Layers, colour and natural elements are at the core of my holiday decorating.

I’ve always been one to decorate a table: as a young girl, inspired by the likes of Martha Stewart, I would always enjoy the opportunity to create something extra special for guests. I would use what was at hand, as our kitchen cupboards have always been filled with an eclectic mix of crockery, many sourced from trips to Italy. I would bring natural elements in from the outdoors (often from the garden, much to the annoyance of my mother for having plucked from her rose bushes…) and take pride in creating a visual introduction to what the great meal to come.

In many ways, this is still how I decorate a table and the holiday season is no exception. Working with our Ginori tableware, I like to mix it with everyday white dishes so as to not have it appear too precious or formal. The colours in these dishes are lovely: pinks, golds, earth tones and gold, and work well with silverware (another family heirloom) as well as more rustic wood-handled flatware.

1. Start With a Great Table Cloth

As a lover of textiles, I enjoy a layered table and often start with a vintage off-white linen table cloth as the base (always using a heavier-weight cotton table cloth beneath it to give the plushness it deserves) adding on fabrics that I have collected over the years. This year I’m using a gorgeous deep blue cotton print called ‘Pantheon Admiral’ by Robert Allen and home-made napkins using left-over floral fabrics in various shades of pinks and warm tones. As I often say: “If you love something it will always ‘go’ with everything else…”

2. Bring in Layers and Colour

Instead of using holiday-themed dishes and decor I create a festive feeling using an abundance of colour and layers. No need to store holiday-focused decorations for 364 days a year and it gives you the ability to shop all-year long for things you love—like this vintage pink cabbage leaf plate by Bordallo Pinheiro which I adore (in a save-it-from-a-burning-building kind of way…).

Foraged berries, magnolia branches and heather (from the garden) nestled amongst vintage brass candlestick and luminous glass-ware contribute to a feeling of abundance.

3. Add Enchantment—With Lighting

Tucked in with the greenery is a string of tiny, battery-operated, LED lights that are wonderful once the evening grows dark. Creating a sparkling effect, a sense of enchantment and wonder, it’s a little bit of theatre for the table.

4. Layer in More Warmth With Vintage Pieces, and Warm Metals

Vintage pieces are always a part of any decorative scheme of mine—I’m always sourcing and find it very hard to resist the charm of vintage. These brass candlesticks, wonderfully individual but in the same brass finish, provide a little glint, warmth and patina that nicely off-set the crispness of the glassware and white porcelain. 

With the table set it’s time to dedicate ourselves to the meal at hand – the visual introduction has been made, guests are now expecting great things to come their way and we have no intention to disappoint. Mamma is at the helm in the kitchen (I’ve always been the decorating committee) and Sandy is poised for clean-up and glass-filling.

Like the cover of a good book, your table-setting should entice and raise your guests expectations as well as relax them into an evening of great food, warm conversation and the richness of a memorable shared experience.

Francesa Albertazzi is the principal of Studio Albertazzi, a Vancouver-based interior design firm.