There is something special about the end of the year. When the skies are getting grayer and the weather gets colder, we count our blessings, dust off the dining room table and entertain friends and family at home.
Holiday traditions frequently center on food. Thanksgiving HAS to include Grandma’s stuffing recipe IN the turkey, green bean casserole, and a layered cranberry salad. It wouldn’t be the same without them. Those traditional foods remind us of happy times together.
The same goes for decorations. Repeating our own holiday traditions like the smell of pine, or the sparkle of lights, make the time together a joyful one. In decorating your table this year, start with your traditions, but try getting a little creative with them.
Here are six important pieces of a great holiday table:
- Start with a table cloth. If you don’t own one, rent or purchase a plain white or ivory machine washable table cloth. It will be easy to add layers to it for any holiday. Measure your table with all of the leaves in it so that your table cloth is large enough to cover the entire table with at least a 10” drop on each side. The longer the drop, the more formal the table will look. I like to rent linens from Weinhardt party rental where a 60 x 120” plain linen is only $6.25 to rent, and I don’t have to wash it or iron it! They also have many other decorative options to choose from.
- Dress up a plain or solid color table cloth with a “topper”. This can be as simple as a piece of fabric purchased from the local fabric store, or a rented luxury linen topper. For a round table, purchase 1.5 yards of a fabulous fabric. This will give you a 54” square table topper. For a rectangular table, purchase a length of fabric as long as half your table + 12”. Cut the fabric down the middle lengthwise and sew the two strips together. You now have one long table runner to put down the middle of the table. If necessary, you can hem the edges.
- I also like to use chargers underneath the place setting. This is another opportunity to add color to your plain linen, and it helps keep the linen a little cleaner. Chargers can range from $1.00 each for a plastic one at discount stores, to $50 each for fancy glass, metal, or wood chargers. (You can rent those too for $2.00 each). Round placemats also do the trick but take up more room on the table.
- Napkins are another opportunity to add color to the table top. You can either give them a fancy napkin fold, or use a napkin ring to dress them up. Napkin rings can be as simple as a piece of ribbon or trim tied around the middle. I love to use fabric napkins because they make the occasion seem that much more special and provide enough fullness for a napkin ring. If you elect to use paper napkins, splurge on the thicker rectangular folded dinner napkins which come in a variety of colors at the party store.
- Always have some kind of centerpiece, but it doesn’t have to be a floral arrangement. Centerpieces at family tables should not be more than 12” high so that your guests can see the people across the table from them (unless the tall segment is narrow enough to see around). For a rectangular table you can layer greenery on top of your runner, then add votive candles or pillar candles of varying heights, and mix in ornamentation in contrasting color or texture. For ornamentation choose either pine cones, fruit (apples, oranges, or squash), or shiny Christmas ornaments.
- Now all that is left is your china, crystal and flatware. At this point your table will look so fantastic, that it won’t matter if you use Grandma’s Christmas china or your everyday plates. When planning your table, do try to keep in mind the color scheme and level of formality of the plates you will use so that the rest of the table décor is consistent.
(originally printed in Streetscape Magazine Holiday 2017)