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Wichita designers offer advice on how to create a festive holiday tablescape

Jenifer Sauer is using woodsy elements like these to decorate her holiday table.
Jenifer Sauer is using woodsy elements like these to decorate her holiday table. The Wichita Eagle

With simple elegance or a feast of colors for the eyes, a tablescape can be a centerpiece for decorating for holidays or a special event.

At the 51st annual Holiday Tables exhibit at Mark Arts, 1307 N. Rock Road, visitors can find inspiration or get ideas to create their own decorative tabletops. More than 35 tablescapes will be on display from Friday, Nov. 9, to Sunday, Nov. 11.

The event will have what event co-chair Gaylene Alderson calls a fresh look. It’s being staged for the first time in Mark Arts’ $19 million building that opened at the beginning of this year. The building’s many windows offers far more natural lighting than the former Mark Arts location on East Central. Exhibitors, who will set up in the facility’s Great Hall, could choose from three design spaces – ranging from 8 feet by 4 feet to 10 feet by 12 feet.

The event is sponsored by Mark Arts’ Designing Women volunteer group.

The designers bring all the elements needed for their display – from area rugs to artwork to tables and chairs and the tabletop décor.

Nalini Gangadhar started assembling her tablescape in an unused basement bedroom to determine how to showcase decorations used for Diwali, a popular winter-time Hindu celebration known as the festival of lights.

Gangadhar is drawing on the colorful and floral elements of Diwali. Orange, fuchsia, bright blue and wine hues of the fabrics, linens and other jeweled decorative pieces make her display a vivid feast for the eye. White floral garlands and floating flowers help create a dramatic look, too. She’s also mixing various metals in the tabletop, with copper plates, brass statuary and silver and copper silverware. When she couldn’t find the right look for napkin rings, she made her own, using a silver lattice ribbon she found at a craft store to create the rings and embellishing them with colorful craft jewels.



Jenifer Sauer is going for a more simplified classic look, using lots of white, moss, evergreen and natural wood colors in her tabletop for what she calls an enchanted Scandinavian forest look.

Her 90-inch sealed raw pine table offers the perfect tabletop to create the look. She’s layering thin evergreen wreaths and large-leaf magnolia garlands atop a white gauze-like window drape that serves as a table runner. Classic white china place settings and gold cutlery are placed atop soft gold place mats. A trio of trees that have a weathered wood look and tall brass candlesticks give the tablescape an element of height while bird statues – some brass, some chalky white and some more rustic – are tucked within the garlands.



For years, Tara Czepiel has been mad about plaid. So she’s using her collection of plaid fabrics in her tablescape she calls “Plaid Tidings.”

Many of her décor items – from a teapot to florals to even the plate settings – have a plaid pattern as well. She’s mixing various patterns from red tartan to buffalo check.

To help others tackle a tablescape, we asked Gangadhar, Sauer and Czepiel – all newcomers to the Holiday Tables exhibit – for advice. Here are their five tips:

Find inspiration. Sauer loves using Pinterest for inspiration for various projects, from decorating her home to remodeling a bathroom. Czepiel said her inspiration was drawn from a tartan-themed Harrods department store display in London that left her awestruck. If you use Pinterest to get inspired, look among your pins to see if there’s a common look, element or theme that you’re drawn to and build off of that.

Lean on friends. As she pulled together elements of her exhibit, Gangadhar asked friends what kinds of décor and elements they used to create tablescapes. She has borrowed the idea of adding cranberries to a floating floral display to add another seasonal element. She suggested borrowing or swapping décor items with friends to change up your tablescape without spending money.

Scour sales and thrift stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune or buy brand new items to create a tablescape. Go to estate sales and garage sales to pick up deals. Much of Sauer’s exhibit features her frugal finds, from a classic white china set she got for about $25 on a Facebook site to an $8 trio of trees she picked up at an estate sale. Czepiel visits consignment and antique stores for vintage items. The cutlery in Czepiel’s exhibit was purchased at an estate sale.

Use a collection of items. An oft-repeated piece of advice from hostesses is to use a collection of items that you have in your home. It doesn’t need to be Christmas- or even overtly holiday-related. For example, Sauer is using various bird statues while Czepiel is using plaid fabrics that she collects.

Have a theme. “Successful design starts with a theme to be cohesive,” advised Czepiel. It doesn’t need to be “matchy, matchy,” she said, but a running theme will be more pleasing. A theme also helps you focus on what elements – from color to décor items – to include.

Holiday Tables

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 9-10, noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11

Where: Mark Arts, 1307 N. Rock Road

Cost: $10, no children under 8 permitted. Tickets may be purchased online at markartsks.com or at the door.

More information: markartsks.com

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