Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Table Settings and Entertaining Ideas

I love creating inviting tablescapes for meals - whether for company or family.  Christmas tablescapes are especially fun.  When I started styling this particular blog, I had no idea how challenging it would be!  It is actually much harder to make an interesting arrangement for one than it is to set an entire table.  Also, I realized as I got into it, I didn't have any fresh flowers!  Oh, horrors!  I really do like to use fresh flowers, so as I go along, I will share with you in words, how I would do an entire table, but you will get the general idea with the settings below.  I hope you are inspired to create a special setting for your family and friends tonight!

Unless I am having a very special party, I like to start with things I already have as a base and then add on as needed.  I have an array of table linens, dishes, and napkin rings to select from, trying to do something different each time.  Here are a few ideas below....enjoy!

I thought for the first one, I would show that you can start with regular dishes and still have an inviting Christmas scene.  I started with a red table cloth, my regular white plate (I bought 24 place settings of these white dishes years ago at Maas Brothers.  They are really useful for buffets.) and a salad plate from Williams Sonoma.  I added two feather trees and a "woodland" Santa.  I would probably put them down the center of the table with votive candles in the little black lantern that is on the  upper left hand side.  You can barely see it, but it matches the lantern that is hanging off Santa's hand.  I bought five of these lanterns on clearance at Michael's Crafts several years ago, just knowing that I would use them sometime!  I think I got them for a dollar a piece. You can't see it in detail, but beside the lantern is a little nest with a bird perched on it.  The place card is tucked in behind it.  The green, red, and tan napkin gives a rustic feeling, as does the grapevine wreath napkin ring.  I am using my hand blown green goblets.

I could see using this place setting when I have my grandchildren over to make holiday cookies.  A bright green polka dot tablecloth is topped with a red ruffled charger and my white dinner plate.  The red napkin is trimmed with bright green ric-rac and has a gingerbread man napkin ring.  A red goblet brings pep to the table, as does the green sparkly snowflakes at the top left of the plate.  The cutest thing though is the gingerbread house cookie tin at the top.  You can have one at each child's place so they have something to take their wonderful cookies home in!  I think I would do something simple like several small white poinsettias lined up down the center of the table and maybe sprinkle small candies like gumdrops, etc. all around. 

Using the same tablecloth as above, let's change things up for a casual girlfriend luncheon.  I like this ceramic snowman with the metal "pail" hat.  He would make a good centerpiece with "snow" sprinkled down the center of the table.  I might also do something like small square vases packed with red carnations on either side of him.  I used my white plates again, topped with silver gray salad plates to match the snowman's hat.  The red plaid napkin picks up the colors of the snowman and the jingle bell napkin ring brings whimsy and matches the green table cloth.  I especially adore the big red jingle bell that I am using as  a place card holder.  My flatware here is my everyday silver plate that my husband's sister gave us when we were married 36 years ago. 

This place setting is a little more contemporary in feeling.  I used the red tablecloth, but added a white and black polka dot square underneath it.  Do you know what the square is?  Scrapbooking paper!  I just really liked the look of it and if it gets soiled, so what!  You can just throw it away!  I drew my inspiration from the little Santa gift box that has a black background and the "JOY" is candy cane stripes.  You can't see it well, but the real candy canes at the upper left are in a red shiny pail with white fur around the top - so cute!  You could mix several of the pails with several Santas for an adorable centerpiece.  I think I might also add white fluffy cotton batting down the center for the pails and the Santas to nestle in.  Black napkins are unexpected and add a nice grounding color.

This gives a nice cozy cabin feeling.  These are dishes I bought years ago at Target.  They have a soft moss green border with white pine trees and deer.  The little bread plate in the center is trimmed in brown, with a golden tan "NOEL" imprinted on the center.  The napkin is a textured heavy weave cotton encircled with a green wreath napkin ring.  The white-tipped pine cone is used as a place card holder.  The party favor is an apple cake mix with a green spatula tied to the outside.  There are tiny pine cones nestled around the green goblet.  I think I would use small green trees down the center with white pillar candles in clear glass hurricane shades and a sprinkling of pine cones and maybe some small deer and maybe raffia in some way.

I loved this initial ornament.  I thought is was just as cute as can be and a fun way to identify who should be seated where.  The red and green linens are a waffle weave with a casual feel.  The napkin ring is a ceramic tree made by my late mother-in-law.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will notice lots of ceramics that were made by Barbie Benedict.  That was her "thing" for several years.  She enjoyed going to her weekly ceramic classes, so everybody in the family got some type of ceramic for almost every gift giving occasion.  I like to use natural materials if I can, so for the centerpiece I would use my big twig basket with greens and fresh apples.  In the glass candle holders, I am using tiny pine cones around the white pillar candle.
This table setting was the most challenging.  I am using my red tablecloth again with a red napkin tied with a gold ribbon to match the gold ruffled charger.  The little glass nutcracker ornament is tucked inside.  I think I would put my lantern in the middle of the table and several of my nutcrackers on each side with votives and walnuts still in their shells scattered around.

These are my everyday dishes during December.  I think I bought them at Target years ago.  They sit atop a red charger on a red and green plaid table runner and a green napkin.  I like to use my Byers Carolers as a centerpiece with snow sprinkled around and lots of white votives.  It's nice to add a few small trees if you can.  It would be nice to add rosemary topiaries if they are available.  Then you can give one to everyone as a party favor.  I also like these little bags of peppermint candies tied up with a red bow for a festive touch.

Okay, I won't deny it - these dishes are my pride and joy - the Holidays pattern from Tiffany & Co.  I remember when I first started buying them.  It was years ago before the Internet and I had to go to an actual Tiffany's store to buy them.  It was May 1995, at a Junior League national conference in San Francisco and I cut out of one of the seminars to go to Tiffany's to buy my first four place settings.  I was a very happy girl!  I have my sterling flatware, Old Maryland Engraved and my crystal wine glasses that were given to me about 26 years ago when I left Jacobson's in Osprey.  I had worked there several years right out of college and was the home store manager.  I "retired" to be a stay-at-home mom and the whole store pitched in to buy me 16 pieces of stemware.  I was very touched and I still use them!  My table is rather narrow, so if I am using everything including the bread and butter plates, I need something narrow down the center, so I would use something like above.  The only other thing I might do is add red ribbon weaving in and out of the greenery.  I tucked in a sprig of red berries to add life to the white linen napkin.

This is a more casual way to use the Tiffany china - a red plaid tablecloth, greenery with pears, apples, pine cones and nuts to mimic the design on the china and brass candlesticks.  Though you can hardly see him, there is a little Santa at the top of the plate.  Several years ago, I saw these little Santas on clearance at a craft store and I bought all they had, I think about 20.  There are five or six different styles of Santas, but they all coordinate.  I use them to add interest to the placesetting.  They add a little whimsy to formal china.  The green napkin has a twig wreath napkin ring. 

I hope you use these 10 place settings to spark your imagination.  A few tips....

1.  Don't think you have to have Christmas china.  You can certainly make a festive table with your regular dishes.
2.  If you can though, it is scads of fun to have a few inexpensive patterns and one very lovely one.  It makes my heart sing to use my good Christmas china.  But that's the thing, you have to USE it.  You can't let it just sit on the shelf.  You deserve to use your good things every day.
3.  Keep your eye open for clearance items at craft stores.  For just pennies, you can add little touches that bring whimsy and magic to your table.
4.  Use your collections for your centerpieces.  I often just walk around my house and grab things here and there to use.  It brings personality to your table.
5.  Look outside for greenery you can use on your table.  It was pouring rain when I put together they settings or I would have been outside cutting greenery and flowers to use.  I love the florist, but I love just cutting things from the yard, too.
6.  Buy your basic red, green, and white table linens and then add on.  I probably have 20 Christmas tablecloths that I have gathered over the years.  I am very partial to plaid and have about five different plaids.  The same with napkins.  Have your basics and then you can add a few patterns.  Stripes and polka dots are traditional, yet add lots of "pop" to your table.
7.  Napkin rings go in and out of fashion.  I literally have drawers full of napkin rings.  They add lots of interest to a basic plate.
8.  One thing that I didn't use in the above photos, but are inexpensive and plentiful - Christmas ball ornaments.  They come in all sizes and colors and look terrific either piled in a big glass dish or scattered around the table.  I have even tied three different colors together and laid them at intervals down my table in between small floral arrangements.  It costs very little and looks very festive.
9.  I have a bit of a split personality.  I like very formal dinner settings and then I like very casual cabin-like rustic settings.  They both make me feel like Christmas.  I encourage you to mix the two.  The juxtaposition of the two styles gives you something very eclectic and vibrant.
10.  Don't be afraid to go big and bold.  As long as you can see over it, don't be afraid to use something, or several things, very substantial as a centerpiece.  Make a statement!

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