Evergreen sprigs bearing a conversation-starter top each placesetting on a Christmas table designed by Vickie Williams of Vickie's House to Home interior design service.
Evergreen sprigs bearing a conversation-starter top each placesetting on a Christmas table designed by Vickie Williams of Vickie's House to Home interior design service. (photo by Jen Rynda)

Howard Magazine is getting into the holiday spirit. We asked three Howard County interior designers to offer inspiration and tips for dining room decor. What resulted is a feast for the eyes. Better yet, these Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas looks are easy to recreate.

See the accompanying photo gallery for pictures of each holiday design.



Jill Valeri, owner of The Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, capitalized on warm autumnal tones to create a friendly Thanksgiving table.


"I don't believe in having a stiff and formal dining room because that's just not how we live and that's not how most people live," she says of her design, which she calls "modern traditional."

Valeri also believes a room -- and the pieces in it -- can tell a story.

"Whenever I have someone say they're starting with a blank slate, starting from scratch, I'm slightly disappointed. I like to incorporate an emotional connection -- what's meaningful to them, their heritage, their travels."

The small mercury candleholders, for instance, were her great-grandmother's Shabbat candles. "I like to have the sense of tradition -- the references to the past," she says.

Valeri used a trio of table runners, and laid them across the width of the table, for a look that exposes more of the wood table, while still protecting it. A centerpiece basket of mixed pumpkins, gourds and pine cones is simple to put together.

When it comes to shopping for holiday decor, Valeri says she has found just as many treasures and bargains at drug stores like Rite Aid as she has at craft stores like Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft and Michaels and discount stores like Walmart. "Don't rule out anyplace as a source for home decor. You'd be surprised," she says. "I'm not a snob when it comes to buying things for my house."

Valeri offers these tips:
* Leaves from the yard or small gourds can fill in as place cards, woven through the chandelier, or can be scattered along the center of the table as an earthy runner.
* The pumpkin-shaped covered soup bowls, green tumblers, place mats and runners came from Pier 1 Imports.
* The large mercury glass candleholders, lotus candleholders and silver tiered dessert tray came from Shoemaker Country in Ellicott City.
* Use invisible string to suspend wreaths and other decorations for a cleaner look.
* Add depth and layers to your design by mixing items of various heights and shapes.
* For a different look, consider leaning framed art or mirrors against the wall instead of hanging them.
* The chicken roosting on the sideboard was borrowed from a friend. "I think every room needs to have a little bit of whimsy. It can't be too serious. Every room needs something that makes you smile."

About Jill Valeri:
The Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions


Hanukkah is the festival of lights, so designer JoAnn Berkoff sought to make her table sparkle with a festive spirit and elegance.

"It's a festival, a celebration time. I wanted the whole table to reflect that, not just the menorah," says Berkoff, owner of Finishing Touches Design Service. Her goal, she says, is to create a space that "makes guests feel special."

The focal point for a Hanukkah gathering is the menorah, and Berkoff found one that was both beautiful and symbolic: the Tree of Life Menorah, $150 at ZYZYX! Peace-Love-Shop in Baltimore.

Each place setting is accented by dreidels, a traditional Jewish toy adorned with Hebrew letters, and gelt, which are foil-wrapped chocolate coins.

Cookies shaped like the Star of David were baked by Berkoff's daughter Brittney Brengel and shipped from her home in Colorado.

"Start with what you have first: your tablecloth, your crystal, your dishes. Then the table starts to come together," she says.

Berkoff offers these tips:
* Place a tablecloth on a diagonal for a different look.
* Tableware passed down through the family makes a special touch. "This silverware graced many, many Jewish holiday dinners. It's special," Berkoff says of silverware from her mother-in-law.
* The lighted pearl branches (from Marshalls) are layered with pine clippings from the yard. "Anybody has great things in their yard," Berkoff says. "Greens, flowers, berries -- they enhance without adding cost."
* Easy and inexpensive touches like ribbon and raffia add texture and color. "I love detail -- all the little details of putting a design together."
* The royal blue napkins came from Home Goods; the cobalt wine glasses were ordered on Amazon.com; and the silver beaded place mats and napkin rings are from Pier 1 Imports.
* Affordable holiday decor can be found at many stores and websites including Target, Marshalls, Home Goods, T.J.Maxx, Overstock.com and Amazon.com.

About JoAnn Berkoff:
Finishing Touches Design Service Inc.


Vickie Williams, owner of Vickie's House to Home interior design service, sums up her Christmas decor as "nature marries simple elegance."

Williams, who was assisted in the design by Karyn Borth, says her goal is to appeal to the senses through the glitz of the decor, the use of background music and the smell of evergreen from a scented candle.

"It's always important when you plan something to think of the senses," Williams says. "You want to make people linger."

The stars of this design all happened to cost just $4. Three arborvitae plants from Home Depot bring a natural element into the room and can be used throughout the season, then planted in the spring.

Pulling together the look is the gold and white mesh material used in the centerpiece, chandelier and tree. It's called Dazzle Drape and is available in a variety of colors for about $4 at Hobby Lobby, Michaels and other craft stores. "It's really magical stuff," says Borth. "It dresses up something that's normally plain."

Williams offers these tips:
* Limit your expenses by using items already in your home first, then purchase a few special touches. "It's not about going out and buying a lot of things," she says. "Not everything is matchy-matchy. That's the beauty of it: Don't worry, be creative."
* Each place setting is topped with a small scroll of paper tied to an evergreen sprig. Inside is an "icebreaker," a question or conversation starter. Perhaps ask guests to recount a favorite family memory or a goal for the coming year.
* Adding a Christmas tree to the dining room (even if it's not the main holiday tree) makes the room more inviting as a gathering spot.
* Don't overlook the chandelier. It can easily be dressed up by weaving a garland through it or hanging ornaments from it.
* Fill vases and goblets with ornaments or artificial snow for a pop of color.

About Vickie Williams:
Vickie's House to Home