Home & Garden

Inspiration – what you can bring to the holiday table

Don’t forget the kids when it comes to decorating their table. (Nov. 2, 2016)
Don’t forget the kids when it comes to decorating their table. (Nov. 2, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Paper or plastic? How about both to create an elegant tablescape for the holidays?

It can be done – just ask Gayle Ryan, an independent designer who created one of the 31 tables for the annual Holiday Tables event at Mark Arts, formerly the Wichita Center for the Arts, on display through Saturday.

She transformed black-and-white-striped gift bags, decorated with gold glitter dots, into chair-back slipcovers; used embellished glitter napkins to wrap gift-favor boxes; decorated a paper mache round box with silver cording, ribbons and glitter for a centerpiece; and turned gift tags into place cards. Every item in the place settings, including the gold and silver chargers and drinking goblets, is either paper or plastic.

The tablescapes, created by individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses, are a great way to get inspired or get ideas for decorating for the holidays, said Janice Zerbe, who is participating for the third straight year. Her tablescapes have won the top prize for the past two years.

This year, Zerbe used a sleigh and a near-life-sized reindeer as her inspiration, and they appear alongside her tablescape. Reindeer plates and even reindeer salt-and-pepper shakers carry through her theme, which is one of the more traditional with lots of red and green.


Visitors will see tables that can easily be transformed or tweaked into tablescapes for other holidays, too. The table “Pure Joy” by Events by Ashley, for example, features six gold lamps and a table runner made up of white-, salmon- and champagne-colored flowers, along with gold-trimmed goblets and place settings that could make an ideal Mother’s Day or an elegant bridal shower tablescape, noted Michelle Naftzger and Jaclyn Reilly, co-chairwomen of the event.

We talked to some of the table designers to get their pointers on creating displays for your holiday table. Here are some of their tips.

Focus on a theme or a color. This will help your tablescape come together, Zerbe said. She likes using a versatile color like red, which can be paired with green for Christmas, with pink for Valentine’s Day and with blue and white for Fourth of July tablescapes. Look at your existing china or dinnerware and draw inspiration from those colors.

Shop your house. If you have a special vase from grandma that you keep on your mantel, transfer it to your table for the holidays, said Janelle King, an artist and owner of The Workroom. Zerbe said she often looks for items in other rooms that can be used as part of her tablescape for the holidays. That can include artwork that might go with your theme.

Use a collection or grouping of similar things. Zerbe’s daughter collects blue and white pottery and often uses the pieces on her holiday table; Zerbe borrowed some of those to use in her Holiday Tables display this year to add a different color to her red and green theme. Even common everyday items, like jars or empty wine bottles, can be grouped and used in a tablescape, said Ryan, who has created designs for Westin and Hilton hotels in Seattle. “Don’t just use two or three candle-holders; put the whole collection on your table,” Zerbe said.

Light candles. Candlelight always adds extra dazzle to your table. Shop garage sales for what Ryan calls “junk candles” and light them before your guests arrive to hide the fact that they are used. If you worry about the safety of candles, get flickering, battery-operated candles, available in all shapes and sizes.

Repurpose items. Use gift tags as name tags. Cut up brown paper grocery sacks and paste together to create a table runner that can be decorated with burlap. Use pinking or scalloped-edge scissors to give a more artistic edge to the sacks. The sacks can also be cut up into placemats that can be used on a kids table; give them colors and stickers and let them decorate the mats. For the “Hippie Holiday” table at Holiday Tables, a 12-by-12-inch ceramic tile was used as a charger.

Create different height levels with your displays, but don’t obstruct the views of your dinner guests if you’re having a sit-down dinner.

Don’t forget about the kids. Mary Billings has wonderful memories of elaborate kids tables her aunt created for family holiday tables, which inspired her kids table display for Holiday Tables. The kids table can have a totally different look and feel than an adult table, with perhaps a nutcracker, elves or Santa theme. “It can be fun and whimsical,” said Billings, who owns the paper and party product store Love of Character. Use paper and plastic dinnerware for an easy cleanup that even the kids can handle.

Be frugal. Use coupons to shop stores like JoAnn’s, Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. Find some fabric and create your own table linens, including placemats and napkins, Zerbe suggested. Shop after-Christmas sales with a theme in mind for next year’s table, and then look for other items throughout the year. At this year’s Holiday Tables, the Assistance League of Wichita created a table using several items available for sale at its thrift store.

Provide favors. A party favor is always an extra-special touch, Billings said. Borrow a custom from the British and leave a Christmas cracker, a brightly wrapped small tube filled with a goodie, next to the place setting. Other favors ideas are small bags or a box filled with nuts and candy, home-baked treats or a small candle.

Holiday Tables event

Where: Mark Arts, 9112 E. Central

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Saturday, Nov. 5

What: An annual tablescapes event with tables decorated by individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses to showcase holiday home entertaining ideas

Tickets: $10; no one under age 8 permitted. Tickets may be purchased online at markartsks.com or at the door.

Guests can also purchase a tea room luncheon for an additional $15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 5. Tickets are available at the door.

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