Thursday, December 06, 2007

On the Table

I'm struggling with ideas for decorating my Christmas table. I always love those magazine tables with gigantic exquisite festive centerpieces, tons of glassware, a stack of plates (and a bowl on top), side plates, enough silverware for an army, several elegant candles, and an abundance of real Christmas plant material...paperwhites, amaryllis, holly, boxwood (you know, all that expensive real stuff!).

It's all for show, however, because in my home we prefer to serve the food family-style, from the table. We place all the serving bowls and platters on the table, and do lots of reaching and passing of things! Maybe this is unsophisticated, but it's a ton of fun and you can eat as much as you like without getting up. Plus, food is a beautiful thing.

However, table decoration becomes a problem. A central centerpiece takes up too much space and needs to be moved before the food can be laid out. I currently have a large glass urn on my table full of white and silver ornaments, but this is really just a place holder until I figure out what to do!

If you're serving from the table, and have several guests, candles are a problem. Tall ones can get knocked over (and they're in the way) whilst low ones can catch a sleeve on fire!

As wonderful as the table looks laden with food, there doesn't leave much room for decoration. I envision having a decorated table before the meal (i.e. centerpiece, etc.), and then having to move it all off when the food is ready. But then, the table is left with only the usual suspects...the tablecloth, simple plates, cutlery, glassware, napkins, and a bunch of food in the middle! Where's the decoration?

As a foundation, this year I will use a beautiful new white tablecloth from the Pottery Barn. My plates are white with a powder blue rim (about 2 inches wide). We'll only use two plates (dinner and bread), so I don't have a big stack at each place setting. Sorry girls, but there will be no soup bowl. Luckily, most of my serving bowls and plates are blue and white, but I don't own crystal, nor real silver, and my dinnerware is rather plain (I haven't yet started my china collection!)

This looks rather bland. I've been thinking of adding napkins and rings, to give some excitement to each place setting, but that means I have to buy (or make) napkin rings and new cloth napkins (I have 4 in orange, 4 in dark blue, and 10 in hot pink!). Remember, my colour scheme is green and white and silver and I'm already working in those darn blue plates!

I don't want to buy more cloth napkins and I already bought a really pretty set of paper napkins with a green and white holly pattern that I'd love to use (see photo, right) as the limey-green matches a lot of my things!

This isn't enough decoration. I know people will just be thinking of food, but I really want the table to look festive too, while the meal is being eaten, not just before!

So I think I need a runner down the middle of the table, if I can find one I like. What do you think? But this could take a while to find. I adore runners, and have some real woven ones, but they are all white or ivory, nothing green or festive, say.

Another idea is to buy festive/glittery/sparkly chargers. Can you use chargers if you have a tablecloth? I've never been fond of chargers (I prefer placemats) and they are really only meant as a placeholder when you're swapping plates. Since this won't be a multi-course meal (it will instead be a big pile of food on the plate), chargers seem silly. They would be purely decorative and sometimes your plate spins on them. And I also would need to buy them. Pottery Barn had killer gorgeous silver square jewelled-cloth chargers that weighed about 10lbs each, but they were $37 each, so I passed on those.

I've been thinking that maybe I could put a little decoration at every place setting? I could dismantle a grocery-store poinsettia (cream colored) and put flowers at each place setting. Or maybe I could use candle lanterns with enclosed candles that won't light my guests on fire. Or perhaps a small low centerpiece (real plants, from a florist, in my colors) that can stay on the table along with all the food?

What do y'all think? What do you do? What's your table philosophy?

Maybe I should just throw down some pine cones, put more wine on the table, and call it a day?


  1. for now you could get some of the plastic lacquer type silver chargers.. I have seen them around for $4.00 each
    (you may decide silver is not for you anyway after cleaning and polishing one charger only one time...)

    if you want to stick with blue and enhance the blue in the plates, make a napkin holder of a short length of some beautiful Christmas silver and blue wired ribbon...about an inch a square type know so it holds shape(not too tight so it has substance) and cut the ends on a sharp diagonal. Pretty on white napkins.You could tuck in a little sprig of berries like on your pic..or not..

    A blue runner down the centre of the lovely white cloth?

    How about some inexpensive blue or green or blue/green trimmed wine or water glasses"...

    If you decide to place small candles on the table.. find some short tea light holders in blue... or blue votive type candles in a clear glass would be pretty too. You could place a few bits of greenery in a wavy line down the centre of the table.. even wind a bit more blue ribbon in and out of it.... an occasional candle in the line of greenery or some of those blue tree ornaments...

    If there is a lamp over the table and room for a bit of greenery or ribbon with no danger of could utilize that angle if the table is too crowded.

    If you continue a green and silver will still look wonderful with the powder of the plates... just use some green and blue accessories here and there.

    If you want to make it a bit more playful or whimsical... use the blue again... but splurge and buy some colourful napkins..with blues, greens..etc... and use a bit more colour but in small pieces in the centre of the table.

    Just tossing in some ideas...which in turn will just start your own juices flowing...

    I am sure you will come with something beautiful.

  2. oooo... long winded old bag.... lol

  3. Oh bumblevee you are awesome and not long-winded! I loved reading and visualizing all your great suggestions. You definitely got the creative juices flowing. I love the hand-made easy napkin rings, and I will always use the napkins if I pick up some cloth ones in white. I definitely need a colourful runner. Ok, you've really got me thinking!!!
    T H A N K S tons!!

  4. BumbleVee does have some great suggestions...I'm taking notes. I do think you'll be happier with cloth napkins...just my preference...I do love the color and pattern of your paper ones, though...I do, I really do!

    Have never used a charger nor have I ever used a soup bowl for the Christmas table.

    What in the world am I even doing discussing this? We don't even have a sit-down Christmas dinner anymore...haven't for twenty years...too much else going on. We serve a buffet meal and call it good and it usually is.

    Have fun with it whatever you decide.

  5. i love the napkins. i think a red runner is a great idea!

    as for me, i will put something decorative in the middle (but not too tall, i hate it when you can't see the person on the other side of the table). i often pass the food around and then set something in the kitchen after everyone's been served. just so i can have a little decoration, i'm with you on the importance of looking festive. :)

  6. How about emptying the pretty silver ornaments down the centre of the table and adding a few floating candles in small clear bowls. The food can still be placed down the middle with the ornaments around the dishes.
    It sounds kind of messy but I think it would be a rather beautiful mess.

  7. Oh my goodness, you are in the midst of the same crisis I am. We have a Christmas party tomorrow night and I havent even cleaned the dust bunnies in the corners, let alone settled on a table solution. BUT, hopefully, I'll post whatever I came up with Monday. All I know is that half the people coming will be eating on card tables in the den!

  8. ha ha...i have had some funny episodes involving candles and other decorative stuff on dining tables ;-), when we sit down for dinner, I clear everything from the table but the food!

  9. If you have a discount store like Marshalls, Ross, or can often find great prices on table decor. I often buy interesting place mats (that you wouldn't know were place mats) and line them down the center of the table. I'd go with something that has texture and depth. Also a narrow, low holder for some candles or tea lights (in water) would create warmth and alleviate the fear of flaming sleeves. And another way to have a great look without spending a ton, is buying some christmas tree arms or other green plant and placing it under and around your centerpiece dishes.

    I'm sure whatever you do will be gorgeous!
    :-) Calie

  10. Ha, this was great. Truth be told, I make up my table decorations at the very last minute. Right before my party Saturday my kitchen table had a flowerpot sitting in the middle of it. It looked a bit summery amidst my Christmas dishes, so I put some candy canes in around the pot as people were arriving. Done.

    Then today, I had to take pictures of my dining room and I had totally cleared the table of my party decorations (which had consisted mostly of desserts on cake plates and a few Christmas balls). So, I grabbed a couple of baby trees and slapped them down for the photo. They look ridiculous and topsy turvey, but hey, I've got more to do than fuss over my tables! :-) So, no surprise to you, I vote for the pinecones and bottle of wine.

    Bah humbug? I am all about the details as long as they are permanent. Everything else gets less thought, I'm afraid. That might be because I have kids though, and I have to prioritize my time in order to get everything done. In another life when I don't have kids I can see making my own napkin rings and thinking about things like chargers and party favors.

    Whatever you do will be lovely. You always have great taste so this will be no exception.