“When a guest sits down there should be something beautiful and inspiring to look at,” says noted Palm Beach and Hamptons party host and author Annie Falk.
That notion rings even more true during the holiday season, when you may have extra people gathering at your home to enjoy a special meal. You work so hard to make sure the food is perfect, but what about the table decorations?
Tablescape is a nouveau word that defines an arrangement of items on a table that produces an attractive and decorative effort, often complete with coordinating place settings and other details (more encompassing than a centerpiece). The expression, a combination of table and landscaping, was coined by television chef Sandra Lee in 2003.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, local designers expressed their thoughts about seasonal tablescapes.
“Ideas for decorating your table can come from anywhere, from seeing an image online or by loving a product you saw at the store, which happens to me often,” said Calanit Atia, founder and president of A to Z Events in Las Vegas.
“The best way to conjure ideas for your fabulous tablescape is to select a theme that inspires you, excites you and makes you joyful about expressing your personal creativity,” said Kimberly Joi McDonald of Designing JOI. “Then, think of how this theme can harmoniously and cohesively complement your home and adjacent spaces near your dining area. Keep in mind to keep your theme celebratory.”
She recommends brainstorming or Googling a list of prospective themes that appeal to you. Write them down, assess the feasibility of creating the theme and select the winning one to create.
“Envision the end result being a unique, beautiful tablescape that you create,” McDonald added. “If you need assistance, hire a professional interior designer and/or event planner to execute your dream tablescape.”
The designers recommended that home decorators should incorporate their own special items (such as vintage linens, candlesticks, even bandanas and scarves) into their holiday tablescape, making each one a truly personal creation.
Atia stresses that you should work with what you have, such as table settings and tablecloths, then only purchase additional decoration details. McDonald says that a Thanksgiving tablescape can be transformed for other upcoming holidays by maintaining a monochromatic, neutral color palate and strategically changing areas within the tablescape with pops of colors to result in a new look — low maintenance yet cost- and time-saving and rich with flair.
Start to design your tablescape well ahead of when you want to display it. The first step is to choose a suitable backdrop — which might be a tablecloth, a piece of fabric or a yard of gingham. Be creative.
You can also layer different fabric objects at this time. Atia highly recommends purchasing a beautiful white tablecloth, which can work for all holidays and can be mixed and matched with all colors.
“Invest in this because it’s something that can be used time and time again,” she said.
According to Ambius Las Vegas, a company specializing in decorating office spaces for the holidays, popular design and color trends this year include the reimagining of traditional holiday colors with an art deco focus, cool blue and silver tones of coastal chic, the glamorous Hollywood Caravan, the brightly colored “Merry &Bright” or the periwinkle-accented Veri Peri (Pantone’s color of the year for 2022) Christmas. Any of these themes could be used to start your tablescape concept.
McDonald suggests selecting an inspirational color palette or colors that you are inherently drawn to that will complement the decor of your home.
“The goal is always ensuring a cohesive and complementary design that is harmonious with the dining area and adjacent areas. Do not choose a color palette that will distract from your home decor or compete with it by clashing in a stark, negative contrast,” she said.
“You can also use this same color palette for the entire holiday season and embellish it with metallic finishes. For example, if you are celebrating Hannukah, Christmas and New Year’s, you can use a sapphire blue-hued color palette with gold and/or silver metallic accents.”
Other options might include a monochromatic solid color, harvest colors, sumptuous jewel tones, pretty pastels, warm chestnut browns, earthy neutrals and winter white. These color palettes can produce stunning tablescapes with accessories showcasing glorious hues for either sophisticated or casual tablescapes.
Flowers, fresh or dried fruits (think of unexpected things like figs or pears for Thanksgiving) and even colored foliage can make your tablescape special. McDonald suggests incorporating organic elements such as burlap, muslin, jute twigs and raffia ribbon, as well as seasonal blooms, wildflowers, freshly cut botanicals, olive branches, succulents, lit garland, rosemary garland and sprigs, natural evergreen, magnolia leaves, mini-fir trees, topiaries, natural twigs, mistletoe and snowy greenery.
“Flowers — everyone loves them! Pick the colors that correlate with the holiday and you’ll be good to go,” Atia said.
“Maximizing your good eye and good taste need not reveal what was spent on your tablescape,” McDonald said. “You can create an elaborate tablescape on a small budget and with items you already have, like featuring sustainable natural elements. Budget-friendly options are to make your own natural wreaths, purchase on-sale craft items and use existing items in your home, such as holiday tablecloths or runners, placemats, holiday napkins, natural pine cones that can be sprayed with metallic paint and various size crystal or glass votives with candles.”
And if you don’t have a statement chandelier, you can utilize candles, tealights, candle votives and candlesticks for even more interest, McDonald added.
Think about adding height as vertical interest sets a unique table dressing apart from an everyday setting. You can use a variety of covered cardboard boxes to get your desired height.
However, Atia cautions that centerpieces and tablescapes should be designed so that guests can see the people seated across from them. Continue going vertical by using taper candles set in candlesticks, stacks of books and even baskets. Mixing appropriate colors and textures, including rattan, straw, metals and porcelain, will add to the festive design.
And don’t forget the small details. Trinketlike items can make a big difference. You might consider incorporating things like acorns or leaves for Thanksgiving, vintage ornaments for Christmas and maybe New Year’s-themed party favors, easily accessible to guests.
What’s the best advice for taking on this project?
“I find that people often put too much pressure on themselves,” Atia said.
McDonald agreed. “People need to remember that the main emphasis is on the good food and the company, not the decor,” she said. “No one should feel intimidated to create tablescapes because the focus is about executing your vision, enjoying the moment and creating a joyous and blissful experience for the holiday season. You will cherish these memories.
“Create a simple or over-the-top, jaw-dropping tablescape that tells your story and shows insight to who you are. Enjoy the moment of creating joyful experiences and celebratory moods for successful holiday events in your home. Displaying your joyful magic is the finishing touch,” she added.