A Perfect Setup
We challenged five local tastemakers to create holiday tablescapes that will stand up to elegant entertaining year-round. The results? A feast for the eyes
photographs by Hulya Kolabas
Director of Special Events Winston Flowers, Greenwich
My inspiration…came from the warmth and richness that the holiday season evokes. The velvety red roses and the texture of winter foliage coupled with glimmering silver details bring to life an inviting ambience for a lovely holiday dinner.
To give this table a twist…I added the Raku vase. Its texture and design is versatile and it could be dressed with either a very formal or casual arrangement. I also wanted to highlight the beauty of the vase. The tightly arranged, deep-red roses—125 of them—provide great impact and real dramatic flair.
For a more dramatic look…you could replace the red damask tablecloth with a Dupioni silk tablecloth in platinum or charcoal.
My favorite details…are the place-setting gifts. I used baobab wild grass candles that are handcrafted in Belgium; the fragrances are inspired by African landscapes. As the candle burns, the fragrance permeates the room beautifully. Your guests will go home grateful and happy.
I had fun with…the martini glasses. They’re used for champagne here to add a bit of old-fashioned glamour to the table.
The biggest challenge…was working with the thing that makes this table stand out: the Raku vase. In order to make this striking black- and-cream crackle vase work, I needed to ground it with the other layers and details on the table.
On a larger table…I would add smaller side arrangements in cut-glass vases to accent the large centerpiece and create more levels of interest.
owner Party Party, Fairfield
I began the design…by thinking of a warm and cozy environment for my guests to relax in. The topper reminds me of a blanket you could wrap yourself in while sitting in front of the fire, and the base layer is a crushed velvet/chenille that adds both texture and softness.
I chose the colors…because they remind me of a winter afternoon—white snow, clear blue skies, brown trees. The birch planter pulls it together.
This design works well because…it has the right balance of casual and elegant. The combination of patterns in the china is sophisticated, but it can still be considered relaxed. The Placetiles ceramic place cards use a dry erase marker so they’re not too fussy and Vietri’s horn flatware works with all elements.
The pieces that add interest…include the stemware, which is blown glass, so each one is unique. The serving pieces from Mariposa add a bronze sheen to the table, and the pattern on the napkins puts a modern spin on the design.
At this table I would serve…a spinach salad with apples, sautéed almonds and a champagne vinaigrette for a starter. For the main course, scallop and wild mushroom pot pies with wild rice and roasted asparagus on the side. For dessert, a chocolate pecan tart.
Entertaining staples that never go out of style…are paper invitations. What’s better than receiving a hand-addressed envelope? It shows your guests that you put thought into the party.
My favorite holiday tradition…is getting into a horse-drawn wagon with loved ones on a cold winter night and climbing under the blankets to do some caroling and stargazing. There’s something very enchanting about the experience.
Co-owner Urban Chic, Inc., Stamford
The key to good tabletop design…is to find a way to express your taste. Don’t try to be perfect. You can mix styles, colors and materials for visual contrast and texture until you get the right balance between festive and functional.
I began the design…by considering materials–stones, water, moss. I wanted to use the color green, but I was also trying to avoid typical holiday greens. The goal was to create a fantasy of nature that is still practical, and can be used for different occasions anytime of the year.
My favorite elements are…the terrariums, because they are festive and add such an elegant play on holiday decorations. Plus, they make great party favors.
The design works…because it’s simple yet elegant. I wanted each detail to jump out, but at the same time, I wanted to create a design that works as a whole. The contrast of pattern, texture and color fits the theme perfectly.
If I set this table for a special meal…Frank Daniele, my partner and co-owner of Urban Chic, would serve braised short ribs of beef served over wild mushroom risotto, with glazed carrots and edamame.
If I had a larger table…I would add candles of different heights, and incorporate more floral arrangements in birch and crystal containers of various sizes.
My favorite holiday memory is…spending Christmas with Frank and my family in Poços de Caldas, Brazil. It was a beautiful eighty-five degrees and sunny, and we spent the day enjoying a barbecue at my sister’s farm. We rode horseback, ate, drank and laughed all day
co-owner Pimlico, New Canaan
My personal style…has been called organic glamour. It’s consistent in all of my work and it’s here in the overall look of the table. The elements can live well in a traditional setting and bring décor up to date, but they’ll look great in a clean and contemporary space, too.
The starting points…were the agate pieces. Agate is very hot this season, and it turns traditional on its side. It’s natural and raw, but it has the polished and refined edge of a classic piece.
To add interest…I used two gold runners, which on their own are traditional, but by setting them in a crisscross pattern, we add more depth.
The most traditional elements...are the gold tones. But this is gold with a twist. The sheen and fabric of the runners, for instance, are contemporary. And although the finish on the planter is gold, the shape is modern and dynamic—a real wow factor.
The last-minute details…were the pagoda salt and pepper shakers. They work here because they’re dressy and the shapes are strong. I had no intention of going to a chinoiserie theme, but the look just started to evolve.
I chose the accent color…because fuchsia enhances the dressiness of the décor and is right for the holidays. It’s also a twist on red. To make this a more classic holiday table, you could add inky red accents to the table—think berries in the flowers or arranged on the napkins.
One of my favorite details…is the combination of china patterns. I used three styles. As with fashion, good table design requires a careful mix of patterns. The gold is traditional but the combination is not and the wavy detail on the fuchsia chargers is one of the best elements.
owner/founder Lynne Scalo Designs, Westport
Modern glamour is…not about trends. It’s about incorporating the past into the present and infusing your own sensibility into your style. Think sterling silver flatware and candlesticks inherited from your grandmother. Then add fabulous new china with a little sparkle. It’s elegance. You can also create the effect by rethinking a modern approach to color.
My go-to design element...is always a splash of white. There are many shades and white always keeps an environment fresh. It’s never a cop-out; it always makes a statement as it’s precise, versatile and unparalleled in its ability to convey many moods. Here, the china is a classic white, which is always elegant, yet crystal detailing gives it modern glamour.
My style mentors…are Coco Chanel, Tom Ford and Jackie O.
My favorite part of this design…is the mood it evokes. It’s very festive and you know it’s a special occasion. I’ve based my choices on classics: sterling silver candlesticks and flatware. What makes this modern is the color choice. The charcoal silver tablecloth is unexpected.
The hot details...are the napkin rings: If sparkle were a color, it would be my favorite.
The keys to a great table…are great guests to sit around it. As for what to serve, go with whatever the chef suggests.
My entertaining pet peeve…is texting at the table. That’s a huge faux pas.