For the holidays, set your table with beautiful linens, like a rich plaid or paisley tablecloth and crisp white napkins.

, Provided by Nell Hill's

Horsing around for the holidays

  • Article by: By MARY CAROL GARRITY
  • Scripps Howard News Service
  • November 17, 2012 - 1:44 PM

Give your home the sophisticated charm of an English manor by decking the halls with equestrian-themed holiday decor. Depending upon your fancy, you can take this timeless look in any direction, from whimsical to classic.

One of my favorite spots to do up big for the holidays is the dining room. I entertain quite a bit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I give this all-important room big treatment. Through the years, I've reinvented the English-hunt-club look over and again, and still it feels fresh and new and full of possibilities.

Start your table treatment with beautiful linens, like a rich plaid or paisley tablecloth and crisp white napkins. I like to use trays as chargers when I dress my table for a dinner party because they do a masterful job of grounding each place setting and lending them an air of distinction.

White china is perfect for an equestrian table. Or use a china pattern that evokes images of England.

The sky is the limit with your centerpiece on an equestrian-themed table. Recently, I used a cluster of trophy cups as vases for fresh flowers. Faux-stag-antler candlesticks added dramatic height.

To create this look, start with a pair of tall candelabras to frame the scene. Add another themed accent for fun, like a vase holding pheasant feathers. Then display your food on different-sized multileveled servers. Place artisan bread, a wedge of cheese and fresh pears on a simple wooden cutting board, and you've got a tantalizing tableau in minutes.

It's fun to bring a holiday theme to life on your Christmas tree. We played it up big with our equestrian tree at Nell Hill's Atchison, tilting toward excess to celebrate this season of wonder and whimsy.

We dotted the tree with fanciful equestrian ornaments that depict all facets of the hunt.

I can't seem to get enough of plaid this time of year, so it was a treat to find adorable plaid balls and snowflakes. They looked fabulous with our ribbon garland that twisted through the boughs of the tree.

Tuck an irresistible figurine into the branches of your tree. Using one oversized ornament as a focal point in a Christmas tree is a fun way to surprise guests.

In addition to your tree, your fireplace mantel is an important spot to decorate for the holidays. We really brought our equestrian theme to life on a display mantel. We started by trailing a traditional evergreen garland across the mantel, securing it in place so it didn't slip off and send everything crashing to the floor. Then we filled out the garland by adding several interesting picks, like fat red berries and gilded leaves, tying everything up with a perky plaid bow.

Every good mantel design needs elements that bring in dramatic height. We found it with traditional black metal lanterns holding battery-operated pillar candles. Use a riser, like a stack of plaid-paper-covered books, to give accents an added boost so they aren't the same height.

While a plaid sofa might be too much, don't be afraid to cover a side chair or two in a toned-down plaid pattern. Then, dress up the chair with an equestrian-themed accent pillow for fun.

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