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6 Tips for Designing the Perfect Holiday Table

Tis the season for family dinners, intimate and festive get-togethers with close friends, and holiday parties for colleagues and neighbors. In short, it’s time to think about dressing your dining room table for the holidays!

It’s also a perfect time to exercise a little creativity. Consider the following six tips for designing a fresh and visually stunning holiday table. 

Keep It Simple for Heightened Drama
It’s tempting to want to “go big or go home” when it comes to a holiday table, especially when guests are expected. Yet simple elements can be just as festive as extravagance when they’re strategically chosen and placed. Aim to make a statement with a single striking centerpiece, then keep the rest of the table muted and subdued. Alternatively, make your statement with one bold pop of color — for instance, with vibrant glassware — and keep everything else muted. Streamline your servings and napkin folds instead of choosing multiple pieces and intricate designs.

Use Color Creatively
You can always stick to the traditional holiday hues of evergreen and cheery red but for a touch of the unexpected, why not choose a different approach? Choose a simplified color scheme that’s nearly monochromatic, then add a single contrasting shade value for high drama. Blue and gold make for a bright and cheerful combination, while pink, black and silver evoke a more contemporary vibe. Or build a palette around more muted neutrals, then add accent elements in either red or green for a nod to tradition that’s still modern and fresh.

Incorporate Natural Elements
While we might often associate fabricated items such as metallic tree ornaments and brightly dyed fabrics with holiday decor, you can evoke an even lovelier, peaceful ambience by bringing in a touch of the outdoors to your table. Instead of store-bought greenery, try some living plants, succulents, and ivy. Or send the kids out (supervised, of course!) to collect nontoxic berries and pine cones to scatter around the table for a sweet callout to the season’s beauty.

Think Outside the (Holiday Gift) Box
Keep the creativity flowing by choosing one or two elements to update with a new twist on the season. Most festive holiday tables incorporate candles of some type — why not augment yours with a string of decorative lights twisted elegantly around a lovely ribbon and run down the middle of the table? (Safety should always come first, so check to make sure the lights don’t burn hot before you place them.)

Photo: Alexander Mils

Don’t Forget the Rest of Your Space
While you’re busy focusing on creating the perfect elegant dining table, don’t neglect the rest of the space. Add some seasonal swagger to your walls with garland and lights or drape it casually across a mantelpiece as a backdrop. Craft wide ribbon sashes into pretty bows for your dining room chairs. And don’t forget to decorate up, as well as out. Attach beautiful decorative cutouts or tree ornaments to pretty ribbons and hang from the ceiling to create vertical visual interest.

Make  It ‘Gram-Worthy and Welcoming
Sure, you want your table to make a statement and have your guests reaching for their phones to snap a few Instagrammable shots to commemorate the occasion. However, you also want it to feel welcoming — seasonable without being stuffy, creative but not confining. Give your table a full dress rehearsal by enlisting a few family members or friends to help you road test placement, height, depth, and available space. Make sure you check sightlines so that each guest will be able to converse with others without visual obstructions. You can always trim down candles that are too high, or raise ceiling-attached decor a few inches to adjust.