Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Holiday Table Setting Ideas. Setting A Festive Table

Holiday Table Setting Ideas. Setting A Festive Table

Don't let Martha intimidate you. Setting a beautiful holiday table may be easier -- and cheaper -- than you think.

You don't have to know what a charger is. You don't have to own separate salad, dinner, fish and dessert forks. And, according to celebrity party planner David Tutera, "you don't have to spend a lot of money, just a little time and effort."

Whether you're hosting a casual or formal affair, the table can instantly set the mood for your dinner guests. Allison Reynolds, an editor and stylist, maintains that "it is about not over-decorating or over-planning the decor." The former home market editor for the defunct Budget Living magazine and current contributor to the Shelterrific design Web site added that "there are so many choices out there. Keep it simple and organic."

If you're limited on space and money, what should be the priority? According to Tutera, a unique centerpiece is the most important element of a striking table design. Although he has worked with the rich and famous -- including the Rolling Stones, former Vice President Al Gore and Elton John -- he has plenty of ideas for low-cost centerpieces.

"For a contemporary look, take a collection of simple glass vases you may already have, fill them with water, and add red food coloring to tint the water. Then add floating candles, place them down the center of your table, and accent with clusters of simple round ornaments," he said.

"For a more traditional and rustic look, take empty soup cans and turn them into unique vases for flowers. Simply wrap the outside of the can with cinnamon sticks around the outside of the cans, affix them with a rubber band along the top and another at the bottom. Then cover the band with raffia or leftover ribbon."

In his book, "The Party Planner," Tutera provides tips for a holiday dessert party inspired by candy canes. Glass vases are filled with alternating layers of rock candy and cranberries. A display is made with a glass bowl, layered with red feathers, and topped with an ornament.

"Candles are a great way to add a festive glow for little expense," Tutera said. But avoid scented ones, he advised. "Keep them in the powder room or living room. Let the aroma of the food entice your guests at the table."

But be careful when shopping at big discount retailers, said San Francisco event planner Alison Hotchkiss: "Ikea can be a great resource, but you know when something looks too Ikea? You don't want that. It's a balance of eclectic old and new."

Last year, Hotchkiss went with an all-white theme for the holidays -- decorating with white mum flower balls and white pillar candles, and even serving (what else?) White Russian cocktails. White faux fur throws over chairs created a cozy yet elegant look. (There's another tip: don't overlook texture as a design element.)

When setting the table, little things can go a long way in making guests more comfortable. "You can use mini-ramekins at each setting with individual salt and pepper so there's less passing and arms flailing across the table," said Reynolds. She also recommends keeping carafes of water within easy reach of guests.

Tutera said that "a great soft background music mix adds so much to any dinner or party." And he warns that "one of the biggest things people overlook is place cards. Whether a small or large, casual or formal party, the host should always take the time to think about where everyone should sit." Simple folded tent cards will suffice.

For a free alternative, turn to nature. "Use fall leaves placed at each setting," suggested Hotchkiss. "Use a colored Sharpie to write the guest's name." With larger leaves, this idea can be applied to the dinner menu.

Reynolds is also a big fan of leaves. "I'm a bit of a connoisseur," she said, "so I find I have a nice collection and can spread them on the table or write little notes for place settings." Pine cones, acorns, twigs and rocks are other good options for table decor. "There is always something outside that is more beautiful than something money can buy."

Tutera has a few nature-inspired tricks up his sleeve as well. "Holly branches look great incorporated into a wreath or laid down flat for a table runner or on a mantel," he said. "Birch logs also look great as the base of pillar candle holders." Cut the birch into 3-inch slices and top with a pillar candle. For tapered candles, drill a 1-inch deep hole in the log but be sure to never leave candles unattended.

Think about objects that can be recycled. For example, Tutera suggested taping together old holiday cards to make placemats. Cardboard paper towel rolls can be cut into segments and, with a bit of creativity, transformed into napkin rings.

Once the table is set, remember to relax and enjoy the evening. The hosts should not appear to be working or stressed out.

"I hate when people are picky about the spillage, so avoid caring too much if the cloth gets messy," Reynolds said. "A sign of a good time is a slightly messy tablecloth."

Source: Anh-Minh Le is a frequent contributor to Home&Garden. E-mail her at

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Exotic Table Settings . Table Decorating For An Outdoor Soiree.

Exotic Table Settings . Table Decorating For An Outdoor Soiree

Dress up an outdoor rendezvous with your own personal touch. Whether you are looking for an exotic, elegant, casual, or beach theme, spice up your party with these simple and affordable table decorating ideas.

Exotic Table Settings
Express your exotic side with neutral base colors and bold accents. Keep your base colors natural, opting for earth tones. Then match tablecloths, napkins, chargers, and vases that have natural colors with an exotic pattern.

Bright colors like coral and turquoise, are ideal accent colors for an exotic theme. Be sure to get coordinating napkin rings, plates, glasses, flowers, pillows, chair covers, and silverware in bold colors to stand out against the neutrals. Summer is the perfect time to use bold colors and patterns, so go big and impressive.

Classic Table Settings
Yellow and blue are the quintessential classic summer colors. Use a blue tablecloth and napkins with yellow plates and bowls. Arrange a vase full of yellow flowers or fill a vase with bright yellow lemons for a beautiful table centerpiece.

Elegant Table Settings
Even if you are throwing a garden party in your backyard, you can still make it elegant with regal rich colors, such as brown, gold, and dark green partnered with silver tableware. Use elaborate candleholders and goblets for the feeling of grandeur.

Beach-themed table settings
If you are looking for that “day at the beach” vibe, stick with bright blues and crisp whites. Use bright blue placemats topped with bright white dishes. Keep the table setting to a minimum to maintain a casual feel. Group large seashells in the middle of the table for an oceanic centerpiece.
Source: Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master’s degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

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Tablescaping: The Art of Table Setting

Tablescaping: The Art of Table Setting

A few ideas on how to make beautiful table settings for special occasions.

Setting your table for a holiday dinner, or any dinner party, should be more than a practical arrangement of plates and flatware. Your tablescape should be a work of art. It should reflect not only the warm welcome you want to show your guests, but also serve as an artistic venue for the fabulous meal you're about to present.

Here are some ideas for terrific tablescapes:
For the sophisticated Christmastime dinner party, set your table using solid colors and simple ornamentation. Begin with a dark green tablecloth. Linen is an excellent choice of material, or use a cloth with a subtle sheen to it. For your dinnerware use white china, silverware with a simple pattern, etched stemware and white linen napkins. Your serving ware, if being placed on the table, should be white as well. Place a brilliant red linen table runner along the center of your table, lengthwise. Depending on how long your table is, place silver candlesticks with white candles at intervals along the runner. Don't forget to use dripless candles.

Is the dinner more casual? Use a patterned tablecloth in bold holiday colors. Instead of etched stemware, use tumblers. Replace the candlesticks and candles with small decorative bowls filled with wrapped candies.

This simple premise of layering - tablecloth, place setting and serving ware, and ornamentation - described above can be adjusted to accommodate your existing dinnerware. If your holiday china has a pattern, play off the colors with your tablecloth, napkins and runner. Use the runner to set off the centerpiece or ornamentations.

If your celebrating a summer holiday, such as the Fourth of July, it's likely your setting isn't going to be as formal. That doesn't mean your table can't be just as striking.

Using the same concept of layering, set your table to play up the feel of the holiday. If your party is outdoors, you can use a vinyl red checked tablecloth, red, white and blue melamine dinnerware, brightly colored plastic tumblers, and inexpensive flatware. Put paper napkins in oversized plastic cups so guests can help themselves.

Use pinwheels in a small plastic bucket waited with sand or rocks for your ornamentation.

A good tip if your eating outdoors is to weight the corners of your tablecloth. Fill four small plastic bags with colorful stones and tie them with ribbons. Then attach these to the corners of your tablecloth. Use a hole punch to create the hole and thread the ribbon through.

Want to add a little more to your work of art? For each place setting, place a small piece of Styrofoam on a small dish. Stick a small paper flag in the Styrofoam and cover the foam and dish with moss. This creates a little hill with a flag on top.

Obviously, using holiday colors or the holiday itself is the starting point in the examples given so far. If your party doesn't have a central theme, find your inspiration in the season.

For a winter party, create this warm tablescape for your guests.

Begin with a bright white tablecloth. On top of that, place a smaller, dark blue cloth. Use thin, double sided tape at the corners to keep the top cloth from sliding. Now add a deep gold table runner, preferably one with embroidery or damask patterning.

For your place settings, use white dinnerware with a gold accent. Add dark blue napkins in gold napkin rings. If possible, use gold plated flatware, and glassware rimmed in gold. For ornamentation, place an oblong white bowl with gold trim in the center and fill it with silk flowers of various colors, predominately gold. Add a few, low round candles on decorative plates along the table's center.

The examples given demonstrate the basic tenets of tablescaping: theme, layers, and color. They also demonstrate traditional pairings and formats. Once you begin crafting tablescapes, you'll find yourself adding more layers and patterns, and becoming more creative with ornamentation. Tablescaping may become one of your favorite parts of giving a party.

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