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3 Easy Steps to Make a Beautiful, Inexpensive, Utterly Original Christmas Tablescape

So pretty, so easy, and so on-budget.

At Thanksgiving, interior designer Joanna Carden let us in on a little secret: you don’t need to drop a bundle on flowers to have a Instagram-worthy centerpiece. Instead, some simple greens and seasonal fruit, artfully laid down the center of the table, will fill your dining room with fresh scents and provide a beautiful alternative.

For Christmas, “I wanted to create a warm-toned table, while adding interesting and textural accents in keeping with my personal style—aka, simple and neutral,” Carden says. So she took some easy-to-find, holiday-appropriate, and on-budget materials like pine branches, walnuts, and elegant taper candles and assembled them into a fuss-free, fresh-smelling holiday tabelscape. Here’s how she did it:

1. Create a Base

“The base of everything was the jute table runner underneath the garland,” Carden explains. “Usually I love to have the garland waterfalling off the ends of the table, but people were sitting there—how inconvenient, I know. So, this time I circled the ends of the garland back around and tucked them underneath for an organic look.”

2. Add Height

“When I add candlestick holders, I like to place the taller pieces first and close to the center to act as a visual base. Then I’ll scatter the medium-sized holders throughout the table, tapering off with the shortest ones near the edge of the runner. Placing a few votives on the edge of the runner, closer to the place settings, maintains a nice glow the whole way down the table but keeps the candles from forming a visual barrier for guests on either side.”

3. Build Visual Interest

“Next,” Carden explains, “I placed the pears, figs, and whole walnuts. Just like with the candles, I wanted to mix sizes and textures. So, the halved pears were paired with whole pears or figs, and the halved figs were paired with whole pears—there’s a nursery rhyme in there somewhere. I also added some depth by placing the figs and walnuts on top of each other or at an angle. Finally, I scattered the rest of the walnuts throughout the table runner and trickled them into the place settings.”

4. Voila!

A beautiful, organic tablescape!

Design & Style Editor

Hillary writes about interiors, real estate, arts, and culture. She is the former digital media editor of The New Republic, and her work has also been published in Glamour, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post, among others. You can follow her on Instagram @hillarylouisekelly or on Pinterest @hlkelly.