Home design influencer and blogger Holly Jolley knows how to transform a table from drab to fab. This concept known as tablescaping involves layering plates, selecting stunning color palettes and scouting decorative accents to turn a meal into an experience. It’s an art that takes fall decor and holiday parties to the next level.
We loved Jolley’s story on creating festive fall tablescapes using paper plates and the ideas she shares on Instagram, so we reached out to learn more about her passion for bringing tables to life and gather some tips for our readers. Whether you already have an extensive dishware collection or simply want to make a trip to your local party store, Jolley is the one to turn to for advice.
I like to go to flower farms and bring my great-grandma's antique dishes to see what matches.
Her process typically starts with one source of inspiration for the color palette—a certain dish, set of dishes, napkin ring, table runner, flowers, etc. This inspiration takes the reigns in her creation of the fall tablescapes she shares online.
“I like to go to flower farms and bring my great-grandma’s antique dishes to see what matches. Usually, if I have antiques, I’ll mix new dishes in with them, so, in a lot of my pictures, you’ll see something that looks older,” Jolley said. “For me, it’s really about the details, and I love layering. When I’m doing a place setting, it’s all about how the plates stack and layer together. That’s really what I think people miss: the little details that create a really beautiful table.”
If you’re new to tablescaping and just want to get your feet wet, starting with paper plates could save you time and money. Yes—you can start setting beautiful tables without investing in dishes right away!
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When Jolley was tasked with creating fall tablescapes for a bloggers retreat, she thought it would be fun to see what she could do with paper plates, rather than hauling 26 place settings to a little lakeside cabin (because who wants to do dishes for 26 people?). However, the party store was out of everything festive or fall-related, so she had to really hone her creativity.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re out of everything already. What am I going to do?’ before I saw these little black and white buffalo check chargers. That became the inspiration, and I went to work, going up and down the aisles of the store and trying to find colors that felt more fall-ish to me,” she said. “I started playing around and found one size of each plate in alternating colors. To make the napkins, I thought it would be really cute to double them up and layer them. Most people don’t think about layering paper products. They just throw one paper plate out and call it good.”
With the paper plates layered and perfectly placed, she added matching table runners, velvet pumpkins and greenery. There are ways to create awe-inspiring fall tablescapes without breaking the bank, so why not start now?
“You don’t need to have 80 sets of dishes like I do. I know that’s a little extreme, so invest in a couple of basic sets of dishes, whether that be a set of white or neutral dishes. Then, if you want to change things up a bit or swap out colors of dishes for the season, all you have to do is buy a salad plate that is a different color,” Jolley said. “If you look at my pictures, some of my tablescapes are literally the exact same thing. All I do is make a couple of changes to a few of the dishes, the napkins or the color of flatware.”
Jolley also creates stunning centerpieces that don’t block your view from the person across the table from you. The centerpiece complements the rest of the chosen table setting, creating jaw-dropping and cohesive fall tablescapes.
I always try to keep my centerpieces very low to the table so people can have conversations. That’s definitely something you want to think about when you’re setting a table,” she said. “You can keep it really simple and just put a vase of flowers on the table. Or, like my house in Utah, the table is really long and looks empty in the middle, so I’ll create centerpiece garlands either with real or artificial flowers.”
One of her tricks is creating one tablescape that will last through fall and winter, an easy way to consistently have a table setting that doesn’t require much effort when it comes to new customizations each month.
“If you love dishes and setting a beautiful table, go for it and invest in some basic pieces. Then, when you want to change things up again, find dishes wherever you can. I found some really cute little pumpkin-shaped salad plates at Fred Meyer,” she said. “I find them in the dollar store. If you look at my Halloween pictures, there are black goblets on the table. Those were from the dollar store.”
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It's all about putting some effort into creating a pretty space that suits your taste.
For her fall tablescapes, Jolley puts a table runner down with five to six feet of garland from a store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and fills it with different things depending on the month or holiday. For instance, after Thanksgiving, she removes turkeys and pumpkins and replaces them with glass ornaments and candlesticks. Then, she removes anything Christmas related, and it becomes a general winter tablescape. Last year, she decided she was going to make it work through Valentine’s Day, so she simply added love-themed dishes.
“It’s all about putting some effort into creating a pretty space that suits your taste. I think the art of entertaining has kind of been lost, and there’s a resurgence of bringing it back. That’s the way I show love to the people around me. Come into my home, let me cook you a good meal and sit you down at a beautiful table,” Jolley said. “I have luncheons for my friends and host birthdays. Sometimes it’s just having four or five of your girlfriends over, setting a pretty table, putting a bottle of wine on the table and making some yummy food for them. What’s better than that?”