Vintage tabletop elements add a dose of character while easily mixing with newer, non-vintage pieces. We've used our current inventory to set our vintage holiday table 4 different ways. Read on for tips on setting a holiday table, and make our ideas your own this season. Here's wishing you a happy holiday, from our vintage holiday table to yours!
Before you get started setting your holiday table, ask yourself these important questions:
How formal will my dinner (and guests) be?
Answering this question will determine whether to play it safe with a traditionally styled setting, or whether things can be a bit more playful. (Your answer here will also determine what specific pieces you'll need to have on the table.)
What do I need on the table?
Your menu, as well as the type of gathering you're planning, will pretty much dictate what flatware, tableware, serving pieces, and glassware your guests require. (Serving soup? Guests need soup spoons. And PS: only put out utensils guests will use.) Want quick tips on laying out the perfect table setting? We compiled a list of handy diagrams that will be your best friends.
THE FESTIVE VINTAGE TABLE
For the slightly traditional, festive holiday table we first covered our table in a thin, antique-marseille bedspread to set a crisp backdrop that lets the settings sing. Gold-tone 1960s flatware flank ironstone Christmas-tree plates stacked atop larger, red-rimmed 1980s Marimekko plates acting as chargers. Etched-crystal 1930s goblets with etched bow motifs are a fancy touch, and they're great for serving wine (red or white) and/or water.
A 1950s milk-glass vase with filled with pretty berries and greenery, a stick of winterberry, and a natural-rosemary wreath add essential touches of nature, and a bit of fragrance (but not overpowering!), too.
We rolled up a red cotton napkin, tied it off with white grosgrain ribbon, and attached a lone jingle bell for a final touch of good, old holiday cheer.
THE DARK 'N' STORMY VINTAGE TABLE
Swirly, handmade marbled paper is the placemat here, and sets up a moody-blue contrast for the late-1940s Buffalo China black-and-gold salad plate and 1960s starburst-motif charger.
A green, 1940s art-pottery bowl serves up soup and salad while chic low-balls with black bases are perfect for mixed drinks, juice, and milk.
We've always been fans of mixing metals—the gold bolster and black handle of the steak knife nicely tie in both plates, and antique silver-plated flatware adds shine and depth to the setting.
Flatware has been tucked into a 1950s linen napkin, alongside a peacock feather—a pretty, unexpected element. A black-and-blue art pottery vase holds seeded eucalyptus (available all year) and casts a tone of abundance. Does your inability to fancily fold napkins have you down? Check out these tips and tricks to folding the perfect napkin.
THE WOODSY VINTAGE TABLE
Slightly informal, this setting is a playful interpretation of a connectedness to the great outdoors. We covered our table in a fine English paisley fabric with tones of rust and brown.
A 1960s, ironstone, Mount Clemens China plate acts as charger, and is topped with a Stangl Pottery thistle plate—its underside a pretty brown glaze.
For a cheeky take on a traditional setting, we created a simple napkin roll and placed it horizontally across the plate. A butterscotch Bakelite napkin ring holds the faux-bone handled steak knife in place. Vintage silver-plated Gorham flatware echo the shine of silver-overlay low-balls.
An antique graduated cylinder holds a bouquet of silvery-white Dusty Miller cuts, evoking winter's frost. An alabaster egg acts as a quirky placeholder—unusual, unexpected items like this can also be used to anchor place cards that signal a more formal seating arrangement. A bright-orange persimmon is a quick, sweet snack guests can enjoy before, or in between courses.
THE FLASHY VINTAGE TABLE
Gold tones take center stage here—anchored by a vintage Jack Lenor Larsen worsted-wool remnant that's about the size of a placemat.
Think outside the box by including different textural fabrics like this on your own table—if a remnant's too big, just cut to size with pinking shears, for example. Then, use its colors to inform the rest of your table setting.
Cloches act as cool centerpieces that can be filled with anything from seashells (a nautical Xmas) to pinecones (a woodsy one). We filled ours with glittery gold garland and used it in lieu of a live floral centerpiece.
A gilded, Swedish candle holder is put on a pedestal by setting it atop an inverted, iridescent experimental-pottery bowl. Virtually anything can be turned upside-down to add instant height to a holiday tablescape. Our candle has no fragrance—keep in mind that any candles you plan to light on the holiday table, or even in the dining room, should carry zero fragrance. (There are no exceptions to this rule!)
A 1960s gold-overlay salad and/or soup bowl, matching dinner plate, cup, and saucer are slightly informal, but a luxe pink-linen napkin and copper leaf napkin ring add all the requisite pizazz.
Are you setting a holiday table this year? We would LOVE to see your own interpretations—including all those vintage elements!
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Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays to You & Yours!