Make it shine
"Having something that reflects the light is important. Adding lots low little candles and little battery-run lights are fun," says Ginger Lawrence of Ginger Lawrence Interior Designs in Grants Pass, Oregon. Get more shine for your dime when you put candles on a mirrored or shiny metallic tray.
Twist on tradition
Turn your reds into pale pinks, raspberries, or oranges. Transform the greens into teals or limes. Lawrence says you don't have to stick to the traditional colors. "You can use as many colors as there are Christmas ornaments," she says, "Use your imagination. Things don't have to match."
Gather a group of same colored round ornaments. If you're purchasing them, choose three sizes. Tuck some ornaments into the centerpiece and spread a few out on the table. Put more ornaments around the table in and on unlikely holders: egg cups, vases, jars; stemware, champagne, and juice glasses. Loop ornaments on ribbons for quick napkin rings.
A pedestal platter takes the cake when holding shiny fruits. Choose red ruby red pears, apples, grapes, cranberries and pomegranates -- or green quince, limes, apples, pears and grapes -- for a centerpiece. For extra sparkle, sugar your fruit. Coat clean, dry fruit in a mixture of equal parts egg white and water. Finally, roll them in granulated sugar and let dry.
It's hip to be square
Trendy and fun, add square plates in lots of colors and price ranges, to your table. "Rectangular platters, square plates and chargers in rich, deep seasonal colors like paprika, saffron and sage green are popular," says Connie Throssel, Assistant Manager of Medford Oregon's Kitchen Depot store.
Charge it up
Chargers, those large placeholder "platemats" make a striking tabletop impact. These decorative plates dress up salad plates and add a dramatic backdrop for soup bowls. For the holidays, choose jewel tones (like this red Italian Marrakech Charger from Crate & Barrel, at left) or try metallics which are easy to incorporate with what you have.
Local fir, cedar, pine and spruce sprigs and their cones are easy to decorate with. Use them to make an arrangement or just place an evergreen wreath on a tray in the center of the table. Add one large or an odd-number of cream pillar candles in varying heights in the center. Surround with small tea lights for a festive glow.
Using place cards is a fun inexpensive way to add personality to your table. Folded paper origami, small potted plants, cookies, pine cones, ornaments, nutcrackers, wine glasses and small holiday decorations are easy to personalize with a metallic marker or glitter glue. Use permanent marker on wooden decorations or small nutcracker ornaments.
Go for garland
Garlands are both beautiful and affordable. In a rainbow of colors, and lengths from 6 to 20 feet, easily add faux greenery, crystals, and pearls to your decor. Illuminate a tabletop with pre-lit rope garland, or weave a twig and berry garlands into chandeliers or floral and evergreen centerpieces. Carry the theme through the house and adorn the mantle and the banister.
Like a Victorian tea party where none of the china or linens need to match, "Nowadays people don't care what colors they mix. It's not like grandma used to have it -- when if it were pink, it'd better be pink," says Lawrence's Jewelers Sales Associate Katie Denhof of Medford, Oregon. "You can combine colored stemware with clear, sterling with silver plate, stoneware with fancy stemware," she says.
Show it off
Use the holiday table to express your personality! If you're a scientist, consider using small beakers for glasses, pipettes for stirrers and lab glassware to serve libations. Wind-up holiday toys, salt and pepper shakers, perfume bottles, crystal or other glassware -- even shot glasses -- paperweights or costume jewelry are just some ideas. Then you can always add some candles to your collectibles for a unique tablescape.
Want something even simpler? Decorate with pictures of family and friends -- either in frames, or add some festive decorations with a graphics program on your computer before printing them out.