How-To Create A Beautiful Holiday Tablescape

If we have ever had the pleasure of hosting you as our guest at Run of the River, you know that our decor is a huge part of who we are. We love to create a unique space that is all-at-once warm yet grand, comfortable but luxurious, and romantic while still embracing our mountain home. Jan curates the decorating of the entire inn, including your signature room, the breakfast table, surrounding property, and of course...the holiday decor!

Many of our guests email with questions and some even book a stay at Run of the River during one of our décor changes so they can learn firsthand how it we tackle the transformation. These guests return home, inspired to step-up their game by creating a tablescape and/or entryway that is comfortable, inviting, and reflects their own unique style.

For those of you who haven’t been able to join us, we would love to give you a few insider tips on the processes behind our decorating and how we create our fabulous tablescapes! So get out those boxes of decorations and rummage through the closets because there is no better time than the holidays to try your hand at sprucing things up and having some fun!​​

1. Find an Appropriate Space for Your Vision

You may picture a holiday dinner around a centerpiece fit for the Queen, but you are likely working with a much smaller area. Be sure that size of your table and the scale of your supplies strike a perfect balance. Make ample space to create your design while also keeping the functional integrity of the table or space you choose. It is very easy to get carried away, and while branches and artificial snow can be lovely on the table, they don't always pair well on your plate as a side with your holiday ham.

Pro Tip: Remember to leave room for serving dishes and factor in placemat size if you typically use them. If you have a rectangular table up against a wall, you can choose a runner-type display across the back or do something round in the middle.

The breakfast table in the Great Room allows us just enough room for a grand centerpiece while still accommodating all of our dishes and placemats (pictured here: ROTR's largest placemat!)

An accent table is the perfect spot to go all-out and feature a grouping of your favorite goodies!

2. Pick a Theme (or Don't!)

Sometimes starting with a theme can help get the creative juices flowing. For example, if you have a few nutcrackers that haven't been out of the box in recent years, use them in an anchor piece and then continue a Nutcracker or Wooden Solider theme throughout your décor. We did this at the inn a few years back and not only was it fun, but it turned out darling! On the other hand, choosing something as broad as "Evergreens and Christmas Trees" could prove to be overwhelming, and might lead to disorder or a lack of variety. Of course, there are many ways to make Christmas trees work (pictured below), but you get the idea! Sometimes an easy way to get started is to simply chose a color-scheme. Using color as your “theme” will create a cohesive thread to your vision, even if you end up using an assortment of old and new, store bought and handmade decorations, various styles, or even everyday items.

Pro Tip: Christmas doesn't always have to be red & green! Mix it up with some warm winter whites! Ivory and deep reds create a fun cabin feel. Variations on the traditional red and green are also quite popular this season. Think bubblegum pinks and light teal (Katie’s favorite) - pictured below.

We had nutcrackers of all sizes at the inn for the 2016 holiday season! This front-door greeter was nearly as big as our guests and was a happy witness to this elopement!

A mix of colors and textures made this greenery display a nature-inspired beauty!

These modern-hued Christmas decorations are available at Target!

3. Embrace the Highs and Lows...Literally!

One of the best aesthetic tips is to create height variation in your design. Find pieces of various heights or utilize items such as boxes and books, to elevate your pieces. Use tall and short candle holders. Stack and layer your decorations on top of your base pieces. Be mindful that the use of stems and garlands can often end up burying your smaller showcase pieces so plan on using those in the forefront of your display.

Pro tip: Think outside the box…and by outside, I mean use the box itself! The holidays are a perfect time to incorporate gift boxes into your display. You can pull your theme or color scheme in by using inexpensive wrapping paper, or do something classic like brown paper packages tied up with a fabulous ribbon, raffia, or string. “Gift” boxes can be used to create height, take up space, or even work as a decoration all their own!

We have loved bringing these stunning lanterns into our tablescape. Great news: they are available for purchase in our mercantile to bring home for a feature on your own table!

4. Bring the Outdoors Indoors!

Natural elements are one of the most exciting things we add to our displays. They offer texture and an earthiness that help combat an artificial feeling. Pinecones are wonderful and can usually be picked up along the roadside, which make them a real deal! We paint them, wax them, and coat them in all kinds of beading and glitter. Fresh greenery, sprigs of holly, and the branches trimmed from your trees this past spring can be used to create a base for your centerpiece. Even antlers (sheds) work well in holiday centerpieces and trees. Use your imagination!

Pro tip: Don’t forget check for bugs and critters first!

Dipped pinecones, twigs, flocked greenery, and berries make for a rich, natural display.

5. If It Feels Good, It Will Look Good

Texture is so important! Using a variety of materials will introduce different textures and create great visual interest with your tablescape. Use an old table runner. Lay it flat, scrunch it, bunch it, and weave it around and over your base. Don’t have a table runner? Line up some placemats, use a winter scarf, or weave some ribbon together. Use your natural branches, fresh or artificial garland, sparkly stems and smooth ornaments for a simple, attractive display. Add lanterns, boxes, candles and other items to give it your signature.

Pro tip: Some textured items can be a bit messy! As you create, be aware of what might be falling off or flying about. Flocked items manage to get snow into places you’ll be finding until summer!

I spy...many rich and exciting textures!

A beautiful quilt provides a great functional base and adds contrast amongst the natural textures.

6. Think Outside the Box!

While tempting, there is no need to blow your holiday budget by purchasing items from your favorite hobby store. At Run of the River, we love to introduce the outdoors onto our tables and into our displays. You can often spot skis in our Christmas trees, ice skates in our door decor, antique snow shoes as centerpiece bases, and even sleds to add height for other holiday decor! Another favorite are the accessories we use: vintage thermoses, wicker picnic baskets, plaid flannel blankets and holiday/winter artwork add to the feel. Visit local garage sales, thrift shops, and antique stores where you can turn a unique find into a beloved treasure!

Pro tip: Light it up! Whether it be warm or colorful, a "lighted glow" is synonymous with the holiday season! Incorporating lighting into your tablescape can bring an unexpected element and provides depth. There are so many wonderful (tiny) battery-powered lights on the market today, that are perfect length for a tabletop. Use these small, battery powered LED lights to highlight key elements to make your creation sparkle. ​​

A fabulous mixture of old and new allows us to create stunning and cozy displays like this around the holidays!

Those white, metal snowflakes woven into the bottom of the display contain timer-equipped LED lights which allowed us to create a glowing tablescape for guest check-in every evening.

The holidays are about SO much more than beautiful tablescapes, but we hope that we have awakened your creative side and encouraged you to fashion a holiday tablescape using new, used, and recycled items, that will bring joy to you and yours this holiday season.

Tell us your favorite ROTR holiday decor, or your favorite decor theme at home! Did you learn anything new? We'd love to see what you dream up!

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