Table Ta-Da!

5 Ways to Create a Lovely, *Truly* No-Stress Holiday Table

Our talented art director shows us how.

November 30, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

Welcome to Table Ta-Da!, where our art director, Alexis Anthony, shares tips and tricks (along with a little fairy dust) to help you create a wow-worthy table, whether you're serving two people or 20. Cue the oohs and ahhs...

Take a look around you: The holidays are happening! I love this time of year for the palpable buzz that takes over the city, the warm and welcoming smells that waft up from every home kitchen, and of course, all those fun and festive parties that I love to attend and throw. If we're being honest, though, those parties can get a little tricky. Nothing energizes me more than drawing up a menu for a crowd, but a quick glance at my calendar for the month of December is also enough to induce a little heart-racing. It can all be a bit much.

For those times when the cal may overwhelm you—especially if you're playing host—we have some handy dandy tips. Our Art Director Alexis Anthony is the magician behind Food52’s signature look and feel (those linen tablecloths don’t rumple themselves, you know), and she’s a gold mine of tips, tricks, and sleights of hand—the perfect point person to ask how to make something look GRAND, with just a small amount of effort (see the evidence in the photo above).

Take a deep breath, summon some hands-off menu hits, and as far as decorating goes, borrow a page from Alexis' book for a no-stress tablescape.

Branch Out

Using elements from nature, like fallen branches, sprigs, and leaves is a lovely—and easy—way to build your tablescape. “Go to your backyard and see what you have there to start,” Alexis tells me. Keep your eyes peeled for a beautiful statement-making branch in your (or your neighbor's) backyard, or for a collection of pine cones at the nearby park. A natural centerpiece for a foraged table is never far.

Cover It Up

We believe in the old-school elegance of a tablecloth, but sometimes the ones we have on hand don't always fit the bill (like when we have to join two mismatched tables to make one long enough for everyone). If you're looking for a last-minute option to accommodate that new length, Alexis recommends hitting up your nearest Home Depot or hardware store for an all-purpose canvas drop cloth (can you believe the tablecloth you’re seeing is a drop cloth?). "A clean vintage sheet would also be nice," she says. And if you have a bit more time on your hands, picking up a proper linen tablecloth will give any occasion a polished feel.

Skip the Matchy-Matchy

Not all of us have a full set of matching dinnerware lying around. "You definitely don't need a complete set," Alexis assures. She creates a cohesive look by grouping mismatched pieces in the same tone to make them feel like part of one big happy family. Think about combining those plates you do own with some singular vintage dishes you picked up and are looking for an excuse to show off.

Shine on

No-stress doesn’t mean no bling. Gold-rimmed plates and cutlery bring warmth and a touch of sparkle to the table. "A little bit of metallic accents or mood lighting does so much," says Alexis. You can achieve this easily with twinkling lights, whether that's through assorted candles and tealights, or strings lights that work as well on the table as they would on a mantel or tree.

Don’t Forget That Special Touch

Alexis is a master of adding just the smallest accent to punctuate a scene: Here, she brings in a touch of whimsy with a few feathers and a winding velvet ribbon (perfect for childhood ponytails, I couldn’t help noting). The mustard color complements the natural tones of the table while creating a nice sense of movement against the branch. "We all have some random ribbon lying around," she says. "You don't have to be so perfect—have fun with it!"

Creating a beautiful tablescape for even a last-minute shindig doesn’t have to be a challenge. A few thoughtful elements (and a little digging around your own home) are all you need for a memorable scene that your guests will love lingering around.

What are your favorite tablescape tricks? Tell us your secrets below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BerryBaby
  • Kristan
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


BerryBaby November 30, 2018
Decorating the table is one thing I love to do! I've stated before, I cut greens from the yard and collect pine cones from the trees and bushes. Wish there was a way for us to post our tablescapes. Oh, DO NOT use feathers that you 'find'! Don't even pick them have no idea what condition the bird may have had. Without going into details, forget feathers and stay healthy. BB🎄
Hana A. December 6, 2018
Thanks so much for the feather warning, BerryBaby! Happy holidays to you and your family! <3
Kristan November 30, 2018
You can find upholstery fabric for less than the price of a department-store tablecloth at Joanne's in the sale bin. It is wide enough to cover a pingpong table with the net removed. :)
Hana A. December 6, 2018
Love this tip, thanks Kristan!