One of my favorite ways to make the holidays special is turning our dining room table into an inviting scene–not just for guests, but for our own little family–with holiday table linens, candles, centerpieces and special little touches that help make these last two months a time of meaningful gathering.
Setting the table has always been something my family was good at growing up, and I can remember many times actually uttering the word “Wow!” when we came to the table – candles, flowers, cloth napkins accordian-folded and tied with ribbon. When I bought my first condo, do you know the first thing my dad dropped by with? I had no pots and pans, no towels, no bed; but my dad made damn sure I had a nice set of chargers to put under my dinner plates and some good cloth napkins for hosting my first guests. What can I say? We don’t mess around with setting a nice table.
I completely get it now. It brings me great joy to pull open the drawers of my linen chest and choose placemats for chili and cornbread night or unfold my grandma’s tablecloth for a holiday breakfast, debating between the everyday dishes or the fancy ones. Designing a tablescape marries my love of nurturing with creativity, but I also love that it doesn’t take much to turn a regular table scene into something magical — a few details like candles or foraging the woods for some pinecones and sticks and adding them to the table.
This week, I combined our leftover mini pumpkins from Halloween with some pinecones I found in the woods and some craft store moss and birch branches I had saved to create this cozy November table scene for our family.
A few things I love to use for creating special table scenes for guests:
- Mismatch dishes: A few years ago, I started picking up single plates I loved to create a funky mismatched set, and I now have 12 beloved dinner plates I love pulling out for entertaining–some floral, some plaid, etc. A few came from thrift shops as well as some I bought new (sometimes a single random dish is cheaper because it’s the only one left) from Homegoods, T.J. Maxx, Macy’s, etc.
- Place Setting Name Cards: We don’t really care where anyone sits at the table, but seeing your name at a place setting feels so special. Plus, the kids LOVE making these and choosing where everyone is going to sit. And there are so many fun creative ways to incorporate people’s names in place settings.
- Candles: I have an obsession, and I’m dealing with it. I have been known, on more than one occasion, to ask a waiter to bring a candle to our table if there isn’t one when dining out.
- Cloth Napkins: They’re no fun to wash and put away, but turn meals into “gatherings,” and we’re all worth a good cloth napkin. Plus, they’re such a fun way to change up the colors and patterns of a tablescape.
- Natural elements: Bring the outdoors in — sprigs of evergreen, wildflowers, sticks, pinecones, acorns. It’s FREE table decor!
- Chargers: I love the extra layer and special touch chargers add. Dinners transform into dinner PARTIES, and depending on what kind of chargers you use — wood slices, brass, glass, etc. — you can set the vibe you’re dreaming of from elegant to farmhouse.
And finally, some of my favorite holiday tablescape items right now:
- Sugar Paper Scallop Cloth Napkins – Totally in love with Sugar Paper’s new line at Target, including these darling cloth napkins–classic black & white, but the scallop edge gives it a whimsical touch. Great for the holidays but still timeless for all year long.
- Crate & Barrel Vanilla Linen Tablecloth – Every table linen chest should start with a basic neutral-colored linen tablecloth. It can be used for every occasion, and a white or ivory one serves as a nice foundation for contrasting pops of color or pattern in napkins, plates, and centerpieces.
- West Elm Pewter Charger – I love the added touch nice chargers add to a tablescape. These are a bit of a splurge, but they’re so beautiful and neutral enough that they can be used for any occasion. If you entertain a lot, it’s a meaningful investment.
- Buffalo Plaid Cloth Napkins – An inexpensive set of 6, perfect for winter nights around the table – tuck in a little sprig of evergreen, and you have the perfect holiday table setting.
- Bottle Brush Trees – You can pick them up anywhere – Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s – in a variety of sizes. Arrange them down the middle of your dining room table, throw in some tea lights, and there you have it — the easiest way to turn your table into a winter wonderland scene.
- Oil Lamp – A nice farmhouse touch for the middle of your table and a great way to bring a cozy glow without the mess of candle wax. Snap off some little evergreen branches and tuck them around it, and you’re basically having dinner in Laura Ingalls home.
- Threshold Scandinavian Table Runner – Get full Hygge effect with this wintery table runner.
- Magnolia Eucalyptus Pine Cone Garland – Garlands make the best centerpieces for holiday meals. Simply run it down the middle of the table (or over a table runner) and tuck a few taper candles in.
- Silver Plate Chargers – Super affordable (set of 6) and an elegant way to dress up your dinner plates.
- Mitten Silverware Pouches – This set of 6 mittens gives you 12 place settings. Tuck silverware and a cloth napkin into these festive mittens and lay them on top of each plate to make a winter statement. Your guests (and kids) will remember it and feel so special.
- Threshold Candy Cane Stripe Cloth Napkins – Classic red and white pinstripe never gets old. Feels festive in November and December but can serve as everyday table linens come January.