'Traditional patterns and colors are wonderful and such a big part of the holidays,' says visual merchandiser John Griffith. 'That said, those can also limit the imagination. I think people attach very specific imagery to the holidays and get so focused on certain colors and patterns and that holds them back from daring to do something different.'
Griffith's teammate Julie Robbins creates seasonal magic at Replacements, Ltd., the world's largest retailer of old and new china, crystal silver and collectibles. This holiday season she is focusing less on traditional and more on festive.
'Festive is about fun and playful. It's more about mixing colors, finishes and mediums to achieve looks that are seasonal, but last beyond the holidays,' says Robbins. 'So many people have neutral everyday patterns, which I like to think of as a blank canvas. For example, I've mixed taupes and pinks for the holidays and tied the look together with ornaments as accents. Blues and silvers are great winter colors that work well for the season; I'm actually decorating my own home in blue.'
So how do you create your own festive flair? Robbins says think about where you want to go - are you an empty nester setting a formal gathering now that the children have left home, or are you looking for a fun, casual setting for the grandkids' first time sitting at the big table? She suggests looking for things you already have at home you might not think of using together.
'I'm not only mixing color families, but I'm also incorporating stoneware, fine china and mixed metals. For example, I start with a casual piece, like a solid Fiesta color, and dress it up by adding a more elaborately decorated piece to make the setting more sophisticated. I often use platinum trim to create a frosty winter feel, or a gold trim to warm up the setting and create a sense of warm and cozy. Either finish creates sparkle and adds flair.'
If you use a non-holiday pattern, Robbins says you can mix in family heirloom china or ornaments to bring tradition to your table. She also suggests looking outside for nature's accents, such as pine cones, boxwood cuttings or even recycling branches from your Christmas tree to incorporate into your tabletop design.
'Creating a holiday place setting is almost like making a stew; you have to keep tasting and looking to see which ingredients you need to add, whether that's a shape, color or sparkle,' says Robbins. 'Have fun mixing and matching until you get the look that reflects your own personal style.'
For those who simply choose not to abandon tradition, Griffith says keep with seasonal colors like greens, reds and golds, but don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, like using bright apple green or fun hip designs like polka dots. If you have a contemporary pattern, mix in vintage pieces such as pressed glass drinkware to create a sense of tradition and nostalgia.
'If you don't want to purchase an entire set of holiday china, think about getting cups and saucers or accent plates from seasonal patterns that coordinate with your everyday dinnerware. You can use those at mealtime, or just for coffee and dessert. We're even mixing and matching various holiday accent plates on the same table to create a fun festive feel,' adds Griffith.
Griffith says you can find a listing of Replacements' top holiday patterns on the company's website www.replacements.com. You can find additional decorating tips on Replacements' Facebook page www.facebook.com/Replacements.