so that everything is at hand and easily accessible. Whether you are using real china or plasticware, both can be dressed up and made to look elegant when layered!
When in doubt, keep it simple and try not to stress about perfection! The holidays can be stressful enough as it is without trying to live up to idealistic expectations. These tips and strategies should help make your table decorating more straightforward so that the process is enjoyable! At the end of the day, it is not the perfect holiday table that will be remembered, but rather the conversation, laughter, and memories made around it with your loved ones.