My holiday table is inspired by the hydrangea in my backyard. I was able to cut the hydrangea before it matured and turned brown.
The hydrangea in the tablescape came from a white hydrangea bush. It dried this beautiful shade of green that blends well with my dining room wall color and the tabletop tree and so the hydrangea became my theme for the tablescape.
How to Get the Custom Curated Look
The key to achieving a custom-designed tablescape is to strategically plan the look and make it cohesive. This can be done by first choosing a theme and color scheme for the table. I find, once I have selected a theme, it keeps me focused in the tablescape creation.
In this tablesetting, I have chosen a somewhat casual, relaxed theme that focuses on elements from my garden. Because, the hydrangea has turned a pretty shade of green, I have chosen the neutral green as my main color supported by gold, ivory, and white accents.
Before I buy anything for a tablesetting, and to achieve a tablescape that looks curated and custom made, I start by looking around the house to see what I already own or have available in the garden or backyard that can be incorporated into the tablescape. Nothing new was purchased for this tablesetting. I have had the gold trees and baubles for years and re-purpose them to wherever I need them each Christmas. Integrating items you already own creates a curated look, makes the setting more personal and, of course, it’s more economical.
Create the Tablescape Before Arranging Placesettings
When constructing a tablescape, piece by piece, directly on the table, I recommend starting with an unset table. You don’t want to be touching glassware with your arm and potentially knocking glasses over, causing breakage, as you try to reach into the center of the table to place items in the tablescape. Also, if there are pine or fir needles (fresh or faux), glitter, etc., involved, those will inevitably find their way on to plates and napkins and into glasses and, well, that’s just not the kind of garnish guests want to see in or on their food and drink! It’s just awkward to try and create a tablescape amidst placesettings. If you need to have parameters set for the spacing of the tablescape itself, I suggest setting the charger plates at each placesetting as markers. These can then be cleaned before the actual plates to be used for food are added.
Sometimes, I leave the table bare and other times I use a tablecloth such as the vintage Irish linen white tablecloth I have used in this setting. I find the white makes a great canvas for the elements of the tablescape to stand out.
One of the most important factors to consider when constructing a tablescape is its height. For the comfort of guests, and to enable them to communicate across the table during the meal, keep the height of the tablescape below the eyeline of seated guests.
For this tablescape, I started with a couple of good quality large faux greenery piks placed end-to-end in the center of the table. This provided the anchor base and shape, added depth and fullness, and also dictated the general size and expanse of the tablescape.
Next, I used an odd number of the focal point items – in this case, the three gold trees – and positioned them into place.
From there, I took the hydrangea and placed it in, around, and throughout the tablescape. There is no need to be overly fussy about keeping the hydrangea placement perfectly symmetrical. Instead, work on the flow, movement, and keeping the look natural.
Any place where I noticed gaps, I filled in with some greenery. Either fresh or faux greenery can be used. I chose freshly cut boxwood and holly from the bushes along my walkway. I opted to use just branches of holly that had no berries as there was no red connection to the tablescape and the leaves of the holly tree have such a lovely shape. Every time I step out my front door, I marvel at the stunning beauty of the holly bushes, particularly after a fresh snowfall.
I find, when creating a tablescape consisting primarily of flowers or foliage, it is best to limit the number of different kinds used. A general rule of thumb is to choose one signature flower (in this case, the hydrangea) and use a significant amount of it. This allows it to make a statement without competing with a number of other varieties of flowers. Using the boxwood and holly leaves, which are darker shades than the hydrangea, gives depth to the tablescape and also contributes to the seasonal look.
Some Christmas balls/baubles in light colors were added to inject some brightness into the tablescape and the metallics, of course, add texture, shape, and interest.
I added some ribbon here and there to connect the tablescape to the ribbon on the tabletop tree in the dining room, thus keeping the look cohesive and coordinated.
Because the hydrangea is tinder dry, I don’t want any open flame from candles on the table so have opted for battery lit gold glittery votives to give a warm glow and sparkle. A string of battery-operated twinkle lights with fine gold wire is strung throughout the arrangement to give a magical ambience to the table, particularly for evening dining.
Some brightly wrapped parcels in gold and white were placed, kitty-corner, on opposite ends of the table, adding a festive and glitzy look.
This neutral, nature-inspired tablescape is versatile enough that it will coordinate well with a number of different dinnerware choices. Here, I have set the table with plain white dinnerware (my all-time favorite!) but the tablescape will go equally well with my formal china that has enough green and gold in it to match. It will also work with my red and green plaid casual dinnerware and it would also complement my green and white vintage dishes. It’s always great when this can happen as it extends the use of the tablescape over the holiday period and the table’s look can be changed by simply switching out the dinnerware, napkins, and glassware.
I am a big fan of charger plates not only because I think they dress up a table and frame each placesetting but also because they serve the practical purpose of protecting the table linen from stains should any food find its way off a plate (it happens). The basic white dinnerware atop simple gold chargers is always elegant and sophisticated, goes with anything, and food colors pop against a white plate.
I have chosen to use white napkins with a glittery gold snowflake motif. Apart from contributing a soft textile texture to the table, the napkins connect to the gold in the tablescape and to the charger plates, again maintaining a cohesive and sophisticated look. In order to best show the motif, I have purposely used a simple flat napkin fold.
The placesettings reflect the order in which the meal will be served. In this case, the two plates and cutlery placement indicate there is a salad course followed by the main entrée. Stacking the plates gives a layered look that adds visual depth and fullness to placesettings. I have chosen glassware with lots of cut glass so that it will reflect the light and add dazzle to the table.
Setting a well-styled holiday table need not cost a lot of money. In this case, the use of free foraged natural products collected from my garden and yard provides a connection to nature and creates a neutral, yet festive tablescape.
To view other Christmas-themed tablesettings from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:
A number of years ago, I made these snowmen and, this year, thought they should be part of a casual holiday tablesetting that is aptly named “Snowmen and Snowballs“. So, here they are, all dressed in their finery to preside over the dinner table!
These two snowmen are positioned at opposite ends of the table because they can’t be trusted not to engage in a snowball fight! As you can see, they’ve already been busy with all those snowballs you see on the table!
I am a big fan of using what I already have as opposed to buying new items for tablesettings. In fact, I will often re-purpose decorations and ornaments (especially ones I can’t otherwise find a place for!) by using them in my tablesettings. And, this is exactly what I have done with this tablesetting.
How adorable are these little snowmen votives that adorn each placesetting!
The napkins are a rosy-pink-red pinstripe on fabric that has a homespun texture. They are very suitable for this casual tablesetting. The napkins don’t shout Christmas but are quite suitable for the season. They are also napkins I use other times of the year.
I am using my standard white dinnerware and have framed it with a red plaid charger plate on top of a round green placemat. The combination gives a nod to the traditional red and green colors typically associated with Christmas.
Because this is a fun, casual tablesetting, some liberties can be taken with the placement of elements of the placesetting. For example, because space is at a premium on this table, there really isn’t a lot of room for the cutlery on the sides of the placesetting. Therefore, I have casually laid the flatware at an angle on top of the plates as shown in the photo above.
How cute is this lumberjack snowman with his little red toque! This tablesetting is all about creating a vignette and a story and making it fun.
I seriously think lumberjack snowman is eyeing up his partner-in-crime, the bird watcher, at the other end of the table and taunting him to a snowball fight! We’ll see if we can get through dinner without snowballs flying between these two!
Around, and in between, the two snowmen, I have simply made a base of faux snow. I then just laid some faux greenery, along with some pine cones, mini white twinkle lights, and a string of snowball lights, on top of the snow. The battery-operated snowball lights do double duty in that they are part of the tablesetting story and they also add some unique lighting to the table. The snowballs look eye appealing, both in daylight and at night.
I didn’t fuss too much with the placement of the greenery, red berries, and pine cones, all of which are needed to contrast the white snow.
This type of tablescape is a good option for anyone who is not comfortable creating a precise table centerpiece as there really is no right or wrong way to position the greenery.
Some of today’s faux greenery is quite a good replica of the real greenery, pinecones, and berries. Plus, it is reusable, year after year.
Using both the snowball lights and twinkle lights adds a layer of drama to the tablesetting, particularly for evening dining. Without the layers of lights, the whole center of the table would be quite dark in the evening even with ambient room lighting.
It’s always important to think about how the tablesetting will look in different lighting situations for different dining experiences. This is especially true if the dining event is in the evening when no daylight will provide natural light in the room. The snowball lights really pop and come to life after dark. With nothing more than the tree lights, the lit votives, and the snowball and twinkle lights, the table comes to life and provides a cozy, warm, and inviting dining experience.
The little votive candles exude a warm, soft glow at each placesetting. I love the detail on these votives. They add a touch of whimsy to the tablesetting.
Typically, I would seat guests around all sides of the table. However, no matter how I positioned the snowmen, someone was going to be looking at the back or side of one of the snowmen. When constructing a tablescape, it is important to ensure that all guests, from all angles, have an equal view of the whole tablescape.
To ensure optimal visibility of all sides of the tablescape in the”Snowmen and Snowballs” tablesetting, a simple fix is to place two guests on each side of the table, leaving the ends vacant. This way, all guests have a full view of the entire tablescape/vignette.
Because the taller elements (the snowmen) are at the ends of the table and the center part is low profile, it is conducive to good dinner conversation among guests. Had I placed the snowmen in the center of the table, their height would have somewhat obstructed the view of diners of their dining companions.
I hope you have enjoyed a peek of my whimsical “Snowmen and Snowballs” Tablesetting. This setting is proof that not all tablescapes have to have the focal points of interest dead in the center of the table. Sometimes, the focal points can be at either end, or indeed, both ends of the table. This works so long as there is a connector between the two such as the low-profile runner of greenery and snowball lights atop faux snow in this setting.
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To view other holiday tablesettings from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below: