Merry in Moderation: Decorating for the holidays with linens to libations

The holidays are almost upon us, and I don’t know about you, but for me, I like to keep things simple, stress-free and efficient. I say it’s about time the entertainer gets to enjoy the festivities, rather than wipe sweat from her brow from start to finish. 

Imagine a dinner setting on a gentle, snowy winter evening. If all were right in your world, what would you see? Do you envision glitz, glam, bling, flashing lights and bedazzle? Or do you find that image a bit disturbing? Although festive decor has its place, I’d like to introduce an approach to your winter wonderland holiday table that’s more refined. Not so much Griswold’ Christmas vacation but more in the direction of old-fashioned good taste. This plan of attack will save precious energy and won’t blind your guests as they sit at the table.


On Your Mark, Get Set

Soft, unexpected colors and subdued place settings are two good examples of the art of merry in moderation. My first rule of thumb is to utilize what you already have on-hand before hitting the marketplace to purchase extravagances. 

One strategy is to employ a clever combination of everyday dishes and collections you may already own. Or, you might even consider raiding the cupboards of your close friends to complete the look. I did! Dolled-up thrift store finds as chargers, white everyday ditties, vintage brown and white transfer ware and sought-after green Depression glass combine to create a lovely look. 

Linens and Side Dishes

There’s just nothing better than luscious linens of the vintage variety during the holidays. Save your paper napkins for picnics. A simple white tablecloth paired with classic white napkins is a natural choice. There are so many things bottlenecking your brain during December so avoid overthinking while setting your table. 

Napkins can be presented in many different ways: simple rolls to simple folds. I chose the fold. This Christmas tree napkin may seem difficult and time consuming, but in in reality it’s as easy as one, two, three. To finish the tree, dress it with a vintage stir stick, a button and a stem from nature. The Depression glass sherbet dishes, crocheted ornaments and outdated electrical pieces are removed from the plates once your guests are seated and employed as personal centerpieces.

Center Stage

In keeping with the rest of the tabletop, I designed a centerpiece with understated elegance. What is intriguing are the unlikely bedfellows in the combination. A “Thoroughly Modern Millie” candleholder is co-mingled with a well-worn primitive and tarnished duo, along with timeless glassware. The trio needs a bit of embellishment to make it pop. What could be better than fresh-picked components from Mother Nature? Take a quick jaunt through the woods and you will find most of what’s essential. Fresh greens, pinecones and other organic gatherings of your choice blended with fruit from the grocery store produce aisle will just about have you covered. If you like, throw in some fresh cuts from your local florist. This approach to holiday arrangements saves money, which is always a welcome surprise around the holidays.

Libation Station

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to offer up a holiday brew, JUNKMARKET Style. As you have come to expect from me, this merry mixture is less than traditional. Let the beverage begin with American Born Moonshine, original flavor. The first step is to infuse your moonshine by mixing one bottle with one cup dried cranberries, orange peels and lemon peels. In a glass container, infuse for at least 24 hours, but not more than one week. When your moonshine is ready, combine 2 cups infused moonshine, 2 cups cranberry juice, 1 cup lemonade concentrate, 1/2 cup Grand Marnier and juice of one fresh lemon. Join all the good stuff together in a pitcher, blend thoroughly, shake it up over ice, strain and garnish with fresh cranberries and orange sections. Before pouring you may want to rim your vintage stemware with sugar. 

This libation shall be now and forever known as the JUNKMARKET “Not-so-Cosmo!” Enjoy, and I wish all of you a joyous holiday season. 

Sue Whitney is a best-selling author, “Better Homes & Gardens” editor, nationally renowned public speaker, founder and owner of JUNKMARKET Style and the nation’s leading expert in the vintage re-design industry. To learn more about Sue visit