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How to Create a Casual, Affordable and Beautiful Holiday Tablescape (All With Target)

House Beautiful asked me if I wanted to show you how to create a tablescape with 100% Target and I said “YES” as an excuse to switch up my vintage furniture in the dining room (remember I teased to switching things up in this post). Everything on the table is from Target and I fell in love with it so much that it’s currently packed up ready to go to the mountain house for Christmas dinner. It’s modern farmhouse in a casual but still special way.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 1

My design plan was rooted in neutrals that can transcend “Christmas” with simplicity and warmth. I wanted to do something that I (or you) could recreate easily and on a budget. I personally LOVE how it turned out and it was a sad moment when I had to break it down. But having a permanently styled out tablescape with a 3 and 5 year old is a hilarious fool’s errand.

Start with a neutral color palette.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 2

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 6

This tablescape color palette could honestly be used year-round, minus the dessert plates that feel a bit “winter,” but at the mountain house I could definitely use these throughout the year. A color palette of black, cream, wood, gray, brass and greenery is my favorite for this “modern farmhouse” style. It’s just so warm and inviting. It’s earthy with an edge.

Mix refined finishes with more homespun elements.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 7

The wood of the vase is smooth and simple, and the flatware is matte and edgy. Mix that with the larger dinner plates that feel more like pottery and the homespun linen napkins with frayed edges (of which I’m obsessed) and you have this really warm, inviting, rustic, casual and yet pulled together table.

And yes, we stripped my table to make it WAY PRETTIER. It’s currently unsealed so I need to do something about that, but the raw wood is FAR more beautiful.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 3

Create ambience with candles and lighting.

I can’t tell you how important lighting is to me at a dinner. If I sit down at a restaurant without a candle on the table, I’m bummed and confused and have to stop myself from Yelping about it. WHY WOULD YOU RUIN MY NIGHT BY NOT HAVING GOOD AMBIENCE???

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 4

We did a combination of tall taper candles, my new pendant hanging overhead (a relatively affordable find from Chairish I’m pretty obsessed with) and then peppered little houses with candles in them (I found these in the budget bins at the front of the store, which we couldn’t find online to link to in the Get the Look below, but we found some similar shapes that unfortunately don’t hold candles, but do hold the next best thing: flowers). It was twinkly and romantic and so simple to execute. Choose a couple elements and repeat them down the table.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 10

Vary your dinnerware and glassware.

I can’t tell you the importance of mixing two different heights and styles of glassware to create a more curated “expert” look. I like mixing a stem with a non-stem but you could also mix two different stem glasses for a more formal look.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 9

I love that the clear chunky glasses give the table some height without too much visual weight, while the smokey water stemless glasses ground the tablescape.

For the dinnerware, we mixed two different sizes of plates, with the dessert plate (a purely seasonal pick) pulling in the color of the dinner plate (which can be used throughout the year).

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 5

Layer in table linens.

Oh, the eternal debate between when to use napkins versus tablecloths versus placemats…or all three!!!

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape Depopulation Gif

Napkins are a no-brainer to me, and I personally love draping them over the table underneath the dessert plate. But the debate of tablecloth/placemat/runner is hard. I think there is no real rule, but I like tablecloths that don’t look like catering, so maybe something special either with a pattern, hemstitch, or a really good texture. For placemats, it all really depends on the placemats. I know that there are “placemat” families and “non-placemats families.” We don’t use them on an every day basis but I do like them. I say go for no more than 2 of the 3—I like placemats with runners, placemats with tablecloths (like we did in this shoot) or you could get an oversized runner as we did here and just mix it with napkins.

Keep greenery and flowers simple.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 11

We kept it extremely simple and cheap with flower market ferns and dark berries, and flopped some of the greenery (I believe ours are cedar) a few places on the table. It echoed the garland around the windows and brought in so much life into the tablescape.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 7

We found these really dark berries at the flower market and I loved how simple, moody and yet romantic they are. These branches are incredibly inexpensive and complement the cedar perfectly.

So that’s how you can create this modern farmhouse casual holiday dinner party look. I am transferring it all up to the mountain house because honestly, I loved it so much.

Now, for all of you who are wondering how and why I changed it up, here goes: The light fixture I had was great but it did feel kinda heavy in that room so it’s going over to my friend’s house and instead, I found this brass fixture on Chairish. It has a really cute black and white chord and it looks SO GOOD with the island pendant and the window sconces.

Emily Henderson House Beautiful Holiday Tablescape 8

I switched out the chairs which are admittedly not as comfortable but it looks SO GOOD. They are all vintage chairs mixed with a Target bench (no longer available) and cabinet. The only one that I’m not leaving there is the Cherner armchair because it’s too fragile to actually sit on, but my goodness it’s so beautiful. When I walk into this room, I’m SO much happier. The kids like sitting on the bench together and while my former Crypton/linen chairs would wipe up, they would have to be wiped down every week because nothing was a match for old “marinara hands” Henderson. Myself or my cleaning lady would have to wash far too frequently because of the damage that those kids can do. They are currently at my friend’s house.

Okay, there she is. We put together a Get the Look below with all the tablescape product, but I will say that if you love any of this stuff (particularly the holiday/seasonal items) HURRY because literally every time we went back to grab/check the link, there were less and less pieces available. And to read more tips on this look, head to House Beautiful today to check out their corresponding post.

OH, before I sign off, I wanted to let you all know (in the spirit of holiday decorating) about something fun we’re doing on social (and eventually the blog). I can imagine that you all are heavy into decking your halls right now, and we want to see (and share!) everything you’re doing. Be sure to tag all the images you put up on Instagram of your tablescapes, holiday vignettes, trees, fireplaces…WHATEVER, with #ShowEmYourStyled. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing our favorites both on social media as well as in a big roundup blog post before the break, so if you want to see your home in the EHD universe, TAG THEM UP.

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1. Large Wood Vase | 2. Medium Wood Vase | 3. Brass 3-Light Chandelier | 4. Stemless Wine Glass (Set of 2) | 5. Glass Goblet | 6. Adjustable Candle Holder | 7. Blue Taper Candles | 8. Gray Taper Candles |  9. Table Runner | 10. Juniper Stem | 11. Stoneware Dinner Plate | 12. Tree Appetizer Plate | 13. 5 pc Silverware Set | 14. Dip Bowls (Set of 4) | 15. House Bud Vase | 16. Napkins | 17. Faux Fur Pelt

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5 years ago

Love the new pendant! Looks great in there! Beautiful table setting.

5 years ago

I love the new light fixture! Suddenly I’m noticing all of the beautiful windows and doors that I never did before. It looks effortlessly beautiful!

Vicki Williams
5 years ago

I am soooo glad you’ve changed the light above table, this looks great and so much, in my estimation, a better fit to your house. Love the stripped table look too. Lovely table settings. I love Target! Happy Christmas!

5 years ago

What do you use to seal your table? I have one with beeswax but I’m so nervous the kids will hurt the beautiful wood. Is there something I should be putting on it?

5 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I just spent weeks trying to find a wood sealer that would leave the look of raw wood without turning it yellow. What I learned: stay away from oil-based sealers and the more matte the better. The one I ended up using is BenMoore Stays Clear Acrylic Poly in Flat and it looked exactly like the raw wood, just protected and smoother.

5 years ago

Noooooooooo, I loved your old Barton pendant…it was perfect in your space.

Jodene Moore
5 years ago

I always enjoy reading your posts Emily!
I usually get a giggle along with inspiration 🙂

5 years ago

Gahhhhhh! I need to know where you sourced the bench…I need a new one for my dining table and this one is perfect (along with everything else here)!

5 years ago
Reply to  Julie

It’s from Target (and unfortunately no longer available). 🙁

5 years ago


5 years ago

Those chairs!!! I loved your old ones but this mix is really perfect – I especially have all the heart eyes for the black captains chair.

Monique Wright Interior Design
5 years ago

I LOVE the new light! I agree – the old one did feel a bit heavy. Target has really upped their game in the last few years…I find myself buying more and more pieces there for my own photo shoots!

5 years ago

Oh my, did I love reading this post! A. because I love Target, and B. I styled my dining room for an upcoming post and it was like I read your mind…or you read mine, lol. I have some very similar elements happening to this beautiful styled table, and I feel like you just validated my choices, yipee! I will for sure be tagging you on social. Thanks for always bringing some “pretty” to my day. I heart you!

5 years ago

love everything! and you look beautiful 🙂

5 years ago

Love this! And Crate and Barrel currently has some cute white ceramic houses that hold tea lights. Triple the price of Target’s, but still pretty reasonable. 🙂

5 years ago

Let me just say, I am SO HAPPY with the new light fixture! Something about the old one felt so 90’s basic hotel or living room to me, and while you always made it look really good (for what I thought it was), it seemed to detract from every tablescape. I’m so happy the old Emily is back, this feels truly refined, eclectic yet elegant, and I love it.

Emily Waterfall
5 years ago

Love your dress, where is it from?

5 years ago

Yes, agree! Where is this dress from?!

5 years ago

Third the dress request!

5 years ago

Can you create a future post about stripping and sealing furniture? Interested in what you did with the dining room table and how involved it was. I’ve been contemplating if it’s worth it to try and salvage something that is a good shape but came from a big box store with a manufactured lacquer on it?

5 years ago

Love the tablescape but wish you would have taken a few pics of it in the evening. It would be nice to see how it looks in low light since that’s when most of us would be having our holiday meals. Also love that everything is from Target, which means it’s easy for us to get the look!

5 years ago

Hi there commenting for the first time from Portugal.
I loooove the table…where is it from?
New visitor (for about 3 weeks) but love the blog.

5 years ago

this light fixture is EVERYTHING. I so so so appreciate how you show us the process all along the way in your home!! This dining room feels SO much better and SO much more YOU now. Well done on the change out!! And for not being afraid of admitting it may not have been quite right the first time around! Helps me feel better about correcting my own interior shortcomings.

5 years ago

It looks great, Emily! But I’m dying to know if the garland on your doors are real or faux? If faux, would you please share the source?

5 years ago

i love this whole design and vibe!!