Holidays tend to draw out the sentimental in all of us, eliciting childhood memories of sweet sights, sounds and aromas at Christmas and Hanukkah.
Not the least of this nostalgia focuses on the holiday table, where the tried-and-true family recipes usually win out over the trendy, although an unexpected side dish can go a long way to shake things up a bit.
The same is true of setting the table. You don’t have to go all fashionista and edge out your grandmother’s pretty porcelain dishes or your mother-in-law’s fancy flatware in favor of a more stylish pattern du jour, but feel free to mix in some new pieces for a fresh vibe.
Interior designer Tara Seawright offered this suggestion during a recent panel at the fall tabletop show at 41 Madison Avenue in New York: “I like mixing flatware in one table setting.” She teams fancy and ornate, such as Christofle, with something modern and edgy, like Lucite.
It’s a cool idea, and can be applied not only to flatware but to tableware and glassware as well. One of the eye-grabbing trends in glasses, for example, is color – both in opaque and sheer styles. So why not introduce a shade of plum, amber or merlot to mix with your go-to stems? It doesn’t matter if one is faceted St. Louis or William Yeoward; crystal or glass with a good shape will fit right in. Besides, that’s what the best of high-low aficionados do – team high-end with something from Tar- jhay.
Nadja Brykina, a gallery owner specializing in Russian art from the second half of the 20th century to the present, loves extravagant and glamorous table decorations for special evenings. “I set my dark dining table with tableware in sensual colors: red, fuchsia and berry, and finish with accessories in gold and silver. … At Christmas, I also add crystalline balls that twinkle seductively.”
Villeroy & Boch took a cue from Brykina’s holiday page with a setting of bordered dinner plates in red cherry and a delicious shade called pink rose. Almost playful is a geometric pattern in hues of blue, red and orange.
The Hanukkah table often relies on blue and silver themes, and shades of blue are particularly plentiful on tables, as they are in home decor. Rich blues from indigo to ocean and blue-greens the color of beach glass have expanded traditional palettes. At Neiman Marcus, there are beautiful agate napkin rings in cobalt. Also there is Kim Seybert, whose fashion-forward placemats and runners celebrate intricate weaves and beading as well as unusual materials. Seybert is showing capiz-shell round placemats in teal, as well as turquoise ikat-print placemats and companion napkins.
Christmas tables certainly don’t have to be limited to Yuletide red, green and white, although Horchow’s red earthenware seems almost appliqued with creamy white embellishments and would look stunning on a contemporary all-white table.
Adding a touch of metallic in shimmery gold or gleaming silver always is festive, and during the holiday season it can dress up even casual or rustic settings. Think scrubbed or limed woods with natural accents, stoneware and sparkling crystals on placemats and napkins for the perfect bling.
Seasonal salad or dessert plates may be sprinkled with gilt accents. Serving platters and bowls, candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers also can shine with metallic glimmer. Or dress up the back of a chair with a wide, sheer golden ribbon. TouchStoneCatalog sells one with a coppery border that’s 10 inches wide, 108 inches long and sells for $15. You make the bow.
Tablescapes also are more interesting when you layer and pay attention to heights and shapes. Real or decorative Santas or angels can be whimsical or elegant. The form these pieces lend to a table or sideboard is similar to the play of sculptural shapes in living spaces. Candles – votives, hurricanes and lanterns – lend warmth and a range of heights.
Consider scale as well, especially on long tables that need relief from sameness. That’s where different heights can be magical.
Artistry on the table also includes those candlesticks, salt and pepper shakers and other small objects. Texture and pattern help to provide richness. In dinner and serveware, that can mean ribbed or relief surfaces. Other dimensional objects may include real or faux leaves or boughs of pine or fir decorating the center of the table.
Artisanal touches also spark warmth. Color can be introduced with pretty painterly looks that suggest an artist’s hand in table linen and plate design. That handcrafted feel is available in linens in rich paisleys at Williams-Sonoma Home to add depth, color and softness.
Remember that dramatic displays can set a celebratory tone on fireplace mantels and sideboards as well as cocktail tables.
On Christmas and New Year’s, bringing out the bling seems as natural as confetti.
“Christmas is when all bets are off,” Seawright says. “Liberace rules. I’m all over it.”