How to Decorate Your Holiday Table Like a Professional

WOW Your Guests this Season!

November 15, 2019

This is the time of year when we begin to put our merriest and brightest decorating foot forward! We love entertaining, so this advice comes from years of hosting our own families during the holidays. However, we added an angel as professional interior designers and home decorators too! When it comes to staging the details of a home or setting a festive dinner table, placement is key to welcome visitors, but as the person who lives in that house, or is serving that meal, it needs to be functional to be fully enjoyable. Let’s get to it!

Layer your table linens.

Just like layers work for fall fashion, one fabric on top of another adds warmth to your holiday gatherings as well. Start with a solid color table cloth and add a pattern-print table runner, or vice-versa between the solid and pattern pieces. Using a solid tan or grey made from natural fibers makes the seating area serene, and likely comes in a tone that could be used in the spring or summer months as well.

Stacking plates and linens like we’ve done here makes your table decor look rich, inviting, and DEEP with gratitude!

Stacking plates for each course with a folded napkin on top may seem like a waste of time, especially if you’re like most modern families who serve themselves from the kitchen area.  However, stacking plates adds to the visual-welcome your guests will experience and it saves room on the kitchen counter where everyone seems to linger. Keeping your work area clear of plates will be helpful to you, AND give you a response when everyone keeps asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Yes, grab the plates from the dining room, it’s time to eat!

If ease is what you’re into (and who isn’t?), we suggest adding fun layers with Hester & Cook paper products. They have a beautiful selection of placemats in every festive pattern you can imagine. Adding it to the kids’ table only, or rolling out a new look for dessert, are some super easy ways to make the initial-wow last through every course.

We have carried Hester & Cook in our shop long before this year’s High Point Market, but their latest patterns made us fall in love all over again!

Decorate to great, new heights!

Boldly go where no host or hostess has gone before… UP! A table top can get crowded, especially if your relatives are in town, so adding varying heights to your centerpieces and dishes will help you maximize both serving and dining areas. Think about a hotel buffet. The cream, sugar and spoons often sit in a three-tiered serving tray, and milk crates are hidden under linens to boost the butter dish. Get creative with small but sturdy boxes at home too. You can use them to prop up a bread basket or vases that would otherwise get in the way.

Going higher helps when it comes to labeling your food as well. We use traditional tent cards to identify the dishes, so to add height, we glue them on a toothpick to help labels be seen. Not only is it easier to identify what deliciousness you’re about to enjoy, but when we have to call out a potential food allergy or diet preference, our loved-ones are really grateful (and isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?!).

This tabletop from Mary Carol Garrity’s home in Kansas City is one of our favorite Pinterest finds from years ago!

Break from tradition!

Let’s face it, there is a point at every holiday gathering when you admit to yourself that being in charge of the largest meal of the year seemed like a good idea at the time, but can someone please look up the number for Dominos? Part of that stress can come from holding on too tightly to all the hosting traditions you SHOULD be doing. We love you Emily Post, but don’t give yourself an etiquette headache! Breaking from tradition is often the break you need. Use those same place cards to switch up this year’s seating.

  • Add place cards with a special note of gratitude by each name.
  • Add place cards to separate cliquey cousins.
  • Add place cards to let couples sit across from each other, not next to.
  • Add place cards to give someone the head seat who needs it more than you this year!
  • Add place cards to keep kids  in on the conversation, and off their phones!
  • Or add place cards because they are really pretty! (Again, Hester & Cook for the win.)

Honor family with an heirloom (no, not the tomato)…

An heirloom can be anything from a china collection, to antique silver, a tea set, brass candlesticks or the last monogram napkin left from your grandmother. We can think of 100 reasons why these items are important to our holiday gatherings, but each reason really boils down to celebrating family.


First, the heirloom was probably collecting dust somewhere anyways. Heirlooms are important, but it’s most important not to take them so seriously that younger members of your family feel zero emotional connection to them when it’s time to pass them on. Let the item be seen, even if it’s once or twice a year.

Next, use the objects as conversation starters. Think of the heirlooms on display as a three-dimensional scrapbook that can remind you and your family of places they’ve been or stories from holidays of the past. Most heirlooms are nice to look at, so there is an obvious design factor in including them, but it is often even nicer to look-back on the story behind them. (On a home staging side note: heirlooms are also nice to have on display when you are downsizing and trying to sell your home. New buyers like to know that memories were made in a home and heirloom objects showcase that!)

You might also enjoy these Stress-Free Ways to Approach Downsizing!

Finally, while we love the emotional journey of design, we love function even more! If your heirloom is a china set, cast iron skillet or hand stitched napkins, chances are they were made to last! Their craftsmanship alone will work wonders for preparing and serving your meal without a hitch. Modern cookware isn’t what it used to be, so use those heirlooms for the purpose in which they were invented.

See what Heirloom Inspirations we’ve collected for you on Pinterest!

Our Warmest Wishes to YOU!

Setting an elegant table this Thanksgiving will set the tone for all the upcoming holiday events, and we ALL deserve to sparkle a little more this time of year! From our elves, I mean Lehigh Valley interior designers, to you, have a wonderful holiday season. We are so grateful for your friendship!

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