Style: Design gorgeous tablescape that lasts all winter

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

Setting a stunning table for holiday entertaining is high on my Bliss Chart. Whether I’m in the mood for simple and serene or shock and awe, I love approaching my tabletop like a canvass, ready to tell a story that entertains my guests. This year, I focused on building a tablescape I can easily transition from winter holidays to just plain winter so I don’t have to take it down Dec. 26. Here’s how you can do the same.

Start with wintery white dishes that transcend the holidays: Meet my new dish crush: simple white dishes that feature the relief of a deer’s head. These guys stole my heart at market because they hit two of my hot buttons: First, they are white, which means they have no ego. They are happy to go any direction we want to take them. Depending upon what accent plates, table linens, glasses and centerpiece items we pair them with, we can create a million different looks.

Second, they had oodles of charm. If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know I adore a rustic, hunt club look in the winter.

Pair them with a holiday accent you love: Now for the fun part: using easygoing dishes to create a holiday look you love. If you don’t own any white dishes, here are two things you can do: First, put them on your holiday gift list! Second, use white serving pieces on your holiday table instead.

Another super easy way to give your white-dish-dressed table some holiday flair is to use a seasonal table square for a tablecloth. It’s hard to see, but we have a plaid square on this display table. Then, dot in some iconic holiday decor, like the faux winter greens and glass bead garlands in the display above. At Nell Hill’s sometimes we place holiday wreaths under the dinner plates as festive chargers. Or you could fold a holiday napkin in a fancy way and place it atop the plates. Or top each plate with a sorbet cup holding a Christmas tree ornament. Dig into your holiday decor box and get creative.

For a fast and fun centerpiece, polish up a silver tray, stack up a few of your white coffee cups then fill in with some holiday decorations. Remember those kitschy bottle brush Christmas trees? They are back! I love them because they are a simple way to put a celebratory stamp on any display in your home, including your dining table.

One more quick note on the deer head dishes before I move on … they make fabulous, inexpensive gifts for friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, etc. Fill a mug with ornaments, cocoa mix, cinnamon sticks, a pretty spoon — anything — and wrap it up in cellophane tied up with a beautiful ribbon.

Switch to winter icons after the holidays are over: The day you take down the holiday decor is always a little sad, isn’t it? Your house looks so bare after being dressed in all that finery. But you can keep the lush winter layers going on your dining table until the crocuses pop out in spring. Just pull out all the pieces on your table that scream “holiday” and fill in with decor that celebrates winter. Here’s how we pulled that off: We kept our plaid table topper, but brought in black and white napkins. We cleared off the ornaments and put pots of faux paper whites at the table’s center.

Your white dishes will allow you to go lots of different directions on your winter table. You can pair them with silver and gold for a formal and elegant look. Recently I was at a dinner party thrown by a friend, and she set her table completely in white. You might think a white-on-white palette would be boring. But it was a knock out! I love a winter woodland look in my home in January and February. You can bring this to life easily on your post-holiday table by topping your white dishes with a bit of nature.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.