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Holiday tablescapes

Posted By flradmin On November 25, 2011 @ 12:39 PM In Today's Living | Comments Disabled

Display your holiday feast in good taste

Story and photography by Laura Gardner


These transitional dishes at Interiors by France can go with any design style.

Food plays an important part in holiday gatherings, and how it is displayed can leave as much of an impression on guests as the selection and taste of the entree. When it is time to sit down at the table, you can show good taste by carefully planning your tablescape — the aesthetic layout and presentation of the meal.

There are several ways you can begin when designing your own tablescape. Some interior designers and stylists recommend using the basic principles of design to get started. According to Ann Andre, owner of Junk Yard Chic, “When you design a tablescape, just like when you design a room or another grouping, you need a focal point. You need something your eye draws to, whether it is artwork or a color.”

In a tablescape the focal point is often something in the centerpiece, whether it’s natural, whimsical, traditional, shabby chic or one of the many other design styles.

Aimee Beatty, Pier One Imports stylist, begins with the decorating style or theme. Beatty said, “The best way to approach a tablescape is to begin by selecting a theme, whether it’s festive and bright or subdued neutrals. Then, begin creating the tablescape by layering. Start with a table runner and build from there using placemats, chargers, stacks of dinnerware and stemware. Centerpieces are the perfect way to pull the entire table together and can be as simple as staggered candles to flowers in vases ranging in different heights.”

Shannon Kline, visual manager at Herberger’s, recommends finding things around your home to use as your focal point, such as turning a pitcher into a vase of flowers, filling a large bowl full of red apples and candles, or placing large leaves under the plates as placemats.

When creating her tablescapes, Kelly Scherr, interior designer and buyer at Interiors by France, uses a similar approach. Scherr first builds the center up using books or other stacked items and then covers those with a tablecloth or runner. She recommends matching the tablescape to the colors and styles of the room it is located in and stresses that it is important to use varying heights across the spread.

“If you look at a lot of our tables, it seems like the more exciting ones have some sort of life to them,” Scherr said. “Whether it’s a Santa, or a deer, it always seems to me that if that’s not in there, something is missing. It adds that little bit of excitement; even if it’s just a pair of birds.”

Scherr said the trend this year is a more traditional look, including dark green and Christmas red. She mentioned that many people are turning to classic things — things that will last longer, perhaps as a result of the state of the economy. Many items that make up a tablescape are items that will not be replaced each year to follow trends, but instead last for years, such as a keepsake Santa or an antique china set.

At Junk Yard Chic Andre specializes in repurposing items and giving them a new life. She suggests, for example, you start with that antique china set. Then, add new touches such as bright colored napkins, to give it a new life and bring in a fun, unexpected element. In this way you can still make use of the items you already have. Another idea is to use vintage ornaments as napkin rings or wine rings. Andre suggests that rather than following trends, you find something you love, something that makes you happy and build around that. By repurposing items or incorporating a traditional style it is possible to create a tablescape on a low budget.

Beatty also added, “You can have a low budget and still make a table sparkle and look fabulous. Start with a great table runner and groups of candles or an embellished bowl with decorative spheres, and begin layering additional decor as your budget allows.”

When designing a tablescape it is also important to take into consideration the amount of space needed for guests to be comfortable. Be sure to leave enough room for the food and dinnerware, or decide ahead of time what will be removed from the table when it is time to place the food on the table. Elaborate design could hinder the comfort of guests or block the view of people having a conversation across the table.

“Simplicity is important,” Andre said. “A lot of what you see in magazines are done for the magazines; it’s not really livable.” It is important to keep in mind the workability and function of the design as well as the comfort of your guests.

“You always want to make sure that anything you select to display food is food safe,” Beatty said. “Additionally, selecting pieces that are dishwasher safe will help make clean-up run as smoothly as possible.”

This year battery-operated remote control candles are a popular and safe centerpiece item. Flameless candles provide light and create a cozy, intimate setting without the mess or the fire hazard. According to Beatty, “The latest trends include grouping candles, lanterns, trays or even stacks of dinnerware in ways that mix and match, as the base to centerpiece. Then, layer in dinnerware, glassware and silverware.”

Some tablescapes include a small place setting item that the guest may take home and keep as memorabilia. In a holiday tablescape this could be as simple as a small pumpkin, a Christmas ornament or even a small card with a quote setting on top of the guest’s dessert plate.

Although tablescapes most commonly refer to the spread of a dining room table, the concept of tablescapes can also extend to other areas of the home. Take advantage of coffee tables, vanities, book shelves, sofa tables or other surfaces and design a tablescape that will create an inviting environment throughout the home.

Whichever style you choose for your tablescape, match the style and colors with the surroundings; choose varying heights for your centerpiece; layer with a runner, centerpiece, and dinnerware; and keep it simple. Bon appétit!

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