Ready or not, holiday entertaining season is upon us! Can you believe it? Between Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s and all the other weeks in between, there are a million-and-one opportunities to host a dinner party this season. But don’t let that stress you out – even if it’s your very first time hosting. We’re taking a cue from cookbook author Alison Roman by showing you how to set the table in an unfussy way. Then all you have to worry about is the food, and she’s got you covered on that part.

Of course, “unfussy” doesn’t have to mean unstylish. (We would never!) So we turned to Diego Vela, visual manager at West Elm Chelsea, for his best advice on setting that laid-back holiday table that works for any occasion this season. Here, he helped us get ready for a special dinner celebrating Alison’s new cookbook, Nothing Fancy, at the West Elm Holiday House with StreetEasy. (Tour the full space here for all kinds of holiday inspo.)

Read on and shop the look below!

Photography by Landon Vonderschmidt

First, the big stuff. We were feeding an extra-large group for this dinner, so we pushed three Frame Dining Tables together; you can get a scaled-down look at home with one Expandable Frame Dining Table. For seating, we went with Finley Low-Back Dining Chairs in a light taupe velvet for a cozy, neutral look. The stunning Champignon 6-Light Chandelier makes a statement and casts just the right light from above.

For the centerpiece, Diego layered pieces from West Elm’s Foundations Glass + Marble Collection – large and small glass vases in different neutral shades, plus marble candleholders – over a simple Belgian Flax Linen Table Runner. These modern pieces mix and match seamlessly and you can use them around your house long after the party’s over. (See more ideas for that here.)

Bring the outdoors in with branches for the tablescape. These ones pictured have a true Christmas feel, but you can use other types of branches for different times of year. Don’t be afraid to add a little drama, but make sure to stagger the tallest ones. “You don’t need much – just a few branches can make a big impact,” Diego says. “Lay them between people so they can actually see each other across the table.”

Diego used a stylish Tall Glass Pitcher to fill the glasses (you don’t want to be running back and forth to the sink when you’ve got a million other things to do). And his final tip here makes all the difference: “Anytime you use glass vases, make sure you strip the leaves so the water doesn’t get muggy.” Noted!

Finally, the individual place settings. Feel free to use everyday plates and flatware you love (here we went with the Kaloh Black Dinner Plates and Smith Flatware in Silver). To step it up a notch, try tying a knot in your Linen Cotton Napkins and set it on the plates for when guests arrive. “Fold the napkin in quarters, then tie a knot in the middle,” Diego says. Make sure it’s actually in the middle before tightening, but don’t let it get too tight – your guests will probably want to untie it to actually use it during dinner. If you have time, a simple name card is always a nice touch.

To keep things low-key, skip the special wine glasses. We love the understated look of the Bormioli Rocco Bodega Glassware Set for both wine and water.

See more from the West Elm Holiday House!

Photography by Landon Vonderschmidt

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November 13, 2019

Plenty of lovely ideas for simplifying (!), but the candles and bottled leaves would be remarkably bothersome for conversations. I can imagine the head bobbing needed to work around these pretty items. On top of that, tall candles can be very uncomfortable for anyone with aging eyes and often too for diners with lens implants. The tall leaf centerpieces, while engagingly natural, are really tough on those with declining (or assisted) hearing who often count on visual cues to improve interpretation in noisy environments. I’m hopeful that Thanksgiving gives many the chance to relax, skip the fuss and just share good food and conversations around the table.

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