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Holiday Decorating 101 with Designer Kelly Deck

The Vancouver designer shares her tips and shows us two inspirational tablescape looks you can try at home.

kelly deck designer
Vancouver designer Kelly Deck takes a seat at one of her two tablescapes.

Is there anyone more qualified to help you plan holiday table looks than Vancouver design queen Kelly Deck?

The style maven created two distinct looks to inspire your holiday tables this season. One look showcases the classic colours of Christmas with dark accents and drama, while the other was a bright Scandi-brunch with succulents, ample whites and pops of gold.

For each tablescape Deck incorporated a mix of high and low price-point items, and showed us how easily you can style your own at home.

holiday table
The designer set up two holiday tablescapes: one a sultry, red-forward, formal holiday dinner; the other a more playful Scandi-style brunch look with lots of white and hits of gold.

1. Choose one look. One thing she always tells people is to choose one look that you love and stick with it—adding and taking away items for the different times of the day to set the mood for a bright brunch or more formal dinner party.

mug pc selects
Deck loved the President’s Choice knit print mug and tea pot and used this as a jumping off point when creating her Scandinavian-style holiday look.

2. Start with an inspirational piece. The finished product may look daunting, but the designer found one or two items she loved for each table and built the whole look around them. In the case of the sultry, red-forward tabletop, Deck focused on a wooden charger (you can get two of these for under $10 says Deck) and a black woven placemat. For the white tablescape, she started with the knitwear tea pot and mug from the President’s Choice home collection. She said she typically wouldn’t use a knit-print piece for everyday use, but it’s a fun and playful option for Christmas.

red holiday table
Deck built her sultry Christmas tablescape around this President’s Choice wooden charger and black woven placemat, and mixed in high and low price-point options to fill out the rest of the look.

3. Ground red with earthy tones. The Vancouver designer, famous for her soft palettes of white and grey, admitted she’s often intimidated by the bold hue. “Red and I have a love-hate relationship with one another,” says Deck, “but for Christmas it’s so perfect.” When she does work with red, she loves to ground it with earthy tones, like this wooden charger.

plants holiday
The designer says when choosing florals, go really low or really high, so guests can see each other from across the table.

4. Place centrepieces and florals at the right height. When making floral arrangements, Deck says to go really high or really low and avoid the middle so there isn’t a visual obstruction between guests across the table. You want people to be able to socialize! On the white tablescape you can see Deck has gone with a low floral centrepiece to keep sightlines clear. On the red table, Deck went the other direction, making sure vases were extra tall.

You could do one vase or several for added drama.
You could do one vase for a more casual look, or several for added drama.

5. A lower-maintenance vase option: Take the berries from this arrangement and put them in a tall vase and add some rocks. “It will last you for two weeks during Christmas—it’s going to look fantastic.” Designer Tip: Deck says the best place to get affordable rocks is from the pet store because they’re used in fish tanks.

kelly deck holiday tablescape

6. Pro Tip: “Try it until it looks good.” People always ask the Vancouver designer how to create their own tablescape. “The rules are: try it until it looks good. That’s the rule,” explains Deck. “Buy a lot of stuff, or pull out a lot of stuff and try it until it looks good and strip everything else away. That’s how professional stylists do it. They don’t show up at the perfect setting, they show up with options. Don’t be scared to just layer and play.”

present kelly deck
These pompoms were handmade by the designer and her team.

7. Make the place setting special. “I don’t like Christmas crackers, I don’t want to wear the dorky hat,” says the designer. Instead she always does a customized gift as a place-marker.”There are lots of different cute ways to do it, so we just picked some boxes at the local craft store, some cute ribbon, and then I’ll pop in chocolates, or Christmas ornaments—something not too expensive—but a nice takeaway as a gift for your guests. And you can do that for brunch or for dinner.”

8. Kelly Deck’s budget-saving tips: When buying florals, choose one that lasts, like eucalyptus (one of her go-tos) or berries, or something that dries looking great, suggests the designer. “Then you only have to buy one bundle for the entire season and it will continue to look really great.” Another cost-effective tip: invest in beautiful plateware that you love and “are proud to put on the table,” she says. With a quality set you can mix things up easily by adding vintage or inexpensive finds for that personal touch.  

holiday tree kelly deck

9. Decorate your tree in layers. Working from the inside out, evenly distribute one type of ornament (for example, polar bears), all around the tree. Then do the same with the next ornament, and so on. Layering will give you that “gorgeous, overflowing tree look,” says Deck—and in her opinion there’s no such thing as too many lights. Small tree doesn’t equal small ornaments. Small on small can end up looking “too precious,” explains Deck, who mixes small-and regular-sized ornaments on her own apartment-sized tree.

10. Always include something handcrafted. “I like the handmade touch, everyone knows that about me.” The designer says she likes to mix high-priced pieces with lots of stuff in the middle, plus something handmade and so personal you can only see it at your house—“because that’s what creates memories.”

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