Bringing holiday cheer to table décor is easier than you think

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published December 11, 2013

 Rita-Ann and Judy Lindstrom created a table design called “Birds of a Feather.”

Rita-Ann and Judy Lindstrom created a table design called “Birds of a Feather.”

Photo by Donna Agusti

We’ve all seen those idyllic photos of families gathered around the table during a grand holiday feast, and the perfect spread is accented with an elegant table cloth, crystal stemware and more sparkling adornments than you can shake a towering taper at.

How do they do it?

Well, they don’t — at least not if they’re planning on putting food on that table, as well, according to Randy Forester. Table décor for the holidays doesn’t have to break the bank or take up all the space at the table in order to look special and impress guests.

As the chairperson of the annual Holiday Tables event at Cranbrook House and Gardens, which brings together volunteers and designers to create ornate table displays each year, Forester said that table décor can be beautiful but also needs to be functional.

“The way you entertain and the way I entertain are two different things. You just have to use what you have and what you’re comfortable with, and make it work,” he said. “Like if you know you’re going to have potatoes, squash and turkey, decorate around that, and it becomes part of the display. If you know you’re going to have sweet potatoes, bring in a little orange. You can pick colors that will tie into the food, as well.”

One common myth that Forester is happy to debunk is that everything on the table — from the plates to the platters — should be a matching set. Not so, he said. Forester insists that people would be surprised how well a mismatched collection of serving ware comes together for an eclectic yet cohesive look with plenty of character.

“Use whatever you have. Open your cabinet doors and pull everything out. You’ll be surprised how full and beautiful your table will look with all the things you haven’t used in years,” he said.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few pieces for a bit more holiday flare. Name cards are nice, and tchotchkes are fun, but there’s no reason to go overboard, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Forester is a fan of using fruit as décor — a simple silver or copper bowl full of polished red apples or bright lemons at the center of a table can have a striking effect. Don’t be afraid to break from tradition and play with colors besides the usual red, green and white. Deep, luxe jewel tones can really evoke the feeling of the holiday, as well. And, when in doubt, candles, candles, candles.

“Burning candles always add a beautiful touch. Grab as many candlesticks as you can find in different heights and spread those from end to end,” he said.

If you’ve got a little cash to spend, you could always head to your local florist and have them create a beautiful centerpiece to adorn your table. Forester likes arrangements with fresh winter greens and perhaps some red roses or white flowers added in for an elegant effect.

According to Frank Viviano, owner of Viviano Flower Shop, bringing fresh flowers into your tablescape design can be more economical than some might think.

“You really just want to do simple things to highlight the table,” said Viviano. “Get a nice selection of Christmas greens to give you that pine sent and Christmas tree feel. Add some artificial berries and nice ribbon, and you typically don’t need tons of flowers.”

Viviano said that this time of year, his customers come looking for centerpieces in a traditional “long and low” design, which will stretch length-wise along the table while still giving guests seated at either side plenty of space to enjoy their bounty. Commonly requested blooms are red roses, white hydrangeas and white lilies. But the greens — which could even be taken from that evergreen tree in the backyard — are enough to bring in a rustic yet sophisticated look. And when used in an arrangement with a water source, greens can last through the entire holiday season.

“You could just lay branches down, or Christmas greens. I like cedar because it lays nice and flat. Lay them across the table, and kind of use them as a table runner,” he said. “Most people have some holiday candlesticks that they have packed away all year. Spread those down the table, and maybe add some pine cones on the cedar. It’s simple and functional because everything can be moved around to make it all fit.”