Entertaining expert Matthew Mead shows how to set a table that dials down the fuss but not the festivity.
"I like a twist on tradition," Matthew Mead says of his easy-to-come-by red-and-silver scheme. He used a stash of glass ball ornaments for the centerpiece, stacking them in a compote and topping candlesticks. (Scrapbooking glue dots hold the ornaments in place.) Cedar and seeded eucalyptus fill out the display. The tablecloth is actually upholstery fabric hemmed with iron-on webbing. "It's instant and more fun than standby white," Matthew says.
BOUQUETS TO GO
To make fragrant chair-back decorations and party favors, Matthew scouts the garden and grocery store for fresh herbs. Bundle bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram with twine, leaving tails to tie around the chair. The bouquets can be made several days in advance, then refrigerated. Once dry, the herbs can be used in cooking.
For Matthew, a place setting is like the bow on a package. He sets off white plates with napkin rings made from graphic drink coasters. Punch a hole in a paper coaster, thread metallic cord through, and tie around a napkin, adding jingle bells.
Layers give a table depth, says Matthew, who made a "lace" runner from a roll of kids' craft paper and a decorative punch. It's paper yet there's an elegance to it," he says. Wrapping paper and decorative scissors work, too.