Text, photos, and table designs by Lauren Westra

If there is one material thing that I love most about the holiday season, it’s decorating in preparation for hosting parties. The thrill of finding the perfect palette to set the mood, the hunt for detail items that make the gathering feel intimate and cozy, and the desire to create foods that complement the feel are the most rewarding of challenges for me this time of year.

It only takes a few good, honest friendships to remind me that this isn’t true of all holiday party hosts. If you feel like planning the vibe and decor causes stress and self-doubt, or is too time-consuming and burdensome, let me help this year. Lifestyle magazine asked me to put together a few inspirational tables to help you set the mood, and I’m excited to share them with you.

While I aimed to choose outside-of-the-box color schemes to stretch your holiday imagination, feel free to apply these tips to your own colors and design. Learn how to add depth and richness to your table, how to lighten the mood and keep things casual, start viewing your menu as potential decor, or surprise everyone with a playful feminine twist on the holidays.

Any way you go, I hope that you’re able to pull some helpful tips from these four tables so that you can set your table with confidence this season and enjoy your guests without the stress of aesthetics. Although the table design is my favorite material part of the season, the people around it are the better reason to celebrate.

The Holiday Table - Feminine

Feminine

Sometimes it’s fun to go off the beaten path. If you’re a family full of girls or just like to explore the softer side of Christmas, this feminine color palette is sure to bring joy this season. Playful, colorful tones are softened by a quilt tablecloth — that’s right, a quilt! Blankets can make beautiful table coverings that feel both luxurious and soft. And here I accented with mini bottlebrush trees and matte white ornaments. Colored glassware is sure to delight, and ivy cuttings from the garden bring life to this design.

The Holiday Table - Blood Orange

Blood Orange

Perhaps as important as the Christmas dinner table is the Christmas breakfast table. For either meal’s setup, remember that the food can be the bulk of your décor. In this design, breakfast pastries add all the texture and interest to the center of the table, while fruit accents the plates. Consider your menu this holiday season, and focus on displaying the prettiest parts on your table.

The Holiday Table - Pistachio

Pistachio

For a rich winter feel, pair a muted blue-grey with a deep maroon or burgundy.

In this design, the palette is brightened by a natural wood table, but would also be beautifully accented on a dark wood table. Texture plays an important role in table design: Smooth tabletop and plates are layered with greens and pinecones, softened by pampas grass accents and made “earthy” with pistachios. If you have a lighter dining table but prefer the richer look of the flat lay photos, add a deep maroon or burgundy tablecloth or blanket (pictured here is a chenille blanket).

The Holiday Table - Pomegranate

Pomegranate

For a more casual approach, skip setting the table. Instead, stack the table with the dining ware you’ll need. You can do this any time the week before your holiday meals and enjoy the view much longer than your dinner party will last. Stacks of dishes, serving trays, pitchers and produce (accented by greens, always!) are a beautifully undone design, and this works especially well if you plan to do a buffet for your meal. In this table layout, I draped a tablecloth diagonally across the table before stacking the dining ware. Layers are the key ingredient in this game: Add cranberries or greenery to your spritzers, and use trays to give your glasses a home. Dinner plates can stack on chargers, and layers of pomegranates add even more depth.

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