A few weeks ago, we kicked off the holiday season with a sparkly dinner party at my house, both to celebrate the festivities ahead and welcome my friend Tieghan (of Half Baked Harvest) on her visit to Austin. She and I cooked dinner for a few of our favorite women, and as we gathered around the table, I remembered why I love an intimate dinner party at home more than just about anything. Hosting nights like these is one of my greatest passions in life, and there’s no doubt that food is a powerful tool for creating deeper connections. We’ll be sharing every. single. detail tomorrow including all the recipes (you’re going to die over Tieghan’s pasta alla vodka), our holiday dinner party playlist, and so much more, but first things first: how I set our holiday dinner party table. Scroll on for all the gorgeous greenery and Christmas table setting ideas, plus shopping sources for everything I used.
Embrace the hygge
Usually, my inspiration for a tabletop starts with a single element, and this one was no exception: the sculptural branches—both lush evergreen and wintry twigs—that we used on my mantel created a Scandinavian woodland vibe, especially against a minimalist backdrop of neutrals. Lush textiles and twinkling candlelight made the table feel like it was its own little cozy world, and my goal was to capture that warm sense of hygge throughout the party space.
Create a canvas
Though most of the year, I embrace the natural look of our unfinished teak dining table, I dressed it up for our cozy dinner party by draping it with an oversized white linen tablecloth. Its simplicity and rumpled linen texture added to the Scandinavian feel, especially when topped with natural evergreen runners and pomegranates that were low enough to not get in the way of dinnertime conversation.
Go for the greens
My friend Elle Worsham owns Gracious Garlands, and her team created the most beautiful evergreen swag and centerpiece that made this table incredibly special. During our planning of this design, we both knew we wanted something that was easy to move around throughout the holiday season—and that wouldn’t block the flow of conversation across the table. These swags are the perfect balance of simple and special and are simply adorned with pomegranates and candles.
For simple everyday dinners, I keep just the swags on the table, but for the party, we elevated the look with a floral centerpiece that Worsham created in a vintage glass compote dish. The twig-like bare branches added to the sculptural silhouette.
Light it up
Once I’d laid the foundation with my white linen tablecloth and evergreen runner, I was ready to pop in the twinkling candlelight that makes every dinner party setup feel special. Out of all the holiday and Christmas table setting ideas here, candlelight is the quickest, most affordable way to give any gathering a magical glow.
I started with these tall metal taper holders that I’ve been holding onto for a little while—the winter season is a great time to go a little darker and moodier, so these felt perfect. When adding tall, sculptural elements to the table, I like to keep things a bit asymmetrical, so I staggered two candlesticks on one side and just one single stick on the other side. Then to add even more flickering light, I tucked a few votives between the greenery.
A place for everyone
Taking a few minutes to handwrite simple place cards is one of my festive holiday table setting ideas that go a long way, but really couldn’t be easier. We cut out business card-sized pieces of watercolor paper, then I used this brush pen to write each guest’s name in cursive. Don’t worry about perfect penmanship—the imperfect nature of these cards is what makes them feel personal and special.
To elevate these simple place cards, I wrapped a few sprigs of greenery and cinnamon sticks with heavy twine, tied off the ends, and placed one beautifully-scented bundle at each place. Although I usually embrace a more casual approach when setting the table, the holidays are a fun opportunity to make things feel a bit more elevated with seating assignments. And especially at a dinner party where not everyone knows each other, I find that people love knowing where to sit.
Raise a glass
For this table, I used mostly dishes that I already had in my collection, but I did relish the opportunity to break out my new wine glasses. I was instantly drawn to the delicate stem and refined silhouette of these glasses, and the set of 4 is a great price point—meaning, when I inevitably break a couple, it’s not a huge deal to order replacements. Though I ordered both the red and white, I prefer to set the more delicate white wine glass at each person’s place, and have the red glasses waiting in the wings with my bar setup.
Pick your palette
Incorporating festive holiday and Christmas table setting ideas doesn’t mean you have to stick to a red and green palette. In fact, I limited mine to shades of white, burlap, evergreen, silver, and gold which allowed me to play with textures and shapes while keeping the overall look from feeling busy or too themed out. White plates with a special carved rim, flax linen napkins, and teak-handled flatware are versatile pieces I can use all year long—it’s the layering of centerpiece and candlelight that brings this fully into the holiday season.
Feast your eyes
Before guests arrived, I set out a very simple cheese board that played double duty as table décor. Rather than a huge grazing board, I used some restraint and created a “still life” of stilton, triple cream brie, and truffle tremor goat. I filled in gaps with a trailing cluster of grapes and a few fresh figs, then added a few small wood bowls full of almonds, flatbread, and gluten-free crackers. As usual, I cut and crumbled the ends of the cheese to keep it from looking too perfect and encourage guests to dig right in.
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