by Brenda Miller
Interior Designer, The Miller House
photos by Lauri Bridgeforth
This time of year brings plenty of reasons to celebrate. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, entertaining at home is in full swing. It’s fun to decorate for the holidays, especially when you’re creating a gorgeous tablescape.
“Tablescape” is a relatively new term in interior decorating, and it’s just what it sounds like: a landscape for your table. I suggest taking advantage of wonderful items you have on hand, and then get creative and experiment with them. Hopefully my ideas will help you to think out of the box.
Pretty linens are a good starting place — their colors give you a framework. One of the most common ways to display napkins is a simple rectangular fold, set directly on the plate under the knife and fork. However, there are multiple ways to get creative with napkin folds. My secret to enhance any place setting is by using a unique napkin fold. If that sounds too stressful, try this: Take a square cloth napkin open it flat on a table.
Take two fingers and grab it in the center and flip it over just as if you are holding an ice cream cone. Stuff into a glass goblet, tall drinking glass, or wineglass and let the napkin fall into place. Rearrange as need until you are pleased with your final product. Using two napkins together adds to the “wow” factor you want to create.
A great idea for a New Year’s celebration is an interactive runner of butcher paper in white. It is a great way to involve the younger guests in the creative process. Supply pretty markers in gold, red, and silver metallic and let the youngsters write about or draw their own holiday inspirations and resolutions.
For the older guests of the party, a unique presentation for each place setting is placing a round shaped clock (no more than 3” thick) on a gold charger. Place a large clear dinner plate over each clock- your theme is set! Enhance the place setting by incorporating gold and white napkins, confetti and party favors in the same color combination.
Mix and match, layer plates and keep in mind the colors of the holiday. Mixing and matching different dinnerware is fine; just make sure the overall look is cohesive. Don’t over-layer or complicate the table with competing colors and patterns. For example, mix in solid white or red dinnerware with a set of patterned red & white dishes to make them stretch: use the patterned salad plates on solid white plates, and basic white salad plates on top of the patterned dinner plates.
One of my favorite designer tricks is using square plates. Whether it’s a dinner, salad or dessert plate, glass or porcelain, the unexpected shape is a sweet surprise! They look terrific layered and also make fabulous serving dishes. Turn the square plate into a diamond formation for added interest.
Try metallic charger plates with your fine china. Charger plates are an easy and economical way to instantly dress up the table for both formal and casual meals! They are typically meant to act as a place holder for the dinner plate and removed after the salad course during formal meals, but they work great even at more casual occasions.
Different levels add visual interest, but you don’t need to buy special stands. I often add height by putting boxes under the tablecloth, but not this time of year. Wrap cardboard boxes as if they were gifts and arrange them on the table in staggering heights. Top each one with something festive for a multilevel look that is sure to get everyone in the giving spirit.
Wrap empty pasta boxes, shipping boxes and Pringles containers (small patterns work best). Another great option for adding height is using cake plates, which come in a variety of colors and heights.
Consider fresh flowers. They don’t have to be expensive. Place the flowers in a clear glass vase and add a touch of light in the water using LED garland that can be placed directly in water. (We sell these at The Miller House.) The garland is battery operated with a timer. Hide the battery pack and turn them on. Every day at the same time they will illuminate and your centerpiece will be the talk of the holidays. Amaryllis and paper white narcissus blooms are beautiful, but be sure to plan ahead — start them from bulbs 4 to 6 weeks earlier.
I like to spray-paint dried hydrangeas in rich, metallic gold or silver for an unusual look. Mix with boxwood, laurel or other fresh greens for a fragrant centerpiece.
Placed in a vase, branches can hold your favorite ornaments for a real “wow” effect. Keep them natural, or spray-paint a metallic color. My favorite is spray painting them white to last through the entire winter season. Fill the vase about half with round ornaments, cranberries, sugar or faux snow, pinecones, or any small object and place your twigs.
When it comes to decorating with fruit, I recommend faux. One of my creative creations is to turn a cake plate upside down. On the pedestal add a pineapple. At the base (the cake surface), add cuttings of boxwood to completely cover the base. Sprinkle with apples or lemons and nuts to create a unique colonialstyle centerpiece.
Once you start the decorating process, you’ll look at everyday objects with new eyes and your tablescape will be a creative reflection of the season’s excitement. For more inspiration, stop by The Miller House during this holiday season. We are open 7 days a week until Dec. 23rd.