15 Designer Holiday Place Settings
Everybody owns some version of this classic white china. Dress it up, dress it down, it will see you through life.
Interior designer and retailer, Jacksonville
"I'm old-fashioned and sure of one thing: I love to decorate a table. A beautiful table is not about a staggering investment in expensive formal objects. My style is distinctly American, with a commitment to simplicity. I see endless opportunities in a crisp white napkin. And white, silver, and gold are just the perfect trio. My husband says that a perfect world includes an English gardener, a French chef, an Italian architect, and an American checkbook. I say that the combination of a cheerful hostess, a table set with candles and flowers, and a fragrant feast will bring any man to his knees."
Fabric designer and retailer, Kinderhook, NY
"I think of myself as a modern traditionalist. My favorite color choice for a festive table is always red. No other color packs the punch that red does. I love single-color arrangements of roses, tulips, and carnations, so I did four of them for the centerpiece around an antique hurricane. The tablecloth is my very cheerful Celeste pattern. It says 'fun' instantly."
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Food Network star, Savannah
"I love mixing the old with the new. I love things that tell a story and have a history. For my place setting I used my wedding silver. It brings back wonderful memories. The china is from an antiques store here in Savannah. For flowers I went right out to my garden and picked some hydrangeas that were drying on the bush. I added some dried gourds and roses for a festive look. I placed the hydrangeas in a tarnished silver pitcher. I liked the tarnish finish. The place setting wasn't complete without a mint julep. Instead of a place mat I used an antique table runner I found at a yard sale."
Writer, Palm Beach
"The idea here is to keep the colors calming and soft. I love using two colors on a table. It has a bigger impact and creates a stronger story. I've mixed white with gray, silver, and crystal to create this glimmering holiday lunch. All whites — and all off-whites, for that matter — go together, regardless of provenance, style, or age. And I like mixing ivory, china, and pottery together with crisp linen napkins. It always looks fresh and new. Simple white and green flowers add a touch of freshness and height to the center of the table."
Interior designer, New York
"Having fun is the key to great design, big or small. I like to add details that make you smile. I chose a warm wooden tray and added red Greek key cloth napkins for bold pattern. The dishes pop with the pattern underneath. I then added the Financial Times by rolling it and securing it with a green goldfish napkin ring, which makes me smile. A single white hydrangea floats above it all like a fluffy cloud on a perfect day. The final detail is a 'good morning' card. I printed this one with a Keith Haring-inspired background for another graphic touch."
Writer and founder of oneforthetable.com, Los Angeles
"Sunday brunch is a great way to see family and friends in a more intimate setting. I like to serve courses, even at breakfast, so the table is set with white china chargers. A beautiful blue Italian salad plate is set on it for the first course of fruit and then removed, and breakfast is served on more white china. Juice in delicate pink 1920s wineglasses for a splash of elegance, oversize Italian coffee cups — everything encourages you to linger. Individual pitchers and ramekins for syrup and jam — a rule of my mother's: Decant everything. And white linen napkins that were also my mother's, to remind us of holidays past."
Contributor, Park Avenue Potluck: Celebrations, New York
"I love antique objects, but I find that the juxtaposition of antiques with bold prints or accessories makes the table more visually interesting. The wicker charger and strong graphic linen mats are framed by contemporary flatware with gray porcelain handles. For fun, I folded the napkins so they would look like a man's tie and tucked the top into the salad plate. The scheme is basically monochromatic, but I also added red flowers and red water glasses as accents. I always low-light my dinner table, depending on lots of candlelight, a dimmer on the overhead fixture, and the glow of white plates and starched linen."
Interior designer, New York
"I set the table the same way I get dressed. I guess I have a lot of clothes. I started with the tablecloth from Urban Outfitters. They have great textiles — I buy them all the time and have them sewn to fit a 48-inch round table. You can throw them in the wash, and they're easy to iron. I love the look of a white plate on a patterned cloth but wanted to show how you could mix even more, so I added the old porcelain and topped it with a modern soup bowl. I love red carnations because they make all the colors pop, plus they last forever. Last I added a few objects like Foo dogs, so your eye has something to dance over."
Writer and designer, Aspen
"When I saw the simple stark white plates, I thought of placing them in the stark contrast that one finds in the whites and darks of a 17th-century Dutch painting. I also wanted to juxtapose the modern white dishes against rich reds, traditional pewter shapes, and staghorn flatware and candlesticks — utensils one would find in a 17th-century hunting lodge. Flowers are not easy to come by in Aspen, so I use lots of fruit as table decoration, again inspired by the beautiful Dutch still lifes I love. Here it's rich red apples and grapes. The table works equally well for autumn or winter or even a Valentine's Day celebration."