I recently returned from a Christmas wonderland otherwise known as Barnsley Resort, just north of Atlanta, Georgia. Not a place you would typically think of as wintery or particularly Christmassy.
But even if the temperatures have been in the 80s (hello, Houston!), you can still decorate in such a way that everyone will fully expect Santa to round the corner with a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho! And you can do it without breaking the bank or spending hours you probably don’t have during this hectic time.
I got my inspiration from Barnsley, which prides itself on its connection to the outdoors – and that includes how it decorates. We collected a variety of evergreens, nuts, and berries to make wreaths, which we then donated to the local assisted living and memory care residents. It was a highlight of my trip, but I also couldn’t help but notice how the resort set a table, how small touches made all the difference in setting a festive tone.
You too can do the same. Just follow these tips to create a beautiful setting for family, friends, and guests, whether they pop in for a quick cocktail or stay for days.
1. Gather what you can from the outdoors. First, it’s free. Secondly, bringing nature inside – with its natural greens and inherent beauty – is preferable to fabricated decorations that can be expensive and, for lack of a better word, uninspired. Layering your table with pinecones, branches from your tree, or magnolia leaves is both elegant and calming. To raise the glitz factor, spray your pinecones with silver or gold paint. You can even attach table setting cards to a painted pinecone and set in the middle of each plate or charger for a personal touch.
2. Speaking of chargers, these large, decorative plates that sit under the plate you actually use, can really add pop to your table. They are usually quite inexpensive, and again, you can always buy unfinished plates and spray paint them whatever color you like to go with your décor.
3. Set your table with chargers, your dish sets, and colorful cloth napkins in holiday napkin rings. Check out Youtube for advice on how to fold napkins so they splay out beautifully on your plates. A fully set table is beautiful on its own, and the addition of cloth napkins in rings makes all the difference.
4. This is the time to break out your best china, crystal, and champagne flutes. Just knowing you’re eating off of your wedding dishes or grandma’s antique china will elevate the meal and make it more special.
5. Create a centerpiece that sets the tone for the meal. You might be whimsical in your choices, include a creche or nativity scene, or keep it natural with flowers and greenery – the fun is in matching your table setting to the mood you are trying to create. Consider using ornaments as decorations – shiny bulbs, colorful ribbons, and even twinkle lights wound around your centerpiece all create a tableau that is instantly celebratory.
6. One rule of thumb is to create different heights on your table – think along the lines of long taper candles interspersed with tea lights nestled in greenery. Place dishes on raised serving plates such as a pedestaled cake plate, a tiered hors d’oeuvre server, or a trifle dish.
7. Think about adding bowls in various shapes, sizes, and materials to hold your side dishes. Mixing and matching wood, ceramic, and metallic bowls creates visual interest.
8. Add a beautiful platter for your main dish. If you have a set of gold flatware, now is the time to use it. Since most silverware is indeed silver, swapping out for gold flatware automatically creates a specialness to the meal.
9. Still have room on your table? Consider lanterns, vases of flowers, and candelabras – these bring height, and therefore drama, to your table, and the glow from candlelight reflected on your dishes and interspersed with flowers is a game-changer.
10. Don’t forget that simple food items – candy canes, pomegranate seeds, cranberries, sprigs of rosemary – can completely change the look of a dish and immediately turn an everyday food into a special holiday recipe. It’s a simple addition with a big wow factor – and that’s exactly what we need during this busy season!