4 Essentials For Gorgeous Holiday Tablescapes

“I say to myself that I shall try to make my life like an open fireplace, so that people may be warmed and cheered by it and so go out themselves to warm and cheer.”

Elegant and gorgeous, all the essentials for a perfect Holiday tablescape
Credit: Donal Skehan


So many wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas tablescapes and decor ideas bombard social media, this time of year… So, this is the short list of biggest-bang-for-the-buck things you can include  to make your tablescapes, and decor truly wonderful, and gorgeous.

Mood, romance, and settings so beautiful they almost have fragrance, are not that difficult to achieve, with a few carefully chosen elements.  Architectural features like ancient stuccoed walls, 20 foot high ceilings (fit for chandeliers) and banks of windows may be beyond many folks reach. But there are a few things that import so much atmosphere, to a room or tablescape, that I use them whenever possible. They are fragrant botanicals, wonderful antique and vintage mirrors, candlelight (and additional lighting with chandeliers, Edison bulbs, or fairylights), and antique tableware.

Botanicals and candle light
Credit: viaQuintessentialduckeggBLUE

Botanicals are always best served fresh:

Holiday brunch perfection. Rosemary sprays and wreaths.
Credit: QuintessentialDuckEggBlue


Holly, poinsettia, pine, and boxwood are ubiquitous, but can be a bit boring. Instead, I hunt down the most fragrant botanicals I can find: Fir, eucalyptus, bay leaf, rosemary, and cedar boughs, garlands, and wreaths. I enjoy contrasting foliage with fruit (pomegranates, lemons,  clove spiked oranges,) gourds, fossils and naturally shed horn, antler, and exotic artifacts.. Extra long cinnamon sticks and pinecones are traditional, and get tucked away in many rooms.  But other than fragrance, it is those botanicals that introduce a calligraphic statement which create the biggest impact.

Happily, they can be gathered yourself, or easily purchased: tall, stripped branches and groomed boughs, which I sometimes paint–this year in red, with fire hydrant paint, in case they end up outside, in arrangements.  Grapevine branches and young bamboo, left natural or sprayed gold, are wonderful and add layers of height, without blocking sight lines.

Candle light, texture, chandelier and mirror, with evergreens. Lovely, even by day.
Credit: Carmen Darwin


A Time To Reflect:

There are few things that work well in almost any space, with low or high ceilings, that instantly add as much atmosphere and mood, as does a large antique mirror.  A wonderful collection of smaller antique mirrors can sometimes carry the same impact, and have the added virtue of being adaptable to a variety of spaces. But large mirrors open a room, much like a window, and have decor chops like almost nothing else. Moreover, apart from any individual mirror’s singular beauty, they reflect light. 10 candles become 20, 40 fairy lights become 80.  Mirrors and candlelight belong together like the stars in the night sky.

Versatile collection of smaller antique mirrors
Credit: Kindred Vintage


Candlelit elegance
Credit: Enchanted Home


“I say to myself that I shall try to make my life like an open fireplace, so that people may be warmed and cheered by it and so go out themselves to warm and cheer.”

George Matthew Adams, a mid-20thC writer, editor and philosopher said that. And isn’t that the highest goal of any tablescape, any meal, any occasion?  The great thing is, aside from adding beauty, candlelight can help you accomplish that goal. Researchers have found that time spent in proximity to flickering fire lowers blood pressure, and causes people to both relax, and feel more sociable. A fireplace, bonfire or firepit would no doubt give a stronger dose of well-being, but not everyone has a fireplace in the room in which they dine, and bonfires, in the home, are frowned upon.

Since the studies scientists used to record these facts used video of fire, rather actual fire, it is no stretch to see how candles’ flames can provide similar results. Candle light is, in fact, just a more diminutive, less smokey version of that wonderful thing that happens around a campfire, at night, when the stories start to flow. It’s rich amber hue is inviting, soothing, inviting, forgiving…and perfect for taking marvelous photos. Candelabras, and multiple candlesticks, recreate that atmosphere, at table. It is essential because it is so much more than just table light.


Atmospheric candlelit tablescape and antique mirror
Credit: Donal Skehan

Mismatched Treasure:

“Antique silver objects are among the most evocative treasures we possess. Whether handed down from generation to generation or purchased new, they become one of the threads in a family’s history…Because these things are also part of our everyday life, and not just displayed in a glass case, they give us a special link to the past and remind our children of their heritage — of quirky family stories and fun adventures. These pieces travel with us through our lives, growing older with a special grace.” 

This is one of the loveliest explanations on why this remains an essential for the best tablescapes. Not only does it add incredibly romantic luster, old world glamour, and marvelous beauty to your table, it starts up conversation all across the table. Guests compare their settings with one another to decide favorites, making up wildly humorous, fictional histories, or to listen, smiling, to family stories about some particular piece.

Mismatched Antique & Vintage Silver
Credit: Unknown source, Tumblr

I use mismatched antique and vintage hotel silver, mismatched antique cutlery, with beauty and/or charm,  and unusual Victorian (or heavy silver) candelabras and candlesticks. I also collect antique silver napkin rings and beautiful fabric napkins. Each piece is chosen for its whimsy or beauty, though I tend toward an eclectic blend of classic and simple lines, Art Nouveau era, and quirky folk tale inspired pieces. That they are mismatched, I find wonderful, though I have repeats of a few. Each piece tells a different story.

I’ve found that family members and friends develop their own favorites within my collection, which tickles me to no end, and adds to the continuing legacy of each piece.  The settings, to me, matter more than the table, though, of course I love big antique wooden tables, especially those about whose patina I do not have to worry over much.

Mismatched antique silver
Credit: Lisa Cohen

That is because, if a dining table is less than lovely, it can be covered. And if it very valuable, it must be covered.  Layer table covering with texture and contrast in mind. Rough over luxe, solid over print. If the tablecloth is primarily solid (for example burlap over a lighter muslin, ticking, or broadcloth), I mismatch the napkins so that no two are alike, though a color prevails. If the tablecloth has a print, solid colored napkins are preferable. It is the combination textures, and of solid and print, and that allows the eyes to rest, and gives the broadest room for successful mismatching of tableware, silver, botanicals, and sophisticated whimsy.

Lyrical and lovely Holiday tablescape
Credit: Anno1924.blogspot.com

Buy items like those shown in this blog below on GoAntiques.com! 

Large mirror in gilded ornate frame. Believed early 20th Century. 53 X 30.


20th Century Italian Mirror In Gilt Wood
Antique Neoclassical Giltwood & Gesso Mirror, 36.5″x50″x6″deep, c.1900
Antique Vermilion Red Chinoiserie Mirror, 63″ H X 33.3″ W X 2″ D
Pair of Antique Bronze & Brass Candlesticks
Victorian Revival Brass Candelabra Multi Arm Candelabra
Antique Baccarat Style Molded Crystal Glass Candelabra
Pair Bronze & Porcelain Rooster Candelabras by Arson, c.mid1800s


Pair of Silver Art Nouveau Candelabra by WMF




Antique Persian Qajar Dynasty Period Silverplated Lantern / Hanging Lamp
Antique Neoclassical Silvered Bronze Chandelier
Rogers Fair Oak Dinner Forks 6 pcs. 1913 Silver Plate
“Louis XVI” Silver-Plated Bouillon Spoon Set/3 Ca. 1900 Nat’l/Bonn/Smith
Antique Knowles BONBON Spoon STERLING
Bakelite handled and Silver Plated boxed Deco teaspoon set
Antique Robert PRINGLE Teapot LONDON S.P.
Antique Mappin Bros Silverplate Coffee Pot
Victorian Silverplate 3 Sided Biscuit Box
Meriden Silverplate Victorian 6-Bottle Castor Set


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