Food52 helps people become better, smarter, happier cooks. Food52 was named 2012 Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and won Best Culinary Website at the 2013 IACP awards.
Decorating your holiday table doesn't have to mean spending your entire shopping budget on elaborate centerpieces or hand-stitching your own runner to show your guests you really care. This year, create a table arrangement that is fresh, festive, and simple.
We're here to tell you that you can easily create beautiful table arrangements with a simple trip to the market, or even your front stoop. Read on for our tips for easy — but impressive — holiday centerpieces.
You only need to follow a few rules. Most importantly? Keep things low. You don't want your guests craning their necks to see each other over a three-foot tall arrangement. Also, scented candles are a no-no. You want to impress your guests with the smells wafting from your kitchen, not confuse their senses with Crisp Linen or Blue Lagoon under their noses while they eat.
Think in clusters. Rather than placing one large centerpiece as the focus of your table, create a few clusters of beautiful objects along your table. This is especially useful if you have a long table, and will allow you more space than a single, large piece.
Make the most of your market. We love cabbages in particular — their leaves are beautiful, and you can often find them in a variety of sizes. Interspersed with other small fruits and vegetables, they create a lovely contrast of textures, shapes, and colors. Cranberries and acorns also look beautiful arranged in small bowls.
Don't be afraid to forage. The leaves that your children have been collecting on the sidewalk can make beautiful arrangements. We love a simple bowl full of small pinecones: It's festive and balances out any colorful accents you may be adding to your table. And if you don't have small pinecones nearby, acorns, chestnuts, and dried flower buds are all great options.
Color code your table. Sometimes, focusing on one color can have a great effect. Red is both seasonal and a bit dramatic, but use whatever colors inspire you.
Don't overshadow your food. You invited your guests over to eat, after all, not to gaze at table decorations. Make sure there's enough space on the table for serving dishes; trivets can even serve as decoration before the meal is served.
Beware of small objects! When placing small objects on the table as part of an arrangement, be sure that no flower petals or miniature figurines will risk finding their way into your guests' soup course; that's what bread crumbs are for, after all.
Tea Lights are your friends. To add some light to your table — especially during the darker months — swap out large candles for understated tea lights. Let them stand alone as part of a larger assortment, or place them in small votive holders. Tea lights will give your table a welcoming glow, and you won't have to worry about keeping the fire extinguisher close by.
Looking for more ideas? Check out our edible, DIY place card holders. And tell us: what are your tips for creating an easy, impressive holiday table?