Some of us are blessed with the “D” (designer) gene and well, some of us can cook. Let’s just say that when my BFF arrived for Thanksgiving last year she took one look at my “set’ table and shoo’ed me out of the dining room, telling me she would be glad to make it “all better.” Since I know I’m not the only one challenged in this way, I turned to some experts and asked them to help me out with some simple ideas to help readers get ready to set their holiday tables.
Here’s what we came up with.
Use those family heirlooms and consider moving it all outdoors.
If you have family silver or china, take it out and use it. Examine all of your pieces in advance and determine what needs to be polished. If you don’t have enough place settings, consider borrowing from your sister or a friend. Mixing patterns makes the tablescape more interesting anyway.
If you love the look stylist Lauren Kreter nailed here you may want to shop tag sales and consignment shops for odd pieces. She wasn’t concerned with a color scheme for the whole table; she simply wanted each dish to play nicely with others at the same setting.
If you yearn to dine al fresco and the weather allows, consider using folding tables (inexpensive to rent) and bring the celebration outside. Everybody loves to extend the summer and Rosh Hashanah often graces us with perfect weather.
After you decide to use your good china and flatware, mix in elements from natureso your table doesn’t look stiff and formal. We kept the white linens basic (read: inexpensive) and layered a topper of bright green moss over a burlap runner. Both can be purchased at craft stores.
When you handle burlap or moss it can shred and be messy. Just be brave, place them down once and build your setting around them. Note that we kept goblets and napkins basic, allowing the brightly colored china to star.
Incorporating gifts into your table setting will delight your guests. In keeping with the tradition of eating sweet foods on Rosh Hashanah, consider sharing single origin artisanal honeys with your guests. Mix and match flavors like wildflower, blueberry blossom and red currant so they can imagine flavor notes and trade with each other.
It’s OK to leave your dining table undressed!
For our second table, we decided to leave the dining table bare. If you have a protective coating on your wood surface (and don’t have little ones around the table) this allows the mellow tones of the wood to contrast with your crisp bright china.
Here, we coordinated family china with other mix and match plates with silver elements. Florist,Meg Greenberg, incorporated more silver elements by placing cascading bunches of crimson grapes and pale peach roses with honeysuckle vines tucked neatly into a silver basket she discovered while thrifting .
Want to assign seats and keep family rivals from creating a ruckus? Place pomegranates or apples onto each place setting and poke place cards into the fruit. That way, YOU determine who should sit next to that difficult cousin.
If you place your flower arrangement and it looks dwarfed by the length of your table, consider setting it into a tray to expand its perceived size. Fill the tray with edible elements (crab apples, pomegranates, walnuts, grapes, figs) that will tie it all together.
While looking for more ways to use the silver theme, we rummaged through my sideboard and found chunky napkin rings we threaded with white linen napkins. We even found a little extra room to tuck in some olive wood honey dippers. More searching revealed an oval silver dish.
Instead of placing the hand rolled beeswax tapers (wouldn’t you love to receive those?) at each place setting as a gift, they looked better piled into that dish, adding interest to that end of the tablescape.
Your “every day” stuff is ok!
Finally, we wanted to show how to use your everyday porcelain or ceramic dishes and stainless flatware on a holiday table. It’s fairly easy to create a holiday look, especially if your dishes are basic white.
Here, we searched for a starting point to inspire us. We found this gold rimmed, antique china bowl that I had tucked away from my Mom’s collection of such things. While we oooh’ed and aaah’ed over the brilliant green and generous shape, we were inspired to bring it all outside again and connect it to the green tones in the landscape.
Finding simple, solid napkins that connect to the color of your object of inspiration is an easy way to brighten the table. Sticking with the honey and apples theme was a natural so we piled the heirloom bowl with bright green local apples and snipped off the rose heads to fill in around them. Pile it all in there so it makes a strong statement, without spending a lot of bucks.
If you can find objects around your home, like these tall 1950’s iced tea glasses (and their caddy) see how they work into your plan. By taking your everyday ware and mixing in one or two unique items, you can easily set a beautiful table that honors the importance of the day.
A special thanks goes to photographer Lauren Santagata, stylist Lauren Kreter, florist Meg Greenberg and beekeeper and author, Carla Marina Marchese.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.