The marbleized plates designer Natalia Miyar purchased in France set the tone for her holiday table.
Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Miyar

9 Top Designers Reveal How to Set the Perfect Holiday Table

See how Charlotte Moss, Alex Papachristidis, and CeCe Barfield Thompson create gorgeous seasonal tablescapes

To create a masterful meal is a joy for a seasoned chef and a delight to the guests who get to savor every succulent morsel. But it’s not just a juicy turkey, traditional side dishes made from recipes passed down through generations, and overflowing goblets of red wine that make for a perfect holiday feast; the setting in which it’s all served helps cultivate a postcard-perfect evening of good food and good friends. Here, some of the design world’s top talents share photos from their own seasonal get togethers and their memories of creating just the right atmosphere.

Charlotte Moss sets a festive holiday table. Photo: Brittany Ambridge

1. Charlotte Moss

“As someone who lives in New York, I am somewhat reluctant to push summer out of the way for fear of doing it too early, but changing leaves say fall no matter what. In an effort to keep an early-fall dinner on the light side, I mixed oranges with reds and mixed leaves with roses and berries such as Bittersweet and hypericum, to smooth the seasonal transition. Antique paisley shawls overlap as tablecloths, hand-painted faux-bois plates rest on woven chargers to balance the formality of the Elsa Peretti thumbprint tumblers and the antique silver flatware. Horn boxes and antique silver decorate the table; bronze candle globes provide the ambiance. For the menu, I start with a stilton celery soup, poussin with roasted root vegetables, butter lettuce salad, pumpkin soufflé, and Corton-Charlemagne—limitless, naturally . . . ”

The marbleized plates designer Natalia Miyar purchased in France set the tone for her holiday table. Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Miyar

2. Natalia Miyar

“I wanted to create a very sophisticated palette anchored with unexpected touches of black. I purchased the marbled plates in France—I love that they have a handmade, tactile, and wonderful quality. They not only inspired the nature but also the sophisticated palette for the tablescape. I really like my centerpieces to make sense with the food I serve, and there will be corn and pumpkin on the menu. I wanted these to reflect daylight moving through to the evening with the mixture of colors and textures.”

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Alex Papachristidis’s holiday in the Hamptons includes a table set with some of his antique candlesticks, plates that inspired his Everyday Elegance tableware site, and flowers from Sag Harbor Florist. Photo: Courtesy of Alex Papachristidis

3. Alex Papachristidis, Everyday Elegance

“Every Thanksgiving the table changes a little bit, but I always have candles. I collect antique candlesticks, and then I have all these beautiful small portes that I buy in Paris that I have made for me by Maison Meilleur. I like to use antique and vintage things, and I love to use objects from the house as centerpieces, which I send to Sag Harbor Florist, who does my flowers. We do a traditional turkey, stuffing, creamed spinach; then there’s an entire vegan section laid out on a buffet in our breakfast room. But the dining room is always set with some of my collection of dishes, chargers, and one of the floor-length tablecloths that I’ve made.”

Eskayel founder Shanan Campanaro’s holiday table is a soothing California-cool alternative.

4. Shanan Campanaro, Eskayel

“Before dinner we had a cocktail hour with sparkling rosé in the living room. Since we wanted to create a more formal setting while still fitting in with the surfy vibe of our apartment, we made a custom runner with a pale flower motif and used plates from Source and Tradition with an organic shape and nice ocean-blue glaze. Napkins were made from another ocean-hued Eskayel textile, and blue candles were used with sand-speckled candleholders from Virginia Sin. We used a few berries and plants to create a fall feeling and had watercolor name cards. Finally, we hired our favorite chef, Al Di Meglio from Barano, to cook in our kitchen; he served up an assortment of fall veggies, salads, pastas, and chicken.”

Pieces from CeCe Barfield Thompson’s new home collection mingle on her holiday table along with Julia B. tablecloth and wineglasses, William Yeowar champagne coupes, and dinner plates by Royal Copenhagen and Royal Crown Derby. Photo: Courtesy of CeCe Barfield Thompson

5. CeCe Barfield Thompson

“This table setting, created for a formal family holiday dinner at my home in New York City, was largely inspired by my grandmother’s annual Thanksgiving table at her home in Amarillo, Texas. While it was very sophisticated, it was also magical to experience. The setting I created is old-world but infused with personality. I layered a Julia B. turquoise cloth under a vintage organdy table cover, then added Belgian linen place mats and napkins from my home collection. Considering the setting was so layered, I kept the flowers fairly simple, then scattered bowls of my favorite treats for guests to snack on, which also added a final layer of color. For family gatherings I like to create an elegant setting that feels special, memorable, and, of course, festive.”

Roric Tobin’s holiday table includes crystal from Tiffany & Co. with Bernardaud china. Photo: Courtesy of Roric Tobin

6. Roric Tobin

“My husband and I love to entertain our friends out in the country—it allows us time to connect on a level that is nearly impossible in the city. Fall on the North Fork ushers in Bay scallop season—these smaller, sweeter versions were placed in a saffron risotto as a first course. The main was a rack of lamb served with roasted vegetables. We opted for live flowers to bring some joy; the one gourd allowed was a blue pumpkin because I think they are just terribly chic. The rest of the table was kept simple but elegant with beige place mats and runner, our white Dune china from Bernardaud, crystal candlesticks and stemware from Tiffany & Co., and then accents of silver. Having the whole day to prepare a fantastic meal and decorate a table beautifully makes the experience so much more special.”

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Marie Flanigan’s holiday table. Photo: Courtesy of Marie Flanigan

7. Marie Flanigan

“I’m drawn to the rich colors and scents that come with the arrival of autumn and let those influence my dinner table. This was a casual affair with a few close friends, which allowed me to be a little more playful with my decor. I served figs with blue cheese and a balsamic reduction, a fresh apple and kale salad, an apple tart, and my new favorite cocktail—the Autumn Fizz! I let the menu lead the way, which inspired the table’s palette of plums, amber, and brass.”

A holiday table set by designer Paloma Contreras. Photo: Courtesy of Paloma Contreras Interior Design

8. Paloma Contreras

“I wanted to create a setting that was unexpected—rather than go with traditional Thanksgiving colors, I opted for a color palette composed of various berry hues, which feels both festive and sophisticated. While the decor didn’t specifically match the food, they worked cohesively in creating a setting that was elegant yet feels relaxed and inviting.”

Ken Fulk created an uplifting holiday tablescape in red, white, and green, with abundant florals, candles, and vintage-inspired dinnerware. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Fulk

9. Ken Fulk

“We created a fun, dark Victorian-themed holiday celebration one year that was all about the tablescape. We had sequined tablecloths topped with abundant red, white, and green florals, big gothic candleabrum, cut crystal stemware, and vintage-inspired dinnerware. The menu and the cocktails were updated twists on classics—a blood orange margarita, spicy coconut shrimp—but the table and the service elevated the meal. To me, it’s always more important for the food to be delicious than thematic.”

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