Table Ta-Da!

The One Thing You Need for a Dazzling Holiday Table Is Hiding in Your Bathroom Cabinet

We're turning up the kids' table.

December  7, 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...

Around this time of year, the sight of majestic window displays and beautifully curated holiday tables are enough to take your breath away. But I'd say that these delightful scenes can at times both inspire and intimidate. Don't get me wrong: I love nothing more than sitting down to a thoughtfully laid out setting, surrounded by impeccable dinnerware and linens. But when it comes to my own home table—even when I'm having people over for a nice meal—my style is decidedly more laid-back.

Perhaps it's because the word "tablescape" is so loaded, or maybe it often takes a backseat to executing an actual menu. But taking time to envision a proper setting doesn't have to be daunting at all. Just take it from our magic-making art director, Alexis Anthony, who believes in the power of a set table—even for the smallest guests among us.

Alexis tells me a special kids' table doesn't always have to mean crayons and paper (though those are always welcome, too). Here, she shares her six tips for creating a wondrous, kid-friendly holiday tablescape we can honestly say most adults would get a kick out of.

Use What You Have...

Get inspired by the things you may have lying around. Alexis first grabbed some of the sweet wooden tree figurines we had around the office. "I was inspired by the woodland forest scene," she says, using the small replicas as a jumping-off point to inform the rest of the table.

...Yes, That Includes Your Kid's Toys

Take a good scan of your child's belongings. Are there little trinkets or old party favors that would double as conversation starters on the table? In this case, Alexis "borrowed" some of her son's small toy animals (the inexpensive ones that usually come in a bag or plastic container at your neighborhood toy store, something like this or this), and went at it with gold spray paint. Voilà! Plastic forest friends get an instant makeover.

Think Beyond Cake

Revisiting the "use what you have" theme, we say take a good look at potential kitchen and servingware helpers. In this case, Alexis grabbed two cake stands and made a wintry vignette on each, complete with trees, woodland creatures, reindeer moss, and "snow" (more on that below). "Choose cake pedestals of varying heights to create visual interest," she says.

Let It Snow

It wouldn't be a winter wonderland without snow, would it? Lay down a sweet tablecloth and get going on creating a snowy landscape. It's actually as easy as picking up a bag of Epsom salt. "You can create little snow drifts on the table itself, as well as on the cake stands and platters where the animals are hanging out," says Alexis. (After all the guests have left for the evening, I wholly encourage using said Epsom salt for a much-deserved foot soak.)

Go Vintage

If your first instinct with kids (and let's face it, some adults) is to reach for disposable dinnerware, STOP. It's the holidays, after all, and we should be trusted to step up our plate game. Now that doesn't mean breaking out your heirloom china per se, but Alexis tells us a simple way to get the look for less: "Pick up some inexpensive vintage plates and cutlery. They don't have to be a complete set and they're usually just a couple of dollars per piece. It's simple, but using 'real' china does make it feel fancy." Hear, hear!

Accent Like You Mean It

You're almost there! Pull the whole look together with all of the small details that make the table: copper cups with handles, swizzle sticks (topped with those same spray-painted animals), metallic crowns, and holiday crackers. "A holiday cracker doesn't have to be a tube shape," explains Alexis. "You can make your own version with metallic jewelry boxes and coordinating ribbon."

As you can see, elevating a table from "that's nice" to "WOW" doesn't take more than a few thoughtful, easy-as-pie steps. (Those plastic deer were just waiting for a chic golden upgrade, obviously.) We can totally see this being a fun backdrop for any razzle-dazzle holiday party, to be honest—why should kids have all the fun!

What are your tips for setting a table fit for both kids and adults? Let us know below!

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Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.