Home & Garden

Holiday entertaining guide: Tabletop decor

Pierced steel serveware, including tray with domed cloche, channel the rustic look of an antique. A punched floral border and riveted handle distinguish the top, which is big enough to house a 20-pound turkey. Companion platters and bowl also are available at Crate & Barrel.
Pierced steel serveware, including tray with domed cloche, channel the rustic look of an antique. A punched floral border and riveted handle distinguish the top, which is big enough to house a 20-pound turkey. Companion platters and bowl also are available at Crate & Barrel. CRATE & BARREL

Traditions, memories of past celebrations, loved ones and good times all are tied to the holidays. And it’s the home, particularly the table where family and friends gather, that is most evocative.

The celebratory mood demands something extra special at the table. Customization has been a buzzword in home design the past few years. No better time to put your personal stamp on entertaining than by accentuating those little details that make the home inviting.

There’s not just one recipe for freshening or spicing up your tabletop decor, and you can make each holiday special by tweaking the table, starting with Thanksgiving, through Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.

Texture and layering resonate in home furnishings today, and that’s certainly true on the table. Solid-colored plates and serveware take on a more artisanal dimension with relief work that adds tone-on-tone pattern. Embroidered or beaded placemats and napkins lend a dressed-up sparkle.

Simpler style with less clutter also has been a design mantra. But the holidays are for richness and abundance, so the two may conflict. What’s more apparent is a mix of high and low – shiny and matte, metallic and glittery with rough-hewn. Spotted at the October furniture market in High Point, N.C., for example, were burlap pillows with rhinestone decorations. This kind of disparate juxtaposition can also be highly effective on the table.

It goes without saying that not everything has to match. Bunny Williams, who recently introduced dinnerware for Ballard Designs, says: “I don’t own full sets of china. I prefer to create my own uniquely mismatched service. This always results in a more interesting dinner table.”

Williams’ new patterns do that. One called Melange features a couple of different borders and modern leafy patterns on salad plates. All are in soft greens and apricots, a fresh look on the fall table.

Most people are drawn to the palette of the season – particularly in autumn when leaves, gourds, pumpkins, even ornamental cabbage evoke rich oranges, reds, golden yellows and aubergines. The nature theme can be expressed on dinnerware, tablecloths, placemats and napkins, and in serving pieces.

More organic motifs and materials seem to have promoted a more relaxed approach as well. When tastemakers like Aerin Lauder show a more playful attitude, like integrating her sons’ toy action figures, bowls with seashells or stones on tables with beautiful heirloom pieces from her grandmother Estee, it signals a kind of blessing.

A mix of vintage dinnerware with contemporary pieces remains a hot trend because it creates a modern ambience. Just adding a single element, such as an accent plate, a showstopping charger or statement serveware, with strategically placed color can make all the difference. And there’s always room for a hint of sheen to reflect candlelight.

More glam looks seem especially suited to Hanukkah and Christmas. As we’re seeing in home fashions, a bit of shimmer is like magic on fabrics and accessories. Beads, crystals, sequins or rhinestones decorating placemats, cloths and napkins can provide a gala backdrop for generic white china that will transition to a dressed-up elegance that transcends a particular style.

Metallic finishes also lend a glimmer that may be polished, burnished or matte. A love of gold has been prominent in furnishings, but silver and copper remain favorites for some. One holiday table shown at Pier I Imports keeps a consistent silver theme, from beaded plate chargers to glasses decorated with silvery snowflakes to bowls with ornaments.

As for color, you might take cues from your own decor. Or choose a hue that you really love and go with it as the base for neutral or patterned plates – then bring a little bit of it into an adjacent room.

Svitlana Flom, who writes a decor blog called Art de Fete, teamed a soft shade of lavender with silver for an unconventional holiday tablescape. She called on New York floral designer Olga Gerasimenko to design three simple pieces that would be an easy DIY with supermarket flowers – a pair of white globes made up of carnations set into plastic foam; a larger globe blossoming with carnations in white and shades of purple; some white mums, dotted with berry stems of silver brunia and rimmed with white rice flowers. In the living area, Flom popped in some pillows and a throw in complementary hues, and even mixed in books with purple spines to tie in the scheme.

Also, think of serveware as both decorative and functional, like a soup tureen, butter dish, bowl or platter. Artistry has reached a new level, with amazingly realistic hand-painted looks – some fresco-like, such as turkey and pheasant platters designed in-house at Pottery Barn, and whimsical, almost retro looks that are highly graphic, like turkey platters at Crate & Barrel.

No matter what you choose, make it your own. And enjoy the ambiance you’ve created, with your family and friends.