Finding inspiration is the first step in creating a tablescape. This is the time to use and enjoy your precious items. A great place to begin is by selecting at least one meaningful item to incorporate. It might be an heirloom vase, monogrammed flatware, vintage table linens or glassware, or a special candleholder, for example. Selecting a key piece or two also helps you develop a color palette and overall style. Tablescape design is truly a poetic way to recall of bit of family history at the holidays or perhaps create a new tradition altogether.
Your inspirational items and dinner plates will suggest the colors for your tablescape. For a more modern design, use a light, monochromatic color palette. Keep the colors of the table linens, plates and flowers within a few shades of each other so that they harmonize. For a more vibrant color scheme, coordinate colorful napkins and placemats with the dishes or centerpiece. Interesting napkin folds or rings — even rings made of ribbon, twine or long herb sprigs (such as chives or thyme) — add a special touch.
Place cards are festive, even plain ones with guests’ names in print or beautiful script. If your handwriting isn’t the best, print transparent labels on your computer and center one on each card. With a drop of hot glue, add a small artificial bloom or other decoration in the corner of each. Choose fold-over tented place cards or flat ones that rest directly on the table or can be put in a place card holder. If you are hosting a meal at which not all guests know each other, it’s thoughtful to place the names on both sides of the tented cards.
Remember that a centerpiece doesn’t have to be flowers: it might be a trio of small potted plants or herbs, fruit beautifully displayed in a special bowl or on a pedestal, poesies from a spring garden, or other seasonal foliage, such as autumn leaves or boughs of greenery and pine cones. For a special touch, weave a short strand of small, battery-powered twinkle lights into the centerpiece or tuck in battery-powered tealights in votive holders.
Candlelight can contribute to nearly any tablescape, whether formal or informal. Experiment with different styles, heights and shapes of candleholders and candles to achieve the ambience and look you want. Remember than you can combine more than one height or shape as long as they coordinate and don’t interfere with guests’ ability to see each other across the table.
Most of all, have fun! Simple tablescapes can be every bit as charming as more elaborate, formal ones. Involve your children or grandchildren. Let them incorporate their small toys in the centerpiece greenery, for example, or have them set the table, even if they’re still learning where the fork, knife and spoon go. A personal, one-of-a-kind tablescape makes a special-occasion meal all the more memorable.
Melissa Paquin is the owner of Renegade Floral, one of Santa Fe’s premier event florists. She offers custom arrangements and botanicals, as well as a floral subscription service and daily deliveries. A Santa Fe resident for fifteen years, she loves gardening, fashion and still-life paintings.