Center of Attention

Transform your dining table during the holidays with these expert tips

By Kamala Kirk

A stunning and festive table setting is one of the most important elements for holiday entertaining. Not only does it help to set the mood and ambiance of the special occasion, but it also makes guests feel more welcome in your home. From creative centerpieces and dishes to glassware and decorative accents, there are numerous ways to make the ultimate statement at your table this holiday season.

Jeanne Chung, a luxury interior designer and owner of Cozy•Stylish•Chic, which includes a full-service interior design firm, retail and trade showroom in Old Pasadena, says incorporating natural elements is a great way to create a rustic yet warm ambiance in the home and table setting, as well as using items that are relevant to the holiday. 

“Some of the organic things I like to use from nature for Thanksgiving include magnolia leaves and mini pumpkins,” Chung says. “For the Christmas holidays, I cut off the unused bottom branches of my Christmas tree, lay them across the center of the table, and sprinkle cranberries on the table to create a festive look. Adding in a little bit of sparkle adds contrast and another layer, which brings the table to life.”

Candy Murray, interior style manager for Soho Home — the home and lifestyle brand from global hospitality group, Soho House — adds that she likes to look at the whole of the dining space rather than just the tabletop.

“Think about hanging decorations from the ceiling above the table,” Murray says. “Add natural elements, foliage and lights, then keep the table setting simpler to balance the space.”

The colors that one chooses to decorate their table with also help to set the mood and theme for any celebration. Color plays a big role in one’s dining experience and can also have an impact on one’s perception of the food.

“I’ve seen a lot of greens and more muted colors in tableware — and a move towards more handcrafted and textured pieces,” Murray says. “I think people are focusing on creating the right convivial mood and moving away from formality and glamour.”

Chung adds, “Blush, gold and champagne used together brings a feminine touch. An added pearlescent finish brings sophistication to any color palette.”

When it comes to key tabletop décor and items that every host or hostess should own, Chung offers several recommendations.

“Every household should own a variety of linens — napkins and table runners in several colors and patterns,” she says. “Along with small risers of varying heights, candlesticks and a variety of candles — tapered, votive and pillar. You can create different looks by mixing up the height on the table and playing around with different candles.”

Murray adds, “Glowy, warm lighting is key to creating a festive mood. Use candlesticks to create height and smaller candles dotted around the table to add a seasonal glow. Some of my favorite items from the Soho Home range for tabletop this season include Rosendale baubles (mouth-blown glass inspired by the glassware found in DUMBO House), Hansen candlesticks in soft brushed brass, Castelo serving platter, and linen napkins for texture pieces — Bolzano Lines are a winner.”

Murray also shares that she tends to lean toward a more informal ambiance in general when it comes to decorating her table.

“I keep the style of my table fairly informal,” Murray says. “I want my guests to feel comfortable and relaxed, so ideally try and reflect this mood. Serve food in big serving platters family style rather than plated, add color and texture in the tableware, and don’t use a tablecloth if you already have a beautiful tabletop.” 

As for tabletop decorating dos and don’ts, Chung encourages hosts and hostesses to not be afraid of mixing up the pieces in each table setting.

“If you don’t have a complete set of China, you can mix up different colors and patterns, as long as everything falls into a cohesive color palette and there is a balance of color and proportion,” Chung says. “For the 2020 Pasadena Showcase House, every piece in the table setting was different. As long as you achieve a visual balance, it is OK to mix things up. There are no hard, fast rules when it comes to decorating a table, so don’t overthink things. While you’re setting everything up, remember to step away to see the overall look and adjust accordingly.”


Soho Home

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