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Holiday tablescape provides outlet for creativity

Do you ever read a magazine article and just find it so inspiring you want to go right out and take action? Maybe it’s about a tourist destination you feel suddenly compelled to visit, or maybe it’s a recipe you just have to try for dinner that very night.

For me, it was the piece we did in this month’s Franklin Living about holiday tablescapes.

Franklin County Extension director Katernia Cole-Coffey had already been gracious to share her table decorating talents with us in the spring special section we did earlier this year, creating works of art to herald spring and Easter into the dining room. It’s hard not to admire her way of combining a linen tablecloth with this china pattern or that heirloom drinking glass.

I was an admirer from the time of that Spring Home feature – but with no plans of taking action on anything Katernia taught me from writing that story. After all, I’m not creative. I’m not artistic.

But when Katernia wanted to share some more dining table design ideas for our holiday magazine, I just found myself entranced. To see the way she pulled the different pieces together and the festive air it brought to the room – well, there was only one thing to do. I just had to try it myself.

Late one night when I should have already been asleep – because isn’t that the best time to take on new projects? – I started rummaging through my Christmas decor and my cabinets to plan a tablescape that would awe and amaze any hostess with the mostest. Begrudgingly I started to trade the teal-colored tablecloth I had enjoyed all autumn for a beige tablecloth. After all, you have to have a blank, neutral canvas to start from, right?

In the words of Jim Carey the Grinch, “Wrong-O!”

The famed Marie Kondo has taught us to keep and use the things that “spark joy,” and that teal tablecloth does it for me. So I decided to keep it out all winter, too.

After a little browsing Pinterest, I summoned up all my bravery and began to tackle that teal blank slate. It was #firstworld scary stuff for this inexperienced decorator.

I pulled out my holiday table runner lamenting the red accents in it. The red didn’t go with the teal-and-blue Winter Wonderland theme I had started to envision – it definitely wasn’t sparking joy.

Aha! Flip it over. The back side was just a plain creamy color, and it looked nice!

That was the first lesson I learned. If something isn’t working for you, turn it upside down. Perhaps not always literally, although it was literal in this case. But look at it a different way. Find a way to make it work.

China dishes I inherited from my great-aunt never get used, but now they grace my holiday table, each full-size dinner plate cradling a smaller, holiday dessert plate. The

dinner plates are cream, and the holiday plates are white, but I think it works.

Small juice glasses have been repurposed to hold jingle bells and a tea light candle. Then there’s the centerpiece.

This is one of Katernia’s rules I think I broke. See, the table decorations shouldn’t obscure diners’ views of one another – and my centerpiece is quite tall. But as most meals in December will be just my husband and me, I think it will be OK.

Here’s a complete list of what I used to make my centerpiece, from top to bottom. They are all items I already had:

• a cereal bowl, turned upside down, as a base

• a fancy cake pedestal – a wedding gift

• a blue-with-snowflakes, lightweight throw blanket

• some snowflake tree ornaments I was planning to get rid of

• some white tulle I bought last year for a Valentine’s Day project

• a second cake pedestal – also a wedding gift

• three decorative snowmen I had thought about decluttering this year

• little glass snowman name card holders

• a vase that was, you might have guessed, a wedding gift

• dry lima beans I dyed teal to tie in with the tablecloth

• jingle bells

• greenery cut from bushes in my front yard

It turned into a lot of things! Kind of like how this column is turning into a lot of words.

To tell you the truth, I’m proud of that centerpiece, and I smile every time I walk by my dining room table. It’s a little bit of a mishmash. It’s far from professional. Katernia told me it looked beautiful when I excitedly texted her a picture – but she might have just been being polite.

Nevertheless, it happened, and it has definitely brought a special festive touch to our home. It’s made completely from stuff I already had – I didn’t buy one thing – and like I said, some of it was stuff I had even been thinking of getting rid of. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, if I can do it, you can do it too. Pull out your pretties, and enjoy the nice things that you have. Whether it’s juice glasses, a tablecloth that doesn’t match, a runner you turn upside down or junk you didn’t even plan on keeping, you just might be able to incorporate into a beautiful dressing for your dining table.

Have a holly jolly Christmas, everyone!