8 Top Design Talents Share Their Secrets for Setting a Festive Holiday Table
Pierre Sauvage, Alfredo Paredes, Kim Seybert, and Bronson van Wyck talk to Galerie about creating gorgeous seasonal table settings this year
We all know a few amazing individuals who turn dinner into an event. With a magical centerpiece and artful tablescape, the setting can be just as remarkable as the meal. While most will be welcoming a smaller list of a guests for holiday meals this year, all agree that creating a spectacular spread filled with special plates and shimmering flatware, overflowing goblets of jammy wines, and a garland of wintery splendor is just the thing to brighten everyone’s holiday spirits.
Below, some of the design world’s top talents and those revered around the globe for their chic collections of tableware share photos from their own seasonal get-togethers and their suggestions for creating the perfect atmosphere.
1. Eric Goujou, La Tuile à Loup
“My idea was to create an understated sophistication. It matters to me to put my core values on the table. I chose a Maison D. Porthault white-and-gold 100-percent flax linen tablecloth with matching napkins. In France we believe mistletoe brings good luck, so I needed that in my centerpiece, which also has anemones that are in season this time of year. My vintage Murano glasses accentuates the sophistication. My marbleware dinner service from La Tuile à Loup in yellow and black and the simplicity of the Art Deco sterling silverware from Christofle keep the table unfussy but precious. I served a foie gras micuit with a mango chutney, a truffle risotto, a cheese course with a green salad then a pineapple soufflé and ice cream. Of course, we had champagne throughout the evening.”
2. Alfredo Paredes, designer
“We wanted to create a warm and intimate atmosphere where people would be able to engage freely with the guest of honor, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Andrew Sean Greer, and with each other. To create a festive holiday atmosphere, we had plenty of candles, flowers, and a large Christmas tree. The menu, too—chicken pot pie, kale salad, sticky toffy pudding—was chosen to create a happy holiday vibe that would feel celebratory and not too serious. We set the table with dishes from Royal Copenhagen, chargers from Match, crystal glasses from Ralph Lauren Home, and silver flatware from George Jensen. In the center of the table we had four Faux Bois candelabras which created a feeling of intimacy among the guests, but which are not so high as to not block one side of the table from the other to encourage group conversation when possible.”
3. Elizabeth Lake, tableware designer
“I wanted to create an intimate setting that felt feminine, festive, and maybe a little bit fancy. We layered floral on floral on floral, but did so in a way that would still feel clean and not too overdone. Red and pink is forever a favorite color combination—it makes a statement for literally any holiday or get together. I love to incorporate potted plants and florals on the table—for the centerpiece, I chose these beautiful red ranunculus, which were arranged in small vases. The pomegranates and sugared cranberries were scattered for a festive, seasonal touch. We started with our floral Matisse linens, which are inspired by some of my favorite abstract cutouts from Matisse’s 1953 work Large Decoration with Masks. All of our linens are crafted by hand in Portugal, and I loved translating these floral forms in the context of traditional appliqué and hand embroidery. I had the tablecloth made from a beautiful Indian blockprint-inspired fabric from Schumacher. For dinnerware, I paired Aerin x Williams Sonoma scalloped plates with my pink Herend pattern, Chinese Bouquet. I’ve also just designed these wonderful little candle holders (that double as small vases) in collaboration with Laguna B in Venice. There’s nothing better than a warm glow at the dinner table.”
4. Clare Louise Frost, Tamam
“My menus and my table decor are expressions of me—people and places I love and miss and things collected along the way, be they recipes, ceramics, or heirlooms. The tablecloth is a vintage Soviet-era roses printed cotton, made in Russia for the Uzbek market. I think there’s always a place for flowers on any table. Flowers are life and joy and go with everything. The dark ground of this one sets a romantic mood, too. I always need a little bit of Elizabeth Hewitt, my Tamam partner, at the table, since we live ten hours on a plane away from each other, so these napkins are from her company, Tulu Textiles, in the Bixby block print. The plates are Tamam’s new Zahra style, which is inspired by a 17th-century Ottoman Iznik ceramic design, that are hand-painted in Turkey by master ceramicists. The mix of silverware is from various family members. No table is complete without the ancestors. No table is complete without a mix of older and newer.”
5. Pierre Sauvage, Casa Lopez
“Christmas Eve dinner is an event that I really enjoy preparing every year. Although I am decidedly Latin, the Christmas atmosphere always reminds me of England. I like the idea of a very classic Christmas in red and green. I arranged pewter sets on a green corduroy tablecloth. I created the Holly Table Service especially for the occasion and on the bread plates I painted each guest’s first name. To the left of each plate, crackers have been placed. In the center of the table I arranged blown-glass carafes that I had made in the shape of a tree for the occasion.
Winter flowers including hellebores, Mona Lisa, and ranunculus are arranged in cups and mixed with other silver objects like artichokes and fennels. At Christmas, the menu is always easy, since it is often traditional. This year it will be Reblochon cheese pie, dill-cured salmon, and vanilla ice cream with Amarena cherries. I love serving unique, family-friendly, and comforting dishes more than ever.”
6. Kim Seybert, tableware designer
“This table setting was created for an intimate gathering at my county home in East Hampton to welcome the holiday season and captures the relaxing, welcoming vibe that I want my guests to experience when I entertain there. The table incorporated traditional red and green but I kept things causal with placemats and a table cloth in natural colors for an airy, rustic feel. The evening started off with decorating the tree using vintage ornaments I’ve collected over the years and ended with us exchanging gifts. I served a few of the guests’ favorite dishes and wines—elements like this added a special surprise to the night. The garland-inspired centerpiece is made of olive leaves and eucalyptus branches. Not only does it look gorgeous, it smells wonderful and adds a beautiful natural element. Then I added red tapered candles to bring a bit of drama. The gold glasses from my collection added a sense of glamour to the table. The china is Jaune de Chrome and is made in France using a special enamel technique that has subtle shades of green making it perfect for a modern Christmas table.”
7. Bronson van Wyck, event planner
“When entertaining at home I always like to be playful and experiment, which creates a relaxed and welcoming environment for guests. I incorporate found objects with traditional tabletop pieces. Mixing and matching is often the name of the game—I layer tartan on top of strong stripes, horn silverware against antique mirror, and mix carved-wood vases with sterling silver julep cups as vessels for flowers and seasonal citrus and berries. These silver water cups were an English 18th-century heirloom that I picked up at auction. I focus less on centerpieces and more on multiple pieces of curiosity for the eye to travel across a table. Something at one end might be completely different than the other. In this, the nosegay arrangements at each place setting were consistent, but I actually had four different salt-and-pepper sets, three different style vases, and each setting had a unique tartan clan napkin. We served individual chicken pot pies and drank bourbon and wine from one of the guest’s cellars.”
8. Bella Mancini, designer
“Setting my table for the holidays is always so much fun. I have an extensive collection of tableware, so I love an opportunity to bring out all of my favorite things! For this table, I leaned into red, a color that I love but isn’t really anywhere in my apartment except in some art. Not being organized enough to have linens made for our 110-inch table in time for the occasion, I channeled my inner Scarlet O’Hara and repurposed a Josef Frank drapery panel that had previously lived in my daughter’s bedroom for the tablecloth. I layered in red linen napkins I bought in Rome some years ago and red taper candles from Cire Trudon, then set berry branches from the deli set into Baccarat water glasses I use as vases. The table is set with our Haviland wedding china that rarely gets used, my Reed and Barton American Federal silver, pretty water glasses I got forever ago from my friend Rayman Boozer’s amazing store of yesteryear, Apartment 48. I will always remember this table, the wonderful company, and great wine.”