As the holiday season gets into full swing, many of our thoughts turn to entertaining in our home. Whether you're playing host to a large group of extended family for the holidays or hosting an intimate gathering for a few close friends, setting a beautiful table sets the mood for an event to be remembered. In a short amount of time, and for less than $10 (yes, we already had many items), here's how I created a traditional holiday table setting with a modern flair.

Color Palette 

The first step in determining a festive holiday tablescape is to establish the look you want to achieve, the colors you prefer to use, and the budget you'd like to work within. In our case I wanted to keep spending to a minimum while creating a somewhat sleek and modern approach to a traditional table. To keep costs lower I decided to start with items I already had on hand, so I went to my storage drawer (the one where I keep napkins, candles, and any other things that I bought when the deal was too good to pass up) to determine which goodies I could use. After a careful inventory, I decided to go with a largely red and silver theme, with pops of bright/natural green. And since my dining room walls are painted Behr's "Red, Red Wine," I knew this palette would work well in the room.

Place Setting

Instead of using my "good china" this year, which is a more traditional round plate with a silver band, I set the table with my square everyday dishes from Crate & Barrel. The plates seemed to be a perfect pairing with my asian-inspired square placemats from Z Gallerie (picked up on clearance a few years ago after the holidays) and are a departure from my ho hum white tablecloth for a more modern flair. I paired the everyday dishes with my formal set of flatware for an interesting juxtaposition of modern and traditional. I also opted to use my unconventional red wine glasses instead of my more formal stemware.


As I mentioned, my goal for this table was to create something a bit more clean and modern this year. I contemplated arranging a low vase/vases of flowers in one color, but knew that in order to get the look I wanted I'd have to lay out a fair amount of money. Instead, I opted to go with a fresh fruit centerpiece that consists of only three items: 3 fresh anjou pears, a pint of fresh cranberries, and a rectangular glass plate that was my grandmother's. 

In less than 60 seconds, I was able to assemble a simple yet sophisticated centerpiece that worked with my color palette, and cost only around $6. I surrounded the centerpiece with two tall taper candles on each side to visually extend the centerpiece to run down the middle of the table. If you have a longer dish, you could increase the number of pears (stick to odd numbers) to fill the table, rather than adding candlelight. The four taper candles set me back just under $4.


To complement the asian-inspired placemats, I chose to use a set of red chinoiserie napkins that I already owned. To add a touch of interest and holiday flare, I paired them with my set of silver napkin rings, adorned with a fresh sprig of greenery, free from a friend's yard (with permission of course!).


  • Stock up and save. Shop the clearance sales after the holidays each year to stock up on table decor items and ornaments.
  • Low ball, high ball. Vary the height of items on your table for visual interest. Pair low votives with a taller centerpiece, or a low centerpiece with taller tapers or accessories. But keep in mind the field of view across the table. Creating a centerpiece that's too tall may obstruct your guests' view across the table and could limit conversation.
  • Use what you have. There are many ways to reinvent the items you already own. 
  • Mix it up. Pair items in unexpected ways, and don't be afraid to mix traditional with modern, or formal with casual.
  • Kick up the color. No longer do the holidays mean cranberry red and forest green. Vary your color palette to include metallics, shades of white and neutrals, or introduce a modern tone into your holiday color palette. The only rule here is pick a palette and run with it. If turquoise and lime green are your colors, carry them throughout your home decor, beginning with your front door and onto your tree and table.
  • Look up! Take advantage of all space you have to work with, including vertical space. Consider hanging decor from your ceiling or chandelier to carry your theme upwards.

So there you have it. A beautiful holiday table with a modern twist, all for less than $10! Now I just need to invite a few friends over to officially kick off the holiday season. Ahh, I have visions of champagne corks popping in my head...

What are you doing to dress up your table this holiday season? Are you leaning traditional or more modern? Are you incorporating fresh elements from nature? Unexpected items? We'd love to hear all about it.

Want to see what else we're up to this holiday season? Check out our steps to quick and easy mantel decor, our annual Christmas tree traditions, steps to set a holiday tablescape to remember, how we made our exterior decorations from fresh greens, our 2011 list for Santa, and the details of our first annual DIY gingerbread challenge.

As seen on...

The Lettered Cottage five days five ways christmas linky party | because every day is different

Comments 11


11/29/2011 at 8:54 PM
Wow Wendy! That looks freakin' gorgeous! I love the placemats along with the square plates. Very chic. Can I come! (j/k I'm like 1000 miles away).
Thanks JC! Of course you can come. The more, the merrier. ;-)
12/1/2011 at 1:17 PM
So pretty!!! What a lovely table you put together, and thank you for the great tips!
12/3/2011 at 11:33 AM
Hopped over here from Not So Simple Housewife. This is absolutely beautiful! Simple, but very classy and elegant! Now if only I had the room to have a dinner party...haha! Thanks so much for sharing this!

-Melissa, Walking in Faith
12/3/2011 at 5:24 PM
I absolutely LOVE those ornaments hanging from the chandelier. The distressed glass is my fave!
12/5/2011 at 9:54 AM
oh yes...we used so much of what we had and what we found in our yard even!
my favorite is the pear and cranberries..that color combo is gorgeous! and totally natural yes?:)
Hi Tiffini - Yes the cranberries and pears are all totally natural (as are the greens on the mantle and on the napkins). I love using natural items because I prefer the look, and I don't have to figure out a place to store them in our small house!
12/5/2011 at 11:35 AM
I really like how low the centerpiece sets. I always struggle with making a centerpiece that looks nice and still being able to have guests see each other across the table. This is the perfect solution.
12/13/2011 at 9:08 AM
This is beautiful! I LOVE all the Christmas touches, especially the linens and the chandelier! 8 bloggers are hosting a Blog around the Christmas Tree Party and today's feature is Christmas Scapes! I'd love to have you join up, the party is just beginning!

12/13/2011 at 10:51 PM
It's so elegant! I just had to peek again!!! I'm your newest follower and am so excited to be your bloggy friend!

XO, Aimee
12/16/2011 at 12:23 PM
Your tablescape is just LOVELY! I love the saturated colors. And I almost squealed when I saw the ornaments hanging from your chandy. I JUST did the same thing for a breakfast tablescape I posted about yesterday!

I'd love it if you'd stop by and share your Christmas tree at the Blogging around the CHRISTMAS TREE linky party going on right now at my place!

Oh, and I'm your newest follower! : )

~Abbie (
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