I love setting a table for a special occasion, especially for the holidays. Below are some great ideas, whether you use the entire idea or just a piece, it will help you get your creative juices flowing. All credit goes to Rachel Silva Oct 6, 2023, Elle Decor
Are you hosting this year? Take a few notes from the luxury British tablescaping service Maison Margaux’s Louisa Preskett Mobbs, who holds that Christmas season is an ideal time to release your inner maximalist when it comes to the size and quantity of centerpieces you bring to the table. “It’s a time when we gather friends and family around tables perhaps more than any other time of year,” she tells ELLE DECOR. “We really have fun with it.”
While tabletop styling is an art as subjective as paint to canvas, Preskett Mobbs says there’s a general formula to it. “To get that editorial magazine look, always layer your table,” she explains. “Your base is your table linen, then use the power of three (placemat, dining plate, and top plate) and stack plates before guests sit down to get that wow effect on the table. Then whisk them away to plate food.”
As for that centerpiece, Preskett Mobbs says the sky’s the limit. “Candy-cane glasses, jewel-toned candleholders, and silver goblets for berries are all lovely touches for a festive table.”
Ready to go beyond perfunctory tabletop trinkets and whatever-we-have-around-the-house provisions? Incorporate natural elements like pine cones and greenery, in the vein of Boxwood Avenue’s Chloe Mackintosh tableau. Going for a more glam feel? A sprinkle of glitter might be all you need (LeCultivateur’s Emily Traxler will tell you all about it). We’ve got something for the traditionalist, the maximalist, and the color happy. Whatever your vibe and whoever your guests, these 55 tabletop presentations are sure to be just the inspo you need for this season’s most fabulous soiree. Disclaimer: Food not included.
A CHARCUTERIE BOARD REIMAGINED
You don’t need a silver fork to enjoy good food, the saying holds, but a well-styled tabletop and a showstopping centerpiece will certainly add a certain sweetness to any bite. In this tabletop moment from Darryl Carter’s townhouse in Washington, D.C., marble plinths support a bounty of satsumas and French cheese. Instead of a humdrum cheese tray, he placed the tempting spread atop marble slabs that were remnants from a renovation he did years ago, which he says he’d always imagined to be large serving surfaces. “This tablescape is decadent for decadence’s sake,” the ELLE DECOR A-List Titan explains. “The intention was to pile delicacies in a carefree and inviting manner to encourage guests to comfortably gather and help themselves rather than a stilted, formal place setting.” Can we get an invite?
TIMELESS TARTAN TABLETOP
If you’re really getting into tablescaping for the long haul, think like a business—Preskett Mobbs’s business, in fact. “We have a huge range of accessories and little touches to rent,” she explains. Similarly, you too can invest in a range of accessories each season that become beautiful forever pieces that can be mixed and matched over the years. “We like to encourage our customers to ‘buy the classics and hire the seasonal trends.’” she adds. Case in point: This classic tartan display is made even more festive with an assemblage of mismatched crystal vases that, when combined, are seamlessly synchronized.
GREEN ZEBRA TABLESCAPE
Forget the dream of a white Christmas and go for a safari-themed one with a palette that lends itself to almost any botanical centerpiece. Here, Preskett Mobbs brought in sprigs of tree branches to add texture to the silver-vesseled candlesticks and complementary-colored yellow glasses. “We love going for the unexpected with festive tables,” she explains.
BLUE CHRISTMAS TABLETOP
Whoever said having the blues was a bad thing? In this regal spread, a blue ceramic jar holds billowing hydrangeas that are layered with wispy white filler. The floral’s blue is further echoed in coordinating linens. “Match your napkins to your table linen for a beautiful pattern-on-pattern effect,” Preskett Mobbs explains. “Tie your napkins with velvet bows to make your table look and feel literally like a present for your guest. ’Tis the season for giving, after all!”
Looking to go beyond the predictable holiday themes? “Sometimes an arrangement of moss and lichen from the yard can do the trick,” says designer Liz Williams. Zhuzh it up with a glass cloche and velvet ribbon and your guests will feel right at home. We’re loving her use of vertical space in this airy dining room, which makes room for the countless trays of food that are sure to come out of the kitchen. As for how to make space in your stomach…we’ll let you worry about that.
PERSIMMONS IN A BOWL
Here’s another winning tableau from Williams, who opted for a low-height arrangement that allows for easy eye contact. In this blue-toned dining room, a simple basket of seasonal fruits complements the corresponding green glassware. “Flowers are always nice, but for the holidays I like to use fruits and items from the yard to add texture and interest,” she explains. “The bright and unexpected pop of orange persimmons is not the traditional holiday color.” But it’s ever so lovely, all the same.
However effortless your seasonal decor might lean in the summer months, the holidays are an opportunity to go full-on glam, if that’s your thing. We’re loving this classic spread pulled from H&M’s lookbook this year, featuring tapered red-and-gold spiral candles, funky free-floating disco balls, and amorphic gold vases billowing with hydrangeas (oh yes, there’s a whole set). “This table setting is a captivating pattern mix of red, gold, and silver accents for a truly stylish and festive look,” says H&M Home’s head of design Evelina Kravaev Söderberg. “By combining rich red, shimmering gold, and elegant silver accents, while seamlessly weaving in a captivating pattern mix, you get a stylish and opulent table decor—perfectly in time for the holiday season.”
Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography//Getty Images
SWEDISH CHRISTMAS DISPLAY
If there’s any group of people we can learn from when it comes to winter decor, it’s the Scandinavians, whose concept of coziness is imbued with warm textures, soft lighting, and time-honored traditions. This midwinter tabletop centerpiece is honing all the vibes of Saint Lucia’s Day, a candlelit procession on December 13 in which children don a crown of candles in a wreath atop their heads as a symbol of the bearer of light. A handful of dried oranges tops off this lovely assemblage for a look that is sure to spark a good conversation starter.
Seth Smoots / Courtesy Pottery Barn
GO FOR THE GOLD
“Nothing gold can stay,” wrote the poet Robert Frost. He clearly never sat at Ayesha Curry’s holiday table, which is bedecked with glimmering carved Pottery Barn trees and matching candlesticks. The pairing, sitting atop a black-and-white botanical runner, is proof that it takes a lot of bling to overdose on sparkle. Curry’s advice? Contrast the gilded table adornments with fresh greenery beyond. “I love to incorporate natural greenery and lights throughout the house during the holidays,” she says. “Every room feels festive and smells amazing.”
The Punctilious Mr. P's Place Card Co
RICH RHYTHMIC REPETITION
The Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Co.’s Karen Suen-Cooper and Martin Cooper know exactly what items they will be including on their holiday spread this year: photophores, pedestals, gazing orbs, and—not surprising—place cards, a delightful personal touch that the company’s founders have dedicated their lives to sharing with the world. For Suen-Cooper, table dressing is an opportunity for introspection of what the celebration means to you. “Pull objects that you love, rich with stories and meaning,” she says, adding that a standout table needs just a few key elements: “rich, rhythmic repetition of shape in size, surface, material, and color.” Case in point: Observe the many spherical objects both organic and inorganic: persimmons, pomegranates, gazing orbs, and ornaments in many sizes and tones.
APPLES AND PINECONES
Suen-Cooper of the Punctilious Mr. P’s Place Card Co. also creates homemaking magic by layering objects and natural elements found just outside her front porch—what she calls “organic treasures of nature”—for a refreshingly creative display. “We’re constantly looking at textiles and decorative elements all year long,” Suen-Cooper says. “If you actually break apart each element, you’ll see that few items are Christmas specific, but everything together is A.D.E.: abundant, dimensional, and embracing.” Get the look by heaping green apples, limes, pinecones, and coordinating gourds in a bowl or on a plinth. Style bonus points for decorating with Mr. P’s gorgeous illustrated place cards.
A chic centerpiece alternative for a smaller table situation? This modest billowing arrangement of magnolia leaves and hydrangeas, fashioned by designer Gordon Dunning, might be all that’s needed to call attention to a statement piece further off the table. A tasteful evergreen addition to each plate is the final detail that brings it all together.
A BOHEMIAN BANQUET
Any die-hard ornamentalist might reconsider tabling their gold-festooning ways after a glimpse of interior designer Devon Liedtke’s earthy focal point, which features sprigs of eucalyptus, dried lunaria, and a holiday-inspired florals.
TULIPS AND PERSIMMONS
If your household fete continues well into January, take notes from Chandos Interiors’ Dodson Epley, whose Chinese New Year table display is as classy as it is playful. Bedecked with a mini stone dragon statue, gilded vegetables, and fresh plump persimmons, the ELLE DECOR team is hoping we get an invite.
What’s more charming than eating over a mini-Christmas village? Eating over a mini-Christmas village with glitter accents. This table spread by Le Cultivateur’s Emily Traxler is a woodland scene gone glam in all the right ways. “I like to create spaces that feel magical and festive, yet warm and welcoming,” says Traxler. “This holiday table was loved by my family and my guests.”
Set the stage for a turn-of-the season spread by basically bringing the pumpkin patch straight to your table. Here, Veronica Olson went for a warm-toned floral arrangement with matching candles and SFERRA linens. “We wanted to set the stage for those moments when time slows down and we truly engage with the people we cherish the most,” Olson says.
In this delightful wood-toned display by designers and event producers Jane Schulak and David Stark, the florals take the back seat to the serveware. Our favorite detail? The old-fashioned-looking wooden bucket that feels like its own centerpiece. Paired with a zany patterned tablecloth, this spread feels both edgy and timeless.
Tablescape mastermind designer Alexandra Kaehler has an eye for understated elegance, as her latest project proves. A natural extension of the surrounding glassware, the evergreen centerpiece and the accented blush pink linens complement the room’s existing color palette. “I wanted a holiday table that felt festive but not in the obvious sense,” Kaehler says. “Rich details like the velvet bows speak to the holiday season, while the pink berries and anemones keep things soft and feminine.” For added coziness, she paired candlesticks with mini table lights that created a layered lighting effect.
The Syrian glassware and vintage plates in the kitchen of this Lebanese mountain home are enough to transform any room. However, interior designer Maria Ousseimi broke up the all-blue design scheme with cream and orange roses that prove that a pop of color is sometimes all you need for a finishing touch.
Centerpieces needn’t be limited to the dinner table. In the breakfast nook of this Houston home, Elizabeth Young created room for the true lady of the house: a vintage ceramic vase that was a fun consignment-store find. “There’s always some new floral arrangement coming out of her head,” Young says. “The ongoing joke between us is that she always has a new hairdo.” Try out a holiday-themed do by filling your vase full of holly branches or other seasonal blooms.
Sometimes you needn’t look further than your own backyard for the perfect dinner display. For this cozy farmhouse-style look, Boxwood Avenue’s Chloe Mackintosh used pine tree clippings and classic brass candlesticks. “When decorating for the holidays, I find myself turning to items I already own but using them in a new way,” she says. “When in doubt, something vintage always looks great.”
Want to give your garland a second life? Instead of draping it on your mantel or stair rail, layer it along your dining room table. For a setup that’s stylish and soothing, add a few tea lights to the mix. Lovely, Julie Blanner.
A FANCY FEAST
If you really want to take your garland to the next level, add some streamers and pinecones like Monika Hibbs did for her latest holiday look for some extra drama.
Because one tree is never enough. Opt for a small table tree for a pop of color that works well against surrounding natural tableware. This spread, from SFERRA's Festival collection, takes its inspiration from a winter wonderland theme with a snow white palette that creates an elegant table any time of the year.
Poinsettias and holly are the plants of the season, but they run the risk of feeling a tad...predictable. To shake things up, pull inspiration from KBStyled and add some leafy greens and magnolia blossoms to your centerpiece.
To give your red-and-green palette a rest, add some wintry blues to your Christmas feast like this stunning Sanctuary Home Decor vignette.
The Pink Dream
Looking for a low-maintenance way to make a big statement? Add a monochromatic centerpiece to your setup in the likes of The Pink Dream's display. The key is to experiment with an array of different textures.
Harlow And Thistle
More often than not, Christmas decorations skew traditional. If you want to give your centerpiece a modern flair, try adding brass hoops like these Harlow and Thistle pieces, in varying sizes.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to wait until after dinner to enjoy some dessert. We're taking notes from Pizzazzerie, who indulged their sweet tooth by transforming their favorite holiday candy into a centerpiece for the table.