Trimming the Table

07 Nov 2018

Wilmington designers share their tips for a merry and bright tablescape

By Caroline Gobble     Photos by ERIN WHITTLE and G. FRANK HART

D.M. Dellinger once said, "This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!"    

There is a chill in the air, which means the holidays are upon us! And no matter how or which holiday(s) you celebrate, or none at all, it’s the time of year for gatherings, decorating, and reflecting. Three local businesses and experts in design share their annual tablescapes to help inspire you as you prepare for what Andy Williams deems as “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Rileigh Wilkins, Jo Howell and Lauren Brown
Big Sky Design

Big Sky Design is a full-service licensed interior design company, offering complete commercial and residential interior design services in Wilmington and is owned by Jennifer Kraner. Three of Kraner’s nine, all-female staff members worked on the 2018 tablescape: Rileigh Wilkins, Retail Manager, Jo Howell, Interior Designer and Lauren Brown, Interior Designer.

For the annual holiday tablescape, the team sought to combine classic Christmas with a subtle modern edge.  They paired expected red and silver with stark contrasting black accents, including chargers, napkins, and black votive candles, which added some panache and flair to a classic scheme.

“There's a juxtaposition of design schemes even in the stunning floral centerpiece. Verzaal's Florist used wispy, unruly greenery paired with polished red roses,” explains Kraner. “At Big Sky Design, we encourage our clients to bring their personality into the design of their home or commercial space. We incorporated personality and pattern in the design of this tablescape with black and white Chinoiserie dinner plates, cheetah print napkins, and plaid wine bags.” Each detail in the tablescape adds to the elegant yet modern look for the holidays from red roses to Chinese motifs to cheetah print.

Another important decorating tip from the Big Sky team is to mix patterns like a pro. Wilkins recommends being consistent with one color scheme but using varying scales of prints. “Mixing a large geometric print with a small-scale animal print or polka dot is a foolproof combination. We surrounded a Chinese motif with a geometric plaid and a small-scale cheetah print, all black, white, or red in color,” says Wilkins.

The Chinoiserie plates were the starting point and inspiration for Big Sky’s design. From there, they layered solid black chargers and a red tablecloth to ground the print. A Do-It-Yourself tip to creating a unique look, Jo Howell recommends beginning with an item with personality as your inspiration and build around it.

Another DIY tip is to pick up inexpensive fabrics from local fabric shops to create one of a kind napkins, runners, or tablecloths. “If you want to splurge a little, shop to-the-trade fabrics from your local designers - it doesn't take much fabric to make a serious statement!” says Wilkins. She also recommends being bold and creative in the centerpiece of a holiday table as it is often the focal piece, however, she says to not limit yourself to a central arrangement in a vase. Instead, she says, “let and let creativity run wild, instead weaving greenery through candlesticks or a food presentation.” Most importantly, have fun and think big! 910-793-3992,

Debby Gomulka
Debby Gomulka Designs, LLC

Debby Gomulka Designs, LLC is a full-service design firm that is committed to understanding her client's vision and needs. “The goal of the design team is to provide a dynamic interior space that will reflect the client's individual taste and enhance their lives,” explains Gomulka. Her innate sense graces each project she works on, and holiday decorating projects are no exception!  

Gomulka’s theme and inspiration for her 2018 tablescape is “Glamour and Decadence at the Coast.” Divine decadence and elegance combine to create magical holiday festivities, and this table-scape is truly magical. “The look is inspired by high fashion and the rich, regal tones of Tiffany Blue, sea glass, royal blue, the play on texture, and shine,” says Gomulka. “It creates depth and wonder that stimulate special memories.”

Gomulka combines the simplicity of classic winter white dinner plates with dazzling silver studded chargers, both which are balanced with elements of nature. Delicate mini-wreaths entwined with pine cones highlight the place settings, which is a great way to bring the outside in.  A fantastical winter wonderland scene of treasures from the sea, bold white poinsettias, snowflakes, and sparkling blue sea glass beads highlight the centerpiece, a stunning combination of candles and candleholders. “Dramatic gold mesh travels through the scene to depict a fisherman’s netting from the sea and unexpected drama to the simplicity of the design. The refined periwinkle blue ribbon laced with sparkling snowflakes creates a layer of magic and wonder to each place setting. We’ve included elaborate money-tree sprigs and mystical reindeer, which add a unique focal point,” describes Gomulka.

She also paired rich copper trays with sea glass stones, iridescent beads and rich shades of blue ornaments to create a glamorous and decadent for Christmas by the Sea 2018! She also adds that Rich Copper is the Pantone Color-of-the-Year for 2019!  A DIY tip from Gomulka is to base your own deign theme around your individual style. In this case, her client preferred a sophisticated and chic coastal with a flair for elegance and glamour.

Gomulka also recommends that you focus on texture and finish with splashes of unexpected color to create a trendy yet classic look! For this tablescape, Gomulka worked in multiple textures and colors to accomplish just that. She also adds, “I implemented my client’s beautiful collection of elegant silver and gold candles for the focal point centerpiece, along with a traditional blue fabric table runner that grounds the glamorous design and contributes to the blue-toned them.”

Gomulka also recommends creating a contrast with fancy winter white sparkle and shine design elements mixed with handcrafted Italian pottery dinnerware in pale celadon greens or greys and rustic French table lanterns. Ooh-La-La! 910-352-7339,

Shirley Brex
Nest Fine Gifts

Nest Fine Gift and Interiors is a premier provider of interior design and decorating services for over six years. Monika Williams and Marie Polak lead the team, along with Shirley Brex, the store’s assistant manager and leader of the 2018 holiday tablescape.

According to Brex, “The design inspiration was a winter woodland theme.  We started by featuring Casafina’s “Deer Friends” stoneware, a much loved and best-selling pattern.  This year Casafina introduced a pure white background to the line. We have featured the dinner plates and several serving pieces on our table.”

Nest is known for coastal chic, but also embraces the coziness of winter.  “We have incorporated some of our signature items in the tablescape such as antlers and pheasant feathers, which are used in our giftwrap design and as a part of our nest branding,” says Brex.       Brex describes the centerpiece as being completely handmade from botanical, natural antlers and preserved moss. “The winter swags down the center of the table are lush with forest find such as leaves, berries, acorns, pinecones and antlers.” Additionally, branch candle holders contribute height to the table, adding layers and appeal to the visual interest.  Consistent with the natural theme, she uses antelope spotted placemats layered with grey and white buffalo check chargers. Brex describes these as “this season’s “it” fashion fabric.”

 “What we really like about this table décor is that it can take one through the entire holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving.  Simply adding a few touches of red along with birch snowflake ornaments on the napkins take you right into the Christmas season,” says Brex.

Some DIY tips from the Nest team include thinking outside the box when selecting décor items. Brex suggests filling a vessel with tree ornaments or using them for napkin rings, such as in this particular tablescape. She also recommends laying greenery stems flat down the center of the table to create a runner rather than upright in a vase. The Nest team also suggests showing off your dining table’s wood finish as opposed to using tablecloths, placemats, or chargers. Mixing a table’s wood finish with elements from the outdoors can create a warm, inviting table. Lastly, Brex recommends intermix tableware with holiday pieces to add a touch of whimsy. And of course, candlelight always!  Add a glow and enjoy! 910-256-6378,

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