I’ve always found decorating for the holidays somewhat of a challenge. There are so many decisions to make. This is especially true, at least for me, when I have company coming over, even for just a meal. So, this year I thought I’d challenge myself to just go for it. In the past, I’ve always taken the easy way out by pulling out the fancy china I got for my wedding. While it is pretty, I love the idea of adding more character and interest to my decor. Now I enjoy Pinterest as much as the next person, but it sure has put the pressure on to make things creative and pretty. So, I enlisted the help of my new friend Sera Petras, a local photographer with lots of food styling and photography experience. She definitely has an eye for styling. However, in the past when she’s done photo spreads, there is always a team of people whose job it is to be creative on a daily basis. So, I think it’s safe to say, Sera also felt a little challenged by the idea of doing it all without the style experts. In the end, we were pretty proud of what we accomplished with one shopping trip, and one day of decorating.
Before we get into the details, I should add that I had an ulterior motive as well. I promised to feed Sera delicious food and in return she had to teach me more about how to use my camera and how to use my space. Obviously, as a food blogger, my food pictures are important to me. Both Jessica and I have spent the past year teaching ourselves about ISO, FStop, white balance, food styling, and oh so much more. But, that’s just it, it’s self taught. We’ve done tons of research online, read books, but never had a “mentor.” Having Sera over was a huge confidence booster for me. She gave me little tidbits of information throughout the day, and in the end I felt like I had been to a personalize food photography class. While I know this post will be helpful to just about anyone who is trying to think through their holiday table spread, I also realize that there are definitely lots of things I’ve learned in the process that would super helpful to our fellow food bloggers. We know you all visit and read our stuff, because we visit and read yours! (Love it, BTW) So, that being said, I am excited to announce that as part of the partnership between MCK and Sera Petras Photography we are in the beginning stages of planning a collaborative project to provide simple, easy to follow food photography tips and tricks for food bloggers. If you read our blog often enough, you know that Jessica and I collaborate on more than just MCK, we also have a company called Training4Good, where we create custom curriculum and instructional material. We are excited to pair our training skills and expertise with Sera’s photography expertise to create something terrific. We’ll keep you posted on the ETA for that!
When Sera and I set out to tackle this day of festive fun, we had no idea where to start. We knew we wanted to work together. That meant, I would cook and she would photograph. We set the date and then created a secret Pinterest board to help us find some inspiration. Then it just kind of hit a brick wall. I didn’t have a big budget for decor, and knew we’d have to get creative, literally and figuratively! We ended up spending one late afternoon together (the day before the shoot!) and threw a bunch of stuff in a shopping cart that we thought would look good together. But, we’ll look more at the shopping in a bit…
There are three reasons why we decided to take on this challenge. First, we just really like each other and were excited about working together. Second, we wanted to begin a partnership between our two businesses, My Clean Kitchen and Sera Petras Photography. Third, and most important we wanted to provide the MCK readers with a festive, informative and yummy post for the holidays. Our goal was to create something beautiful but attainable. Over the next few paragraphs, I’m going to talk a little about how we accomplished it.
Interested in seeing the full photo spread? Click here.
I’ll start by saying, 80% of what you see in the pictures was purchased at either Target or Michael’s. Yep, that’s right folks, Target! Below the picture a breakdown of what is on the table (besides the food). I am not trying to sell you anything here, I’m simply showing you that you don’t have to spend a fortunate to have a beautiful table.
- Blue Plates and Bowls – Target (Threshold Wellsbridge Dinnerware – Aqua)
- Copper Charger – Pier 1 (I recieved these as a gift last Christmas)
- Stemless Wine Glasses – Target (Reidel Stemless Wineglasses)
- Tall Glass Etched Glasses – These are mine, inherited from a relative.
- Gold Platter – Target (Threshold Gold Hammer Platter)
- White Platter with Metallic Trim – Target (Threshold White Serve Plate with Metallic Trim)
- White Bowl with Metallic Trip – Target (Threshhold White Serve Bowl with Metallic Trip)
- Gold Dip Bowls – Target (Threshold Porcelain Dip Bowl, Gold)
- Gold Pine Cones – Target
- Gold Tree – Target (Threshold Gold Bottle Brush Table Top Christmas Tree)
- Gold Napkins – Target
- Blue Napkins – Target
- Tablecloth – Target
- Silver Flatware – This is mine, it’s a family set.
- All the Gold Candles – Michael’s Crafts
- Ribbon and Embelishments – Michael’s Crafts
- Wreaths on the Back of the Chairs – Michael’s Crafts
- Silver Candlesticks and Salt and Pepper Shakers – These are mine, inherited from a relative.
As you can see, most of what we purchased was from Target and Michaels, I also raided my own stash of tableware for some items, like the stemware, silverware and candlesticks. We were able to put something together in 1 day that looked beautiful. The trick was to keep it simple, but add those extra touches to make it pop. For example, the gold pine cones placed around the table to add depth and interest.
Here are a few tips we learned from the process;
Find the Inspiration Piece(s)
We started by finding a few inspiration pieces. In this case, it was the table cloth and the blue plates. I guess you could toss in the serendipitous copper chargers, which just happen to fit the plates perfectly. But we did not plan that part! It just worked out.
Keep the Menu in Mind
As we were shopping and making decisions we had the menu in mind. We knew we wanted to highlight the Brussel Sprout Slaw, because it is so bright and beautiful. So, the gold platter worked perfectly. And, the rectangle shape added interest. Also, with the mashed sweet potatoes, we knew they’d be beautiful in the blue bowls. Additionally, we knew we’d want to highlight the Cranberry Apple Chutney (for obvious reasons, its gorgrous), and also the amazing Prime Rib Roast (recipe coming soon). So we searched for a serving platter and bowl that would showcase the food.
Accessorize, but Not Too Much
We went a little overboard on accessory purchases and ended up taking a lot of things back. Which ended up working out fine, as the table was getting overloaded. Our lesson, when shopping, be careful not to overload the table with too many accessories. Be sure to plan out where you will put each serving dish. I actually invited my parents over to eat after we were done shooting so we could see how the table functioned. Of course they are biased, and I was feeding them, but they said it was a great table.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix & Match, Trust Your Gut
We didn’t get it all from one section, we walked all over those stores looking for items that complemented each other. In the end, we were even able to incorporate some items from my own cabinets. Don’t be afraid to mix and match the decor and serving pieces. They don’t all have to match. Pair a $20 serving dish with your Waterford Serving Platter – it’ll look great! If you are going down the path of a particular color scheme or theme, go with it, and trust your gut. If you just love those gold pine cones, work them into the table. They will be great and definitely a conversation piece.
Now for the Food
Of course, this is a food blog, so we have to talk at least a little bit about the food. Here is a breakdown of our menu for the day
Main Course: Prime Rib Roast
Dessert: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macarroons
Feast Your Eyes on these Amazing Photos
To see the full photo spread, click here.