How to Create a Gorgeous Winter Tablescape in 20 Minutes or Less

Make your space sparkle with three easy ideas.

fall tablescape decorated with dried flowers
Photo: Ryan Liebe

Whether you're hosting a spur-of-the-moment cocktail party, planning an elaborate post-holiday brunch, or just making your family dinners feel a little more festive, an easy, elegant tablescape is exactly what you need to set the tone. And with these three easy tips from event planner Virginia Frischkorn of Bluebird Productions, designing one that will wow—without requiring tons of time and effort—is a breeze.

Choose a seasonal color palette—with a bright accent.

Early winter tablescapes that transition spaces from autumn to the new year frequently rely on shades of red, as décor moves from fall leaves to cranberries. But after the holidays, shift your focus to glittering design where lush white and silver take center stage, and a bold accent color adds punch. "I like a more bountiful tablescape in winter in juxtaposition with the lack of abundance outdoors (in most parts of the country, that is!)," says Frischkorn. "It is more about using items that reflect the light—candles, silver, glass—to bring more cheer to the darker days that winter brings." Unexpected—but inspired—winter accent colors include deep berry shades, vivid primaries and brights, subtle orange and gray, and gem-inspired emerald, sapphire, and onyx.

Add candles, candles, and more candles.

Whether you're planning your tablescape in advance for a scheduled dinner or trying to come up with something at the last minute, reach for plenty of candles—in all sizes—to use as a base. "Candles in winter are a must!" says Frischkorn. "They brighten up the shorter days and add height to your winter tablescape. I like using a mix of votives and pillars or a mix of votives and tapers." Set your favorite candles in a variety of mismatched holders, or in a cohesive collection. "The vessels that feel most festive to me are clear glass or silver or mercury glass, as I find these reflect the light and sparkle the most," says Frischkorn. "When in doubt, go heavy with the candles."

Make it festive.

Adding a few small touches—like ribbons in your chosen accent colors and fresh, natural greens—gives your table a party-ready look. "I love dressing up my napkin treatment with a ribbon in the form of a bow or knot," says Frischorn. "This is a small, but festive way to make the table feel more celebratory. You can use a curling iron or run a flat iron over the ribbon to keep them looking fresh and wrinkle-free." Adding live flowers and foliage is another simple, foolproof way to fancy up your table in just a few minutes. "I love using Christmas tree trimmings—you can use some from the discard pile at the grocery store or tree farm—or a magnolia leaf runner down the center of my table," says Frischkorn. "It is low, quick, and easy and immediately dresses the table up. When in doubt, grab a little extra so you can decorate a mantle or kitchen island, as well."

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