How to set the holiday table

Life Style

It is that time of the year when holiday party invitations are sent out and you file RSVPs on your phone calendar. Whether you are hosting a casual brunch or a formal dinner, make sure your guests eat with their eyes first. Well-organised, aesthetically pleasing and functional table decor goes a long way in setting the tone for a party. From a mix of classy crockery in eclectic combinations and rustic or vintage table linen to inventive glassware and centrepieces, we have created a guide wherein table stylists and brands share their favourite way to set an inviting table. 

The centrepiece on a holiday table immediately draws attention, and it does not have to be limited to elaborate candelabra. Mumbai-based Pooja Sugla, who designs tables across seasons, has a simple rule of thumb with floral and edible elements — “Definitely a mix. A bit of cinnamon, fresh oranges on skewers, some eucalyptus leaves along with a few candles to add warmth. A subtle ornament as a place card or a napkin tie brings the quirk to the table,” she says. Good lighting too goes a long way to set the mood, whether it is a breezy outdoor setting or a well-lit table at night. Glassware often occupies a place of pride at the table as well. Think elegant cocktails, or a pitcher of water infused with slices of citrus.

Glassware from Glass Forest

Decanters and upcycled glasses

Pallavi Chandra, principal designer and founder of New Delhi-based Glass Forest, that creates handblown glassware, recommends both clear and coloured glassware for a host of beverages. “We have a Firdaus jug and decanter or Iris carafe that have a larger capacity, and are great for mocktails or cocktails. The Juliette range makes for colourful, happy tables with its jewel tones. Stemless glassware is also versatile for hot chocolate or mulled wine. Desserts look great in glassware too.” While the brand brings classic lines and handcrafted details, Noida-based Kavi the Poetry-Art Project upcycles glass bottles to create tableware and glasses that are statement pieces.

Its founder, Madhuri Balodi says they fly off the shelves as holiday gifts too. “Our platters as well as tall glasses are popular this season and we get custom orders where families send us their used spirit bottles to create a range of glassware for them,” she adds. 

For Aditi Murarka Agrawal, co-founder of Kolkata -based home decor brand Nestasia, holidays are a time centred around family, festivities and food. “For 2022, we created festive decor, dining and gift collections that cater to both minimal and maximal aesthetics.”

Nestasia’s Ombre collection

Nestasia’s Ombre collection

The Ombré Collection, for instance, boasts of warm jewel tones in red-white and green-white gradients, and the brand has a mix of shapes and patterns to choose from.  If you are looking to work with an existing collection by adding a few statement pieces to the table, Nicobar has products that pair well with a cornucopia of cutlery and crockery. The brand’s recently-launched Lumi collection featuring crockery and decor pieces, showcases shades of deep maroon with equestrian flair.  “I love a beautifully orchestrated plate of food with a classic drink or a soup on the side, where each element sings in complete harmony with the other. This holiday season, I am coveting our very giftable Sangria set, the Holidaze soup mug, and the classic ivory dinner set,” says Rajiv Purohit, co-creative director, Nicobar. 

Serveware goes old school

Once done with the decor, when you are deciding courses for a holiday menu, appetisers and desserts call for their own range of serveware, with wood and marble offering a perfect canvas to show off gastronomic delights. “Serveware with detailing work best. A wood base and marble top, or a marble platter with wooden handle,” explains Mumbai-based interior stylist Meenakshi Kapoor. 

Meenakshi Kapoor’s design

Meenakshi Kapoor’s design

Fabindia, the multi-city design and decor store, has added a clutch of cloches to the mix, fashioned with marble or brass bases and glass tops, and ceramic-wood cake servers that add height to the table arrangement and a whimsical touch to serving small bites. Its recently-launched Chitra collection, comprising crockery sets and serveware, blends craft and colour to add a touch of royalty to the table. Dipali Patwa, head of brand, and community, Fabindia, explains the brand’s design language. “When creating a festive tablescape, you need one element that pulls everything together to ensure you end up with a cohesive look. The easiest place to start is with the colour palette and the motifs.”

Meenakshi, on the other hand, offers an eclectic style statement on a holiday table. “I like crockery with organic shapes and don’t like buying things in sets, rather in multiples of twos or threes where I can mix and match patterns and prints. In terms of material, you could use kansa (bell metal) plates with matt black stoneware and then printed porcelain crockery, and it would still work.”

The Yellow Dwelling table linen featuring green woven grass table runner

The Yellow Dwelling table linen featuring green woven grass table runner

The linen story

While the crockery and serveware are the stars of the show, crisp table linen offers an ideal backdrop to showcase them. For The Yellow Dwelling, the perfect recipe is a playful mix of prints, solids and textures. Co-founder Abhinayah Sundaramoorthy, says, “A solid tablecloth, patterned runner and textured placemats from woven grass offer a lovely touch.” Meenakshi agrees, “When it comes to table runners, I like organic, washed linen in earthy tones that flow from one bottom end to the other rather than a flat one that sits in the centre.” 

“The Yellow Dwelling, with stores across Bengaluru, Pune, New Delhi and Hyderabad, has launched a range of tiny fabric ornaments in natural and red tones this year that double up well as lovely napkin rings or placeholders,” adds Abhinayah.  For those who like a vintage touch to their holiday table, Maitrayee Roy Shukla makes cross-stitch accents and embroidered table linens, as The Needlecrafter online.

Table linen from Nicobar

Table linen from Nicobar

As natural tones and eco materials meet holiday chic, choosing the right serving utensils is key. Sleek cutlery sets from stores like Fabindia, Ellementary, Jaypore, Nicobar, or flatware brand FnS offer a range of options in silver, gold tone,  or dual tone options, but brass is a clear favourite. “You can’t have a stunning meal without the basics, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Find a different take on cutlery by opting for brass. For your setting, a great option is to layer — use a colourful charger, a classic dinner plate, add a smaller salad plate, and top with a napkin, says Dipali. She adds, “You can choose which of those elements will give you the pop needed for the celebration. Vary your heights: so if you set the table make sure that everything standing is not at the same height level. Opt for a variety of heights, this can be achieved with our candles or flowers.” 

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