Gift Ideas: Holidays

Functional and timeless home products

Holiday parties lend themselves beautifully to buffet-style meals. If you've invited a big crowd, you likely don't have the room to seat everyone simultaneously, and when you've purposely created an event that brings old friends together, why would you want to restrict your guests to speaking only to the diners seated next to them at the table? With a festive atmosphere, dazzling array of dishes and a house full of acquaintances old and new, a holiday party that maximizes mingling and allows self-serve dining only makes sense. With just 15 minutes of pre-planning — preferably a few weeks before your party, so you have time to purchase any equipment you lack — you can follow these steps to set a holiday buffet that is as beautiful as it is functional:

  1. Survey serveware
    Once you know what dishes you plan to serve, inventory your platters, dishes and other serveware, including buffet or plate stands. Mixing textures and colors — decorative metal buffet stands, crisp porcelain bowls, chunky wooden serving utensils — adds visual interest. However, having at least one common theme woven throughout, such as matching buffet stands or a set of identical platters, will lend cohesiveness to keep your display looking casually chic rather than chaotic. Browse our Dining Room Collection.

  2. Pick linens
    Think about the baking and serving pieces you will use. If most are white porcelain, a colorful tablecloth will set them off beautifully. If you are going for rustic, autumnal decor at Thanksgiving, a simple hem-stitch linen runner against a beautiful wood table is the perfect canvas.

  3. Think flow
    For ease of serving, plan to put plates on one end of the table, food in the center, and silverware and napkins at the opposite end. This will allow guests to pick up their plate, have a free hand to fill it with food, and then grab utensils before sitting down. To keep silverware neat, either roll each silverware set into a napkin or use a silverware caddy to keep utensils and napkins organized regardless of how many hands reach for them. Browse our Serving Caddies.

  4. Vary heights
    Platters and dishes laid out in a single layer across the table give the buffet a bake-sale look, but more than that, they make it difficult for guests to see everything offered or serve themselves from a back-row platter without dipping a sleeve in a front-row dish. Elevate back-row dishes on small boxes, placed either under the tablecloth or on it but wrapped in matching linen or, to maximizes table space, is to use buffet stands or tiered plate and bowl stands to attractively display multiple dishes in a small space. Browse our Plate Stands

  5. Decorate thoughtfully
    Flowers, candles, groupings of gourds or pinecones — all add the final festive touch to your buffet table. But be mindful of their placement in relation to food: Don't put flowers where they could shed pollen into a dish, and don't put candles where a guest would have to reach over them for food, causing a fire hazard.

  6. Take notes
    The day before your party, set out all the serving pieces you plan to use. Put a note on top of each indicating which dish it will hold, then lay the appropriate serving utensil next to it. This will ensure you have all the necessary equipment — and space for all the planned dishes — while you still have time to make changes.