The holiday season is officially underway, and chances are you’ll be serving a celebratory meal or two before it’s over.

Whether you’re hosting a big gathering or a festive dinner for the family, dressing up the table is one way to make the occasion special.

You don’t have to invest in expensive decorations or dinnerware to create a holiday mood. Instead, you can get creative with what you have on hand, plus a few low-cost embellishments.

For ideas, we turned to Bachman’s, where a team of four designers have decked out the Holiday Ideas House in full seasonal splendor. This year’s Ideas House includes four tablescapes: a traditional Christmas dinner, a winter-white holiday wedding, a sophisticated black-and-white New Year’s Eve party, and a Nordic-themed holiday spread.

“Scandinavian style is trendy now,” said Sarah Pitts, Bachman’s spokeswoman. “But it’s evergreen for this area,” where so many people have Scandinavian roots.

For other timely trends for the season, plus designers’ best tips and tricks for setting a table that will “wow” your guests with holiday spirit, read on.


Everyday dinnerware in plain white or another neutral color can lay the foundation for a festive holiday look. “You don’t have to buy new dishes,” said Pitts. “One way to achieve new looks is to layer in linens or accent dishware.”

Think outside the box by introducing layers of unexpected elements. For a traditional Christmas table setting, Bachman’s designers wrapped each place setting with a ribbon tied with a bow, to resemble a gift-wrapped present. Small individual floral arrangements on top of each place setting make a celebratory statement — and double as party favors for guests to take home.

Lifting the eye

You can elevate your tablescape, literally, by adding height. For an elegant winter-white wedding table, Bachman’s designers used cut-glass bowls as plate risers under each place setting. You also can play with height for your centerpiece, Pitts said. Instead of one big centerpiece, collect smaller elements of varying heights, such as candles and collectibles, and arrange them in the center of the table. (For a Scandinavian-themed holiday table, Bachman’s designers used wooden stars, votives and cut-glass candlesticks.) Smaller decorations also allow more room on the table for food, Pitts noted.

And don’t forget the space above the table. “Looking up, there’s usually a light fixture that can be decorated,” Pitts said. Chandeliers and other light fixtures can be trimmed with garlands, berries and other seasonal decor. “It’s simple, fast and adds a big wow factor,” she said.

Sitting pretty

Dining chairs are often overlooked as a decorative element. For a sophisticated New Year’s Eve party table, designers draped black scarves over chair backs, tied with ribbon. For a traditional Christmas-themed table, designers used gold Deco Mesh, an inexpensive material that’s sold by the roll, as a chair tie-back.


Look around your home to find items you can use in festive ways for your holiday table, suggested Pitts.

For the New Year’s Eve table, designers used a shiny gold tree skirt for a tablecloth, and vintage jewelry as napkin rings to add a bit of sparkle. “It’s a great way to make use of a cool, blingy bracelet collection,” Pitts noted. Don’t forget holiday ornaments, which can be incorporated into tabletop decor in a wide variety of ways: suspended from candlesticks, displayed in dishes or hung from chair backs. Ornaments also can double as party favors for guests to take home as a holiday keepsake.

Place cards

Assigned seats at the table, labeled with place cards, aren’t just for weddings and banquets. “Even at a large family get-together, place cards make it a little more formal and special — and encourage conversation,” Pitts said.

(More holiday decorating ideas are on display at the Bachman’s Holiday Ideas House through Dec. 15. For more information, visit

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784