I thought it might be helpful to illustrate my thought-process in creating a table setting. This is my family’s Christmas table, but you can use this same process for any party table. It’s really all about layering, and deciding when you have enough.

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So why this style for this year? Since I’m recovering from surgery, I needed something I could style without much out-and-about shopping, using what I had. I also am supposed to avoid bending, crouching and lifting anything heavy, which is s little limiting. That meant re-purposing much of what I already have in my dining room, and avoiding much extra effort.

To set the stage, here’s what my dining room looks like everyday. (Okay, everyday when it hasn’t been taken over by party stuff and shopping bags. But let’s pretend, shall we?)

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So you see I have red transferware, silver, moss balls, candles in hurricanes, and a white compote dish to work with. I also have a decent stash of additional transferware that I’ve been planning to hang in my powder room and haven’t gotten to yet. (Because I also want to strip the wallpaper in that room, but there’s a project for another day.) Obviously, you will have different elements to work with than I do, but the point is: use what you have. It is sooooo much easier than stripping your room and finding a place to hide your everyday decor.

Dining room sideboard

What didn’t I use? I skipped my silver trays because they need polishing. I also wasn’t up for ironing tablecloths, so I needed to build the brown wood tones into my scheme. In November, I designed a Gingerbread Birthday Party Plan for a Custom Party Plan client, so a red and kraft palette was on my mind, and since it also let me use my everyday things, that’s what I went with.

From around the house, I gathered:

  • A roll of kraft paper. (You can find this at WalMart or office supply stores.)
  • Mini red tins from Oriental Trading. (I ordered them for a client but they were smaller than I anticipated so I kept them for a rainy day.)
  • Plastic Santa mugs that were a gift from my sister-in-law. (I think she originally purchased them at Michael’s.)
  • My ironstone plates that you see all the time.
  • My red Avon glass plates that you see all the time.
  • Red napkins purchased originally for my Letters to Santa Party.
  • An antique picture frame I used in the photo booth of my Country Music Awards Karaoke Party.
  • A $2 reproduction horn that I found antiquing.
  • Branches from our Christmas tree.

A little online shopping rounded out a few things that I thought would help pull this look together, and only cost about $44:

  • Red gingham fabric from Fabric.com. ($2 a yard for 3 yards.)
  • Twig pencils from Amazon.com. ($4 for a dozen.)
  • Red handled silverware from WalMart.com. (Only $10 and you can tell from the feel. Oh well; at least it’s cute!)
  • Shatterproof red ornaments from WalMart.com. (About $8 for 40 or so; I used three sets.)
  • Free printables designed by Serendipity Soiree via Catch My Party.

Here are the step-by-steps to styling your dining room for Christmas.

Step 1: Layer your table from the bottom up. I laid three lengths of kraft paper across the table. Just cut the paper long enough for the ends wrap around the edges of your table. Add a charger and dinner plate, or dinner plate and salad plate. You want color contrast between each layer. (A red transferware bread plate would be a really cute third layer. Maybe I have more shopping to do …)

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Step 2: Add your napkin and silverware. I often layer my napkins in between two plates, but since I was keeping this table casual, I just draped each napkin in a triangle, and placed my forks on it. The reds in the napkin and the silverware were different enough to provide contrast, while keeping the focus on the plates.

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Step 3: Add your drinkware. Since we’ll be informal for Christmas, I just used one glass for each guest. These Santa mugs (?) are so kitschy, I haven’t been sure how to use them for a few years. Were they kitschy fabulous or garage sale worthy? This year, I just decided that anything red goes, and the mugs were in.

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Step 4: Add a little something extra. I had the red tins and didn’t know how I’d use them, but the twig pencils pulled it together for me. I thought it might be nice to have everyone write down a wish for someone else for Christmas — sort of like you might jot down what you’re grateful for on Thanksgiving or your resolutions on New Year’s Eve.

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And here’s the finished place setting.

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Step 5: Build out your centerpiece. My intention was for the red gingham to form a vertical runner down the center of the table, but my fabric wasn’t long enough. So, I just scrunched it in an appealing way. Just go with the flow, folks. I like this compote bowl for many reasons, but it’s great on my table because it isn’t too tall for conversation. I added the moss balls and brass (?) horn. Once you have filled in with the moss balls, add some red ornaments for extra punch.

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Step 6: Dress up your sideboard. The sideboard started with a 1-yard cut of red gingham fabric and my transferware. Sometimes, you just have to experiment to see how you want to arrange things. The red fabric looked really bold, so I added a layer of kraft paper to tone things down. The kraft paper also tied the sideboard into the dining table. The plates were displayed on clear plastic easels and looked a little lonely. I tried adding the red ornaments. That still looked sparse, so in came more greenery. On Monday, I shared how to make the swag you see in my picture frame. I’ll feature the tutorial for the ornament garlands on Wednesday.

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And here’s the finished room. I’m happy with the way it turned out, the cost and the effort.

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Any questions about my process or technique? Let me know in comments below.

And be sure to come back this week for the Red Ornament Garland Tutorial on Wednesday and the Christmas Cookie Trifle Recipe on Thursday. (It’s really yummy!)

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