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Holiday Decorating Do’s and Don’ts for Your Dining Room

With several holidays right around the corner, many of us enjoy sprucing up the house —including the oft-neglected formal dining room, since much of the holiday spirit is embodied in some kind of special feast!

Ideally, the holidays are supposed to be about celebrating and sharing special moments with your loved ones. But with the endless list of things to do, presents to buy, visitors to entertain or coordinating travel plans, the holiday season can sure pile on the stress as well. So whether you’re hosting a big family gathering or just decorating your dining room for two, here are some simple guidelines to help keep your holidays merry and bright.


  • DON’T wait until the last minute.
  • DO start early and have a plan.

Of course this needs to be first on the list, but who doesn’t wait until the last minute to do anything nowadays? However, it’s always a good idea to first take inventory of what you have and what still works from last year. Then make a list of what you need before you go to the store so that you don’t get overwhelmed or overspend.


  • DON’T just pile on holiday decorations with everything you already have on display.
  • DO put away some of your everyday items to keep the focus festive.

Change the everyday into the special — remove all regular pictures, knick-knacks, plants, and so on to make way for all your holiday pictures, treasures and decorations.


  • DON’T just scatter decorations everywhere.
  • DO take the time to create a memorable focal point in your room.

The most obvious place for the focal point of your room is the dining room table. The one mistake a lot of people make is to overdo the centerpiece — too tall and it will hinder conversation and separate your dining guests unnaturally. A low centerpiece will accent your table without getting in the way.

Start with a nice, wrinkle-free tablecloth as your foundation. Depending on your color scheme, you may want to keep it simple with white, or you may try a more colorful or patterned fabric. Just remember that you want your tablecloth to draw attention to your centerpiece, not compete for attention, so it’s best to keep it simple. If your china is not color-neutral, you should keep that in mind when crafting your centerpiece. Colors don’t have to match, but they at least should be complementary.

For a traditional look, you might use a large wreath as your centerpiece, decorated with bells, bows or special ornaments.

For a natural look, try hanging simple wreaths at the doors and windows, and evergreen clippings draped from the chandelier. Fresh flowers and lit candles can create a soft and intimate table centerpiece to bring together the earthy tone of the room.

Even an eclectic blend of not-so-formal furniture can look formal when dressed with an elegant table runner in gold and cream. Add two pillar candles in oversize vases with a few sprigs of greenery at its base, and augment the table settings with delicately decorated napkins for a romantic feel.

Another nice touch would be to add decorative chargers to your table setting. If you are using gold or silver as an accent color, you can match your chargers to give a little more formal feel to the place settings.

You can even dress up the dining room chairs by tying a wide ribbon around the backs of the seats.


  • DON’T think everything has to be red or green.
  • DO be careful about changing the entire color scheme.

Yes, there are plenty of new and untraditional colors used in holiday decorations, from oranges, pinks and purples to simple black and white schemes. It’s fun to switch it up and try something fresh, but as color trends change, you may end up spending a lot of money on a style that you’ll be tired of by next year. If you’re looking to jazz up what you’ve already got, think of adding metallics and glass to the mix — lots of gold or silver accents will make your other colors shimmer, and the light reflecting off the metallic colors and glass will add lots of sparkle.

An elegant approach is to go with a monochromatic color scheme such as winter white, New Year’s silver, gold, Christmas red or evergreen can give your dining table a unique, classy look. For something a little different, you could try using colors such as mustard yellow paired with white to create a star theme, or use silver, light blue and white to create a snowflake/icicle theme.


  • DON’T spend a bundle to create a cozy, holiday atmosphere.
  • DO get creative and use items you already have around the house.

Gather all of your candles into one vignette and place them together on your sideboard or serving hutch. Get out all your children’s Christmas books, your Christmas craft books or holiday magazines and display them in short stacks on the shelves. Wrap some empty boxes with leftover wrapping paper to use as decorations, along with some special ornaments — perfect for adorning the smaller pieces in the room.

Lights are sure to give any room a special feel; try working some holiday LED or rope lights on the buffet or hang elegant crystal icicles from your chandelier. A mirror over your buffet will help reflect light and color into your dining room and open it up, giving the illusion of a more spacious room.


  • DON’T get so caught up in decorating that you forget to enjoy the holidays.
  • DO take time to sit back and relax.

It’s easy to let holiday activities overwhelm you during this busy season, but don’t forget the best and most important part of the holidays — getting to see the people you love, having a great time together and counting your blessings!