Happy gathering season to all who observe! With the holiday season coming oh so quickly, it's officially time to start planning your impending gatherings with friends and family. From intimate dinner parties to lively family feasts, setting a stunning tablescape is a perfect way to elevate your dining experience and create lasting (and photographable) memories. Come one, come all, as we explore the art of setting the perfect holiday tablescape.
First and foremost, approach your tablescape like you would approach decorating a room – consider the size of the table, the amount of people that will be in attendance, what the preexisting decor looks like, and of course, the occasion. After you’ve noted what you’re working with, you’re ready to go full speed ahead into your table setting. One pro tip for these busy holiday gatherings: If time and space permits, you can set your tablescape ahead of time, so the only thing you have to worry about is the 5 course meal you’re preparing in the kitchen.
THE RIGHT BACKDROP
Time for the table setting rorschach test: Tablecloth or runner?
Tablecloths command a certain amount of attention, as they’re the canvas upon which your dinnerware, glassware, and decor sit. A tablecloth can be incredibly transformative, making even the most basic dinnerware look extraordinary with an appropriately paired backdrop. Striped or similarly patterned tablecloths are a great way to add dimension and interest onto your table while still operating within a neutral palette. But don’t be fooled, runners are not a meek or forgettable choice. In fact, they provide you with even more opportunity to be your most creative self. We love to layer different placemats and linen napkins on top of a runner, especially if you have a particularly remarkable table underneath. And for the brave and bold tablescapers in the crowd: you can, in fact, choose both. Layering a runner on top of a tablecloth can be a pleasant surprise, as long as neither element overpowers the other. If you’re going for the maximalist route, make sure your decor and dinnerware match some of the preexisting colors or textures in one of your two tabletop elements.
MIX + MATCH
If Hawkins has 2 favorite words, they’re mix and match. From the runner + placemat combination to the dinnerware + glassware coupling, there are truly no rules when it comes to mixing and matching on your tablescape. Combine different colors, textures, and patterns on your table by choosing multiple sets of colored dinnerware, glassware, and decor. Vintage glassware is a great addition on the texture front. Akin to layering vintage clothing items in your outfit, combining vintage pieces with your contemporary pieces infuses loads of personality into your table setting. But if vintage isn’t your scene, mix different styles of glassware: we love the idea of having Mamo glasses (with their colorful yet sleek design) and Hobnail tumblers (with their blunt and bold pattern) in the same tablescape. Another way to mix and match items on your table is with taper candles and candle holders. Combine different materials – like silver, brass, and ceramic – and varying heights of the holders to make your table come alive, or mix tapers with votives for a less dramatic feel.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
Assuming you’re not throwing a 50 person dinner party (and if you are, we commend your courageous spirit), you have the opportunity to spoil your guests with heaps of details that make your event feel even more special. A dinner party with custom menus at each setting is sure to delight, but handwritten place cards will make just as much of an impact. A great way to get granular is with your flower arrangements. Even if you’re unable to swing a trip to the local flower market for armfuls of exotic blooms, you can still make your flowers a strong point of conversation. As our friend Shean Strong says, “Inexpensive flowers definitely look great in bulk. So if you are apprehensive about trying to find a certain variety, just go with one type of flower and really go crazy with that one.” Don’t forget, flowers don’t have to be flowers. If you’re in the dead of winter with a beautiful selection of leaves and branches outside your window, go for a little foraging excursion and bring the outdoors onto your table. You can also incorporate herbs like rosemary to make the table feel and smell fresh.
Another opportunity for details lies within napkins (and if you haven’t yet invested in a set of linen ones, this is your sign to do so). Napkin rings, especially some more unexpected ones, are a simple and beautiful way to elevate the table. Alternatively, there are a variety of knots – from simple rustic ones to elaborate origami-esque ones – that look stunning atop your dinnerware, adding a unique visual element to your tablescape that your guests will certainly appreciate.
FOLLOW THESE STEPS
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to create a tablescape.
Step 1: Start with the base, whether it’s a tablecloth or a runner, then add any layering components like placemats.
Step 2: Set your dinnerware. Begin with the dinner plate in the center, followed by a salad plate, and if necessary, a bowl. This is your time to experiment with different patterns and sets.
Step 3: Set your flatware. Traditionally, the fork goes on the left and the knife and spoon go on the right, but you’re encouraged to try out different arrangements, like crossing the utensils or tying them up with ribbon.
Step 4: Set your glassware. Mix and match styles, add a pitcher, or provide a simple combination of 1 water glass and 1 wine glass.
Step 5: Set your napkins, adding pop of color and flair atop the dinner plate or beneath the fork.
Step 6: Set your chosen decor including flowers, candles, and any other items you’d like to add.
As our favorite season of the year unfolds, remember that your table is the centerpiece to the best kind of gatherings. From professionally set to casually thrown together, it will always be the place where you become closer to people you already love and enjoy the company of those you’ve only just met. We encourage you to use these tablescape tips all year long and keep them in mind when you’re attending someone else’s dinner as a guest: you might consider bringing the host a gift that can fit onto their tablescape, like a set of taper candles with a nice, neutral holder. And if you need to pick up any extras for your tablescape, shop The Table Setting Edit here.
Cheers and Happy Holidays from Hawkins New York.