The ultimate holiday season table setting

The ultimate holiday season table setting

Design and lifestyle gurus Stacey Bewkes and Alex Papachristidis put together a stunning Thanksgiving/holiday season table setting, using lots from our upcoming Living with Art sales in New York

With Thanksgiving upon us, we decided to enlist the services of two design experts to style a very special holiday season table, using lots offered in our Living with Art sales on 2-3 December in New York. Stacey Bewkes is the creator of the highly successful Quintessence Lifestyle Blog and her mantra is ‘experience, inspire, inform — it’s all about living well with style and substance’. Alex Papachristidis, meanwhile, is an American interior decorator known for being an eclectic traditionalist with a distinctly fresh, modern eye.

Here, Stacey and Alex share the thought process behind their beautiful table setting, and offer some expert tips for making this holiday season the most memorable yet.

What’s the secret of a successful Thanksgiving/holiday season table setting?

Stacey Bewkes: I think a successful Thanksgiving/holiday table is one that feels warm and welcoming and, just like any good interior, expresses the personality of the host. The fall and winter holiday entertaining season is the most heartfelt, and giving thanks for family and close friends is a priority.

Alex Papacristidis: Make it magical, and make it your own by adding your own touches. Make your table different by filling it with your own collection of beautiful things. Supplement your design with antique objects from around the house. Try to be seasonal, too.

SB: There should be a sense of warmth and generosity but also a sense of ease and convenience with everything being close at hand. The table should feel layered and interesting without being too formal or intimidating. You want your guests to be comfortable but also visually inspired and appreciative, knowing that you went to the trouble of creating something beautiful for them.

Tell us about what informed your overall feel/scheme for this setting?

AP: We began with the dishes first. Usually I begin with the plates or flowers — if I do my own flowers, I may take a sample plate with me to the florist. If a florist does it, I send a photo of the plate. A good florist will keep photos of your different vases and containers on file.

SB: The scheme for our table was inspired by the colours in the beautiful Coalport china, which are so perfect for fall and winter entertaining. We decided not to use a tablecloth and have the antique wood of the table as our backdrop. It made for a lush, layered but less formal setting. 

What can you tell us about specific choices from the sale that you made? What drew you to these pieces?

SB: After the china, we chose silver pieces that could be more than merely decorative. I believe in repurposing pieces and I use silver at home all the time for everything from Q-tips in the bathroom to pencils in the office — it elevates the room with a touch of low-key lustre. The gorgeous Buccellati bowl is such an elegant shape and the perfect size for an overflowing centrepiece. Exquisitely executed by Zeze, ours includes both fruit and flowers to reference the abundance of the holiday, and its classic lines mean it could be incorporated into almost any scheme or room.

There is a ton of great Jensen in the Living with Art sales and we chose the Pyramid flatware for its refined simplicity; paired with Alex’s own ikat napkins, it helped to add a youthful freshness. We added another layer of fruit and nuts with the Jensen goblets, while the candlesticks were perfect with their organic grape pattern.

Like the flatware, we chose the Baccarat ‘Harcourt’ for its strong, timeless lines. A classic since 1825, it blends with both traditional and contemporary settings. The covered Victorian warming stand was so unusual, and its stag top makes it a perfect addition for a Thanksgiving table. Finally, we picked tribal patterned rugs (see below) to echo the ikat and the colour scheme.

AP: The dishes felt Thanksgiving-ish — the rust colour is beautiful and autumnal, especially against the wood table — and the ikat napkins made the table modern. I always tell my clients not to discard something just because it belonged to their grandmother — you need to juxtapose new things against the old. 

SB: For an element of whimsy we chose bracelets from the sale that we imagined might be presented as gifts to the female guests — my kind of dinner! 

AP: One more thing: don’t be afraid to mix silver and gold — they look beautiful together, and here the yellow in the napkin plays nicely with the gold.

Where will you be and what will you be doing for Thanksgiving?

AP: We do a big family Thanksgiving with friends who are also in the Hamptons — so probably around 30 people. I own dishes, napkins and tablecloths for up to 70 people. Renting is so expensive and it’s been a great investment to buy my own skeleton tables and ballroom chairs. One of my tricks of the trade is to have an S hook for the chandelier to accommodate the dining room with different numbers of tables.

SB: I always host Thanksgiving at my house with a very traditional meal. All four of my children will be home and I make an extra-large turkey since leftovers are everyone’s favourite weekend meal. I try to set the table differently each year, although there are always a few repeats. 


What advice would you give to those stressing about their holiday table this year?

AP: First of all, never be stressed when the guests walk in. A nervous host or hostess makes the guests feel nervous. Smile and relax. People love to be invited and that you made the effort. But don’t be too relaxed, either — it’s a matter of organisation and being prepared. Make a list, and check all the items off. If something goes wrong, it is what it is. Be positive, cheery and cute about it, if you can.

SB: The holidays are all about family and friends and the table is merely a part of the experience. While it’s a wonderful creative endeavour, your guests will be appreciative of any effort you make to set a beautiful stage for the meal. Just remember that nothing is written in stone — feel free to experiment, repurpose unexpected elements and have fun. 

Follow our experts on Instagram: Stacey Bewkes @quintessence, and and Alex Papachristidis @alexsviewpoint