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5 tips for creating a holiday tablescape |

5 tips for creating a holiday tablescape

If you’re looking for a feast for the eyes, mark your calendars for next weekend’s Holiday Tables event, when some of the area’s most creative hostesses and designers present a collection of 36 tablescapes at Wichita’s Mark Arts.

The exhibit, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 4, marks the 50th anniversary of Holiday Tables. The event started in 1967 at the Wichita Art Association – the predecessor of the Center for the Arts and now Mark Arts – and was sponsored back then by the art center’s Young Patron of the Arts. Today, it’s sponsored by Mark Arts’ Designing Women volunteer group, according to Mark Arts officials.

The tablescapes can serve as inspiration for event-goers to get ideas for decorating their own tables for the holidays or other special events.

For Brigitte Idbeis, who is creating a beach-themed table, decorating for dinner is the best part of a celebration.

“Creating the tablescapes is my favorite part,” said Idbeis. “I like that better than the cooking.”

We asked three designers who are participating in this year’s event to dish up their favorite tips for decorating a table:

1. Start with a theme, a color or even some memories. Janice Zerbe, who has won the top people’s choice award at Holiday Tables for the past three years, has based this year’s table on her favorite color, coral, and her family’s frequent getaways to the California desert, where bougainvillea are plentiful. Large sprays of the colorful flower tumble out of the oversized green ginger jars in the center of her table, while coral glass ornaments are tucked into greenery placed around the centerpieces. Other accessories create connections with her family’s generations, like an ornament perched atop a small green vase that proclaims “Best Grandparent,” the cream-colored coffee cups from her mother’s china set and the crystal pineapple she received as a gift from her children. Idbeis is building her tablescape around a set of her mother’s lobster-design dishes. Last year she went more colorful, using green, purple and yellow place settings to evoke a Mardi Gras celebration.

2. Work from the inside out. “Set up your centerpiece first and work your way from there,” advised Stephanie Talley, who has created tablescapes for residential and corporate clients in the past. For her centerpieces, Zerbe likes to incorporate candles. This year she placed tapered candles in the center and flanked them with the two ginger jars. Sometimes she’s created the opposite design, with candles placed on either side of a center focal point. You can add more elements around your centerpiece or leave it simple.

3. Think outside the box. Last year, Talley built her tablescape, a Hippie Holiday, around her collection of cowbells and used things like slate tiles from a home improvement store as chargers to carry through her theme. Talley, who owns a Dallas store that specializes in antiques and vintage accessories, has used vintage obi sashes in place of a table runner and even a scrunched up woman’s skirt under her centerpiece to embellish her tables. “Good fabric is good fabric,” she said. Zerbe used various ribbons, tacked to the underside of her table, to create a basket-weave outline to her dining table.

4. Scour your house. One trick designers often use when decorating on a budget is to borrow items from different areas of the home. “I think people have lots of things around their house that they don’t think of using,” Talley said. Look at your current décor with an eye toward creating a fresh look with existing items from other rooms in your home.

5. Mix it up. Idbeis likes to use vintage pieces inherited from her mother with new finds. Talley likes to mix high-end dinnerware with dollar-store goblets.

Mark Arts Holiday Tables

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3-Sunday, Nov. 5

Where: Mark Arts, 9112 E. Central

Tickets: $10, no children under 8 years are permitted. Tickets may be purchased online at or at the door. Other separately ticketed exhibition activities include a Girls Night Out event 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov., 2, $35 per person; and a Wine, Dine, Sparkle and Shine Party 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, $75 per person. A mother-daughter tea on Sunday, Nov. 5, has sold out.

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