Setting The Table for The Holidays

Posted by: Rebecca Atwood

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the HolidaysPhotography by Lydia Hudgens 

The holidays are almost here and soon we’ll be making time to gather with family and friends around the table.  These meals are my favorite part of the holidays and really memories in the making.  Setting the table may have been a childhood chore, but it’s a great way to mark the occasion and set the mood. Décor isn’t just about decoration but can change how we feel too. A well-set table signals it’s time to slow down, sit a bit longer, and celebrate.

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays

I recently chatted with Apartment Therapy about setting the table on a live video. Here I’m taking a deeper look at each of the table settings I created for them. As you’ll see from the images I like to share settings here that are a bit abstract and not a perfectly set table to inspire you to reimagine it with pieces you already own. For example, in the shades of blue look I used small vintage plates layered on white plates. You might have vintage dinner plates and decide to layer them with white side plates, or you might have white plates and use vintage teacups as centerpieces. The possibilities are endless and don’t need to be prescriptive. I recommend getting out the pieces you own and love and playing with them!

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Shades of Blue

Shades of Blue

Blue and white is a classic combination you know I love. I wrote about how to use it on the table last week, but for this look I widened the color range exploring blues from deep midnight navy with purple undertones, to slate blue, rich cobalts, green-navy, and icy pale green-blues. When you pair these very different blues together they become even more different in contrast. Suddenly you have purple, green, blue, and even periwinkle in the mix. Color is all about the context. Exploring a monochromatic palette does not mean everything needs to match, and in fact, it is more interesting when it doesn’t. If there’s a color you love, consider collecting pieces in varying hues to build your table story around it. This idea makes collecting over time easier as well since you’re not trying to perfectly match everything. You’ll also notice in this look I mixed vintage pieces with contemporary designers. I like to do this as it helps pieces with sentimental importance (or just things you love that are more traditional) have a more contemporary feeling. Brass accents also look great with blues, so consider adding in vintage candlesticks like the ones below.

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Shades of Blue with Brass Accents

Winter Neutrals

Neutrals are another important color scheme to consider when setting the table. You may remember I wrote about three neutral table settings that aren’t boring here. For the fall-winter season I like to think about adding in a soft minty green. It’s a nod to the evergreen foliage of the holiday season, but when used in a muted pale version it’s versatile enough that you can translate it all year long in different combinations. I like how it adds just a little bit of an unexpected hue to this palette of white, black, linen and taupe to clay brown. Natural linen is a classic material that looks beautiful and adds depth and warmth to this look, softening the graphic napkins. You can also consider natural canvas drop cloths.

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Neutrals That Aren't BoringRebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Neutral Patterned Napkins

Bright and Happy Autumnal Hues

Often for Thanksgiving the colors that come to mind are burgundy, brown, rust orange, and darker autumnal colors. I love to bring brighter, happier versions of these hues onto the table with tangerine, gold, coral, and pink. Looking back at these photos I’d actually love to see one or two pieces in a natural wood, linen, terracotta, or earthy material to balance out the brights. I probably wouldn’t use a white tablecloth as we did here—but that’s because we were in the studio and not using a nice wood table. A natural linen tablecloth or canvas drop cloth mentioned above would add just the right balance here if this is feeling a little too bright for you.

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Happy Autumnal ColorsRebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Fall BrightsRebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Dashes Napkin in Tangerine

When you pick pieces you really love ultimately you save because they'll last you for years to come, and if you think ahead with color they can all go together. Below I mixed and matched a few of the above looks to show you how these pieces can be used in countless combinations all year round. 

If you love any of the pieces in this post, here's your resource guide:

Felt + Fat

Suite One Studio

Michelle Barrett Ceramics

Leigh Forsstrom

Workday Hand Made

Rebecca Atwood (of course!)

Rebecca Atwood | Setting The Table for the Holidays | Mix and Match


  • Who makes the geometric print bowl in photo 5? None of the links connect to anything like it. Thanks!

    e on
  • Congrats. Saw Cup of Jo.

    Regine Karpel on

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