There are few things as wonderful as gathering for a holiday meal with your nearest and dearest. Many of my fondest memories with family and friends are from times spent around the dinner table sharing stories and creating new tales to tell in years to come.

A few weekends ago I was reorganizing my china cabinet, full of my great grandmother’s dishes and silverware, and it got me excited for the holidays. Growing up, the “fancy plates” only came out for special occasions, and they really did make everything seem so much more special.

A beautiful table is the perfect complement to amazing food and company. I am always looking for ways to elevate my tables to create an extra special experience for my guests and have picked up a few showstopping tips along the way.

Add some flair

By flair, I mean throw in something a bit unexpected, stylish and original to your table — and it doesn’t always have to be practical! Layer in boxwood wreaths as a charger alternative and top off your look with some additional greenery in your centerpiece. During the holidays, we love to add ornaments, which add a bit of sparkly and can double as a gift for your guests to take home at the end of the evening. Another place to have some fun is by switching up your traditional place cards by placing them in a trinket box or even a small picture frame (both of which could also be take-home treats). If you like a more practical approach, there is no shortage of place card holders and napkin rings with which to adorn your table.

Mix and match your textiles and plates for a fun and festive table display. (TNS)
Mix and match your textiles and plates for a fun and festive table display. (TNS)

Mix-and-match plating

Don’t play with your food, but be sure to have some fun with your plates. There is no reason to pick one favorite dish set when you can use them all. Play with different textures and patterns to create displays full of energy and depth. Whether it is mixing traditional porcelain with funky tin accent plates or layering plaid and stripes, it is OK to try new combinations. You might be surprised at how much renewed love you have for the tired china that has been collecting dust in the cabinet. If there is one thing I love about setting a table, it is mixing traditional antiques with my newest finds. It is a nostalgic nod to the “old” and a beautiful way of mixing (and matching) family traditions and making them your own.

Textile layering

With all this talk about mixing and matching, we can’t forget about textile layering. And the perfect place to start is with a table cover. A showstopping tablecloth can make a world of different in adding excitement to a table. One of my go-to table hacks is using a throw blanket as a table covering. It adds all the color and texture you desire and is easy to throw in the washing machine afterward (be sure to check the care instructions first). If you have an extra-long table for the holidays, try overlapping two runners — you can hide the center meeting point with a beautiful centerpiece. Or mix things up and run multiple runners the width of your table, acting more as place mats for two place settings across from each other. I love using wooden platforms for height or woven mats to add a natural element. If I’m feeling extra elegant, I might add a touch of beaded sparkle as a base for each place setting. Another place to mix things up: your napkins. Use hand towels between chargers and dinner plates as a larger napkin alternative for guests and top off place settings with traditional napkins for display.

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Stylish seating

While not technically on the tabletop, seating is still an important part of a meal. I like to use pillows and throw blankets to add comfort and style to our chairs. These items are easy to switch out for different seasons or holidays to complement your tablescapes. You can even tie elements from your tabletop to your chairs with ribbon to finish off your look. One of my favorite touches is the classic small boxwood wreath tied with ribbon and topped off with a sweet bow.

As much as we love decorating our tabletops, what’s most important is the people with whom you share your table. I hope this season is full of good food and good times with people you love, around a table you’ve had fun dressing up.

Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design firm Nell Hill’s.