Dining Room Delights

The time-honored tradition of sharing hearth and home and gathering around the table is made even more memorable when you create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for family and friends. Decorate for the season with quick changes that will take you from weeknight suppers to Sunday brunches and holiday meals with ease. The important players stay the same — the dining table, buffet and other furnishings — but you’ll have fun playing with the details.

The Right Light

Set the mood with lighting. General — or ambient — lighting delivers overall illumination and is typically a chandelier or pendant hung over the dining room table. Chandeliers are actually quite fun to decorate. The graceful curves just beckon abundance. Objects can easily be hung to create a variety of looks throughout the year. Embellish yours with autumn’s earthy accents — branches, leaves, vines and berries. Add boughs of greenery, ribbons, feathers or crystals. Hang Christmas ornaments or anything that will reflect a holiday or special occasion to set the stage.

Accent lighting can add drama to a dining room by creating exciting visual interest. Your accent lighting should be used to spotlight paintings, plants and other treasures. Although lamps are usually considered task lighting, in the dining room, they can also be used as accents. Use table lamps on a buffet or a pole lamp to cast away shadows in a corner. Add sprigs of greens or other adornments to the necks and bases of lamps and secure them with ribbon or bows. To showcase smaller items, use cabinet lighting to highlight china and accessories in a cabinet or hutch. Mount these lights closer to the cabinet front for the best effect.

“Layers” of light placed at different levels in the room will create depth. Be sure to control the mood of the room with a dimmer switch that will allow you to go from dazzling to romantic.

No room this time of year is complete without the soft flickering glow and warmth of candlelight. You simply can never have too many candles. Group a collection of candlesticks or pillar candles that vary in height together on a tray or plate.

Adding a mirror or two (large and small) will reflect light and add a dash of sparkle to the room. Natural light reflected in a large wall-hung mirror increases the sense of space as well. And the reflection of candles in a mirror is pure magic — be sure to capture this look.

Linens and Things

Your table decorations give you the opportunity to really strut your creativity. Put together an imaginative table and lavish it with an assortment of linens in artful designs. Contrasting textures create energy, so go ahead and mix your finery with more substantial and rustic table decor. Look beyond the usual damask and embroidered table cloths and use materials that are a little bit out of the ordinary, but still appropriate for the occasion. Layer favorite fabrics, quilts, throws — even a beautiful rug can double as great foundation for a one-of-a-kind table. The only rule to remember — complement colors with your china and overall theme.

Large linen towels make great napkins and place mats. Tuck napkins into goblets or casually toss them beside the silver or directly onto the plate. Style napkin rings from twisted vine, wire, faux fruits and berries or branches. Pair an evergreen sprig with a few pinecones. Mix it up — these days, almost anything goes.

Seating a Crowd

Make guests comfortable when entertaining a crowd. Replace chairs at a large table with benches to squeeze in more guests. Consider replacing your table altogether with two or three smaller round tables for maximum seating and lively conversation. Dress up folding chairs with inexpensive slipcovers for myriad looks. (Check out your local rental agency for options.)

Delight the senses with unexpected touches. Layer it on — build your compositions for a beautiful room. Elevate your table displays by mixing heights. Arrange a vignette of collectibles on your table surfaces and forego your predictable centerpiece. For glittering accents, use lots of silver, glass and gold.

Enjoy your dining room. Set the stage for wonderful gatherings this season and throughout the year. NH