If you were to conduct a poll among those hosting a dinner during the holidays and ask about the kind of table they'd like to set, you're likely to draw similar responses. Memorable. Yes, well that would be the experience, and the savoring of all that delicious food you're going to prepare. Beautiful. Add candles and flowers or a cleverly composed seasonal centerpiece? Check!
But what makes the table fresh, festive or glamorous? It's all in the mix. And each year, as we take inventory of our own dinnerware, flatware, glasses and serve ware, some likely with sentimental value, we realize that while we are probably covered on the basics, we may want to tweak even the traditional pieces. Try out a new dish, layering it in as an accent, much like an herb or spice you've never sampled.
If you shop for pieces to supplement what you already own, you're likely to spot a few trends. While there has been an undercurrent of more casual, relaxed furnishings in home decor, there is a countertrend of more embellishment in furniture, wall and floor surfaces, as well as fabrics, which is expressed in details such as embroidery. The holiday table is the perfect spot for dressing up, even if it's just with napkins stitched with pretty pumpkins or holly.
Metallic accents always add a bit of glamor, from gleaming polished serving pieces to mercury glass votives to burnished gold chargers. Gold is still on trend, but so is mixing in other metal finishes like silver and copper. Texture also is important, as well as organic themes and natural materials like rattan, twigs, hemp and burlap.
In tabletop designs, artisanal looks, like irregular or burnished edges of plates or cups, celebrate craft. Especially compelling are images that are hand-drawn, hand-painted or watercolored. A few of these for the holidays are whimsical, with fanciful depictions, like Dasher donning a tux (at Pottery Barn), or brightly attired snowmen (Crate and Barrel) or old Saint Nick with a modern look in a series of delightful watercolors by Italian artist Alessandro Taddei for Vietri. Others are as fresh as fallen snow, with wispy evergreens asymmetrically gracing the side of a plate.
Brushes of gold, rose gold, platinum and silver are dressing up casual stoneware, sometimes in seemingly random streaks or drizzled spots that resemble raindrops. Matte finishes are striking a chord, and sometimes these are paired with glossy touches in a single plate.
And glassware is anything but static as a category or an afterthought. A rainbow of hues is enlivening hand-cut crystal to glassware. Jewel tones like sapphire, emerald, ruby and amethyst add clear sparkle with uber elegance. And a reboot of lusterware, that pretty iridescent glassware that was popular during in the early part of the 20th century, is a way to introduce subtle shades of blue or rose.
Glassware manufacturers also are coloring stems and even the barrels of glasses. Relief patterns and etchings with playful polka dots, stripes and other geometric patterns also have energized glass offerings. Adding a set of these fresh silhouettes can extend the fashionable style at the table.
At a recent tabletop show in New York, blue reinforced its stronghold as a perennially favorite color. It always translates well on a holiday table.
Deborah Shearer, a tabletop trend-spotter who heads Table and Dine, a lifestyle brand and marketing studio, set a stunning table with plates by artist Darbie Angell, showing just how to turn the tables on convention, with a striking black-and-white runner.
"The stripes are bold, but it allowed room to highlight the watercolors and Darbie's grand style," says Shearer. "Vases filled with blue-colored water and single stems of irises were kind of icing on the cake."
Rich cobalt often is a go-to hue on Hanukkah tables, and new dreidel-patterned dishes at Pottery Barn are modern in graphics and placemats on an open field. Kim Seybert, whose signature is luxe beaded table runners and placemats, designed an out-of-this-world wood placemat called Cosmos in vivid shades of blue with gold foiling in swirls. It's especially fetching with traditional china bordered in blue and gold.
Fall tables, especially those for Thanksgiving, seem to invite orange, russet and aubergine tones that are easily inspired by heirloom pumpkins in pretty shades of sage, apricot and white, gourds in golden tones, pomegranates and eggplants. Ceramic pumpkin plates, platters or tureens make wonderful seasonal accessories (as well as thoughtful hostess gifts.
Plaid hors d'oeuvre and salad plates are becoming staples in a variety of shades, including apricots and traditional reds and greens. At Sur la Table (www.surlatable.com), a traditional holly and pine collection, which features a central Christmas motif with a holly and berry border and red outlines on scalloped plates, is set on a red plaid charger, which would be equally striking with solid white.
White dinnerware, modern or traditional, of course goes with most everything. It's so easy to decorate around it in palettes of your choosing, whether traditional Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas, or something unpredictable in hue or pattern.
For those who don't like fussy decor or table settings, there's an art to the minimal as well.
"Each table is a blank canvas that provides a creative opportunity to combine colors and textures," says Sandy Chilewich, whose eponymous brand features a range of textured vinyl placemats, some dressed with metallics. "Around the holidays, creating a warm, inviting environment is as important as the good food. It sets the tone and plays a big part in bringing people together."
With so much traffic on Pinterest and Instagram, as well as blogs and table-setting tips on retail sites, we have much more access to creative solutions, even rounded out with recipes to supplement your own. In turn, this range of options really seems to feed the courage to try something new, or a catalyst to believe you can do something spectacular, even if you've never fancied yourself as artistic.
Above all, it's about creating an experience, and no matter what the holiday, giving thanks for the company of family and good friends.
-- Chilewich, 888-851-7130, www.chilewich.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- Gump's, 800-284-8677, www.gumps.com
-- Kim Seybert, 877-564-7850, kimseybert.com
-- Mark and Graham, 888-965-6275, www.markandgraham.com
-- Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757, www.neimanmarcus.com
-- Pier 1 Imports, 800-245-4595, www.pier1.com
-- Pottery Barn, 888-779-5176, www.potterybarn.com
-- Table and Dine, www.tableanddine.com
Serve Up With Something New
The easiest way to update a holiday table is with serving pieces. They also make fabulous gifts.
Try a metal finish, especially one that's hammered, etched, raised or mottled for dimension. Or fun hand-painted seasonal platters or cheese boards. The assortment in salad and canape plates is a fun addition as well, and one your host may love.