If you're entertaining this holiday season, make your dining-table display as memorable as the delicious cuisine you'll serve. To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few of my favorites.
Hunt Club: I adore the English hunt-club look, and it works perfectly on a holiday table because it can easily feature traditional Christmas colors. Set the mood quickly with a red-and-green plaid table topper. Then, be inventive with place settings, mixing rich textures and hunting images. For instance, start with faux leather chargers layered atop shiny silver trays. Top your white dinner plate with a salad plate depicting a stag. Use cutlery that features handles made of faux antlers. For a centerpiece, fill a trio of silver trophy cups with red parrot tulips, then flank them with tall faux stag-horn candlesticks.
Holiday Glam: There is no better time to show a flare for the dramatic than during the holidays. To pull off a sophisticated but subtle glam look, drench your table in china, silver and loads of fresh flowers. A friend wanted to create this look in her high-rise condo, so we picked a color palette that was luxurious but decidedly nontraditional: celadon and coral. We set her table in simple elegance with gold-rimmed china and stemware, building each place setting on a hand-painted black metal tray and topping each tower of dishes with a sorbet cup filled with fresh hydrangeas and roses. We repeated our flower combination in the centerpiece, arranging a bouquet in an antique silver urn, which we placed on a silver riser for added drama. To finish, we used choral satin ribbon to hang clear glass ornaments from the chandelier.
Garden Fresh: Depending on your personal preference, you could take this theme in two very different directions: playful or rustic. For a spunky tabletop that's full of energy, try the color palette of black, white and apple green. Use black-and-white dishes or top your white china with a funky green accent, like a green apple resting on a bed of moss. Make perky name cards featuring black-and-white polka-dot letters, then insert the cards in a slot cut into each apple. Or top the place setting with a small gift wrapped in green paper and tied up with a black-and-white ribbon. For a centerpiece, fill a 2-foot clear glass cylinder vase with green apples. Or place a bed of moss and a bowl of forced bulbs on a silver riser, then top the whole thing with a glass cloche.
For a more rustic approach to the garden theme, pick a color palette of sage, brown and cranberry. Cover the table with a cotton topper featuring chains of sage and cranberry flowers. Start each place setting with a wicker tray. Then, top dishes with a small garden statue, like a bust. For a centerpiece, fill an aged terra-cotta urn with a bouquet of winter greens, pine cones, berries, green apples and grapes.
Silver and White: Perfect for Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year's Eve, silver and white is a dazzling color scheme for your holiday table. Use silver trays as chargers, then load them up with your white china, preferably trimmed in silver. Roll up white linen napkins in silver napkin rings, then tuck in a sprig of wintergreens or fresh herbs, like rosemary. Top each place setting with a gift wrapped in a white star-shaped box that's tied up with silver ribbon and embellished with winter greens. Place clusters of silver candelabrum, mercury glass urns or crystal compotes at the table's center. For fun, sprinkle white sugar snowflakes or stars around the centerpiece.
Mary Carol Garrity is the proprietor of three successful home-furnishings stores and is the author of several best-selling books on home decorating. Write her at email@example.com.