Make your dinner table a holiday masterpiece. “A beautifully appointed table is a place to gather with family and friends to celebrate the special moments in life,” says Roland Wolfe, creative director of Hoagland’s in Greenwich. “Blending traditional elements with a modern twist continues to be a big idea in decorating that allows you to showcase your own personal style.”
According to Wolfe, many people update their existing dinnerware by adding interesting accent plates to create a whole new look. “Classic ideas in holiday tabletop can include nutcrackers, sprigs of holly, or garlands and bells. A contemporary approach can be a monochromatic table set with dinnerware in patterns of either red, silver, green, or gold. It’s all in what your vision of the holiday is,” he says, and it’s the same with silverware. “You can use fine silver that has been passed down as a family heirloom or modern flatware with decorative handles made of wood or resin. Mixing crystal with colored glassware is also a fun way to make your table interesting.”
Wolfe suggests layering with placemats and chargers to create a canvas to showcase your dinnerware. “A stylish approach to setting a festive table is to create textures using complimentary placemats and napkins. It’s a way to mix and match patterns that coordinate with your dinnerware,” he says. “Napkin rings are the jewelry of the holiday table — the finishing touch that can really pull everything together.” The table is ideal for showcasing collectibles, where whimsical items that work with your theme can be placed down the center of the table with hurricanes or votive candles. Place cards and small favors, such as a small box of chocolates or a thoughtful ornament, at each place setting can make your guests feel special and help personalize their dining experience. “Creating a joyful holiday table is all about having fun and creating something beautiful that reflects your personality,” Roland explains.
Wilton-based designer Joanna Buchanan proclaims that life should be decorated and joyful. “I love for people to dress up for the holidays and I think creating a beautiful, special table is part of that dressing up,” says Buchanan, owner of joannabuchanan.com, whose luxe line of seasonal décor is available at Kirby & Co. in Darien, Hoagland’s in Greenwich, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Harrods, among others.
Buchanan advises building on basic china and glassware. “Even if you have blue and white, add some red pops and you have a stunning color scheme,” says Buchanan, who mixes and matches. “As long as there’s a color or pattern theme it can all work together. Neutral metallics are always stunning. Mix silvers and golds for richness. Go outside your comfort zone and play with color and pattern.” She also gets her children, who are 8 and 10, involved by having them help create special decorations — from spray painting pine cones to figuring out where everyone should sit, to setting the table.
Buchanan likes to place candy-filled jewelry boxes at each table setting. “We also do beautiful metal and glass jewelry-like decorations that come in a lovely organza pouch that you can leave on, or pop them out and tie on a handwritten wish for the season,” she says, adding that last year she created a set of Christmas crackers — designing every gift inside, including gold crowns, fun mottos, and a Guess Who game — that won a Luxury Cracker of the Year award in England. “Put a cracker at every setting and let the games begin!”
To add depth and interest to a holiday table, Karli Smith, owner of Creative Homestylers in Trumbull, incorporates different textures and colors. “Gold, silver, and white, whether used monochromatically, with one other color, or all together, create a beautiful palette. Texture creates the look. This can be done by using items such as pine cones, cinnamon sticks, fresh greens, cranberries, ornaments, bells, ribbons, twine,” says Smith, who prefers items that coordinate rather than match perfectly. “If you use a tablecloth, use a different color napkin. Pull the color from the table décor,” she suggests.
Holiday-themed plates can add personality to the table, either by themselves or on top of a larger dinner plate. “Consider using white dishes … they’ll pop on top of a colorful tablecloth or act as a neutral backdrop for napkins with decorative napkin rings or flatware pouches,” says Smith, who believes that a holiday table should evoke childhood memories. “Maybe your mother always used her good china, so you follow in her footsteps. Or perhaps you inherited your great aunt’s Christmas tree plates and it makes you feel like she’s there with you when you use them,” Smith notes.
Debbie Schneider, buyer/decorator at Seasons Too in Darien, says there’s a huge demand for soft gold and silver. “Also, bronze mixed in with gold is a beautiful look,” says Schneider, who suggests using a beautiful table runner with the addition of decorative deer, ribbon, floral picks, pinecones and candles, and for elegance, gold-sprayed pine cones as place card holders and ribbon-tied napkins with a sprig of holly or rosemary. “Small lanterns filled with colored balls and greens, even a narrow ribbon swirled inside, add a great burst of color,” Schneider says. “One of my favorite decorating touches includes adding greens and ribbons around the chandelier, or for a more casual setting, hanging small ornaments from the greens. Whatever makes you happy should be incorporated into your holiday decor.”