Traditions, memories of past celebrations, loved ones and good times all are tied to the holidays. And it's the home, particularly the table where family and friends gather, that is most evocative. It draws out the warm and fuzzy good feelings of being together, sharing a repast.
Just the thought of turkey and whichever is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish -- sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, green bean casserole, sage and bread stuffing, and of course, pumpkin or pecan pie -- make the mouth water.
The celebratory mood demands something extra special at the table. Customization has been a huge buzzword in home design the past few years. No better time to put your personal stamp on entertaining than by accentuating all those little details that make the home inviting.
No matter what your style or decor, there are plenty of ways to transcend your comfort zone, with a few key ingredients. There's not just one recipe for freshening or spicing up your tabletop decor, and you can make each holiday special by tweaking the table, starting with Thanksgiving, through Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's.
Texture and layering especially resonate in home furnishings today, and that's certainly true on the table. Solid-colored plates and serveware take on a more artisanal dimension with relief work that adds tone-on-tone pattern that can be flowery or geometric. Embroidered or beaded textiles -- placemats and napkins -- can accentuate color and lend a dressed-up sparkle.
More simple style, less clutter also has been a design mantra. But these are days for abbondanza, or richness and abundance, so the two may be in a bit of conflict. What's perhaps more apparent, at least in multiple magazine spreads, is a mix of high and low -- shiny and matte, metallic and glittery with rough-hewn. Spotted at the October furniture market in High Point, North Carolina, for example, were burlap pillows with rhinestone decorations. This kind of disparate juxtaposition can be highly effective on the table as well.
Of course, it goes without saying that not everything has to match anymore. Bunny Williams, who recently introduced dinnerware for Ballard Designs, says: "I don't own full sets of china. I prefer to create my own uniquely mismatched service. This always results in a more interesting dinner table."
Williams' new patterns do that. One called Melange features a couple of different borders and modern leafy patterns on salad plates. All are in soft greens and apricots, really sort of perfect year-round, but especially fresh on the fall table.
Most people are drawn to the palette of the season -- particularly in the fall when leaves, gourds, pumpkins, even ornamental cabbage evoke rich oranges, reds, golden yellows and aubergines. The nature theme can be expressed on dinnerware, tablecloths, placemats and napkins, and in serving pieces.
More organic motifs and materials seem to have promoted a more relaxed approach as well. When tastemakers like Aerin Lauder show a more playful attitude, like integrating her sons' toy action figures, bowls with seashells or stones on dinner tables with beautiful heirloom pieces from her grandmother Estee, it signals a kind of blessing. She has said that the formal style of entertaining is really fun when you first get married -- "but my tastes have changed, and now I like a more casual mood."
Besides, a mix of vintage dinnerware with contemporary pieces remains a hot trend in tabletop because it creates a more modern ambience. Just adding a single element, such as an accent plate, a showstopping charger or statement serveware, with strategically placed color can make all the difference. And there's always room for a hint of sheen to reflect candlelight.
More glam looks seem especially suited to Hanukkah and Christmas. As we're seeing in home fashions, a bit of shimmer is like magic on fabrics and accessories. It can be low-key or full-out, but still elegant and tasteful. Beads, crystals, sequins or rhinestones decorating placemats, cloths and napkins can provide a gala backdrop for generic white china that will transition to a dressed-up elegance that transcends a particular style.
Metallic finishes also lend a glimmer that may be polished, burnished or matte. A love of gold has been prominent in furnishings, but silver and even copper remain personal favorites for some. One holiday table shown at Pier I Imports keeps a consistent silver theme, from beaded plate chargers to glasses decorated with silvery snowflakes to bowls with ornaments.
London-based designer Kelly Hoppen recently launched a luxury online store (www.kellyhoppen.com) that features her "simple, tactile, luxurious designs." Her signature palette of neutrals includes gray, expressed in zen stoneware, which is beautifully accented with both gold and silver accessories.
As for color, you don't really have to lock in to expected combinations like red and green for Christmas. You might take cues from your own decor. Or choose a hue that you really love and go with it as the base for neutral or patterned plates -- then bring a little bit of it into an adjacent room.
Svitlana Flom, who writes a decor blog called Art de Fete, chose a soft shade of lavender and teamed it with silver for an unconventional holiday tablescape. She called on New York floral designer Olga Gerasimenko, from Blooming Bears, to design three simple pieces that would be an easy DIY with supermarket flowers -- a pair of white globes made up of carnations set into plastic foam; a larger globe blossoming with carnations in white and shades of purple; some white mums, dotted with berry stems of silver brunia and rimmed with white rice flowers. In the living area, which is visible from the table, Flom also picked up the color and popped in some pillows and a throw in complementary hues, and even mixed in books with purple spines to tie in the scheme.
Also, think of serveware as both decorative and functional, like a soup tureen, butter dish, bowl or platter. Artistry has reached a new level, with amazingly realistic hand-painted looks -- some fresco-like, such as turkey and pheasant platters designed in house at Pottery Barn, and whimsical, almost retro looks that are highly graphic, like turkey platters at Crate and Barrel.
No matter what you choose, make it your own. And enjoy the ambience you've created, with your family and friends.
-- Ballard Designs, 800-536-7551, www.ballarddesigns.com
-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com
-- Kelly Hoppen, +011 44 203 701 9833 in London, www.kellyhoppen.com
-- Kim Seybert, 212-564-7850, www.kimseybert.com; also available at www.neimanmarcus.com
-- Lenox, 800-223-4311, www.lenox.com
-- Napa Style, 866-766-6272, www.napastyle.com
-- Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757, www.neimanmarcus.com
-- Pier I Imports, 800-245-4595, www.pier1.com
-- Pottery Barn, 888-779-5176, www.potterybarn.com
-- Wisteria, 800-320-9757, www.wisteria.com
POWERS UP PATTERNS
Dressing the table offers plenty of options, from fully covered with a cloth, adorned with a runner (like a throw over a chair), or defining each plate with a placemat.
The choices range from simple homespun materials, like linen and burlap to cotton, velvet and even silks and brocades, to woven materials like rattan. Embellishment with pattern can be a festive accent, whether it's in printing or weaves, as with metallic threads, or embroidered with sequins, rhinestones, crystals and other beads.
Prints are especially fetching this year, more graphic and colorful, partially due to advances in digital printing. So designs can be realistic, retro or stylized.
TABLETOP TAILORED FOR THE SEASON
There are more seasonal choices than ever for tabletop design, even among the expected turkey, pumpkin and Santa tureens.
Some highlight craftsmanship, such as a beautiful lidded butter dish from Pottery Barn, whose top is cast from a real leaf in a burnished gold finish. Others improve on printing, with decal, screened or digitally produced images that reproduce the feel and color of the originals.
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