Create a Coastal-Chic Holiday Table

Turn your beach vacation finds into a shell-themed Christmas table setting.

Bring the Beach to Christmas

Breezy fabrics, woven textures and seashells work surprisingly well with evergreens, mercury glass and elegant china. With seashells available in craft stores year round, you don't have to live by the seaside to use beach inspired decor when the holidays roll around. Add in favorite pieces beach vacation finds to give the table a personal touch.

A Fresh Start

A piece of loosely-woven, almost-sheer fabric provides a fresh and textural backdrop for this table setting. To keep things simple and casual, leave edges raw and allow them to fray slightly. Use fresh evergreen branches in place of a runner and sprinkle small shells and sand dollars randomly over them.

Where "Shell" You Sit?

Place cards are a great way to make guests feel welcome and special. Create a beachy version by writing each name on the inside of a clam shell with a metallic permanent marker. Rest it on a small evergreen sprig or a colorful napkin — you want to make it stand out. Allow guests to take it home as a small favor. Tip: Leave a blank shell and marker for each guest, so they can embellish it or write a holiday greeting to the host.

A Subtle Theme

Woven textures like rattan and grass cloth reinforce the beach feel of the table in a subtle way. Look for placemats, chargers, napkin rings or serving baskets in these natural, woven materials. Pieces like this can then be used in for future occasions, since they are not specifically beach-or-Christmas-themed.

Center of Attention

A centerpiece doesn't have to be a fussy (and expensive) floral arrangement. Fill a large shell, basket or silver bowl with mercury glass ornaments, sprigs of fresh greenery and some loosely-looped lengths of burlap ribbon. An arrangement like this is low, so guests can see over it to converse while eating.

Forget Flowers

Instead of messing with arrangements you have to water, create bouquets of conch shells. Start with a low, wide-mouthed vessel, like a large sugar jar. Fill perimeter with sprigs of greenery and then arrange 3-5 conch shells in the center.

Create Drama

Don't forget to deck out the chandelier for the occasion. Simply weave evergreen branches through the chandelier arms, wrap loosely with burlap ribbons and tuck in a few starfish. Tie loose branches with twine or florist wire to secure. Hang mercury glass Christmas balls from lengths of twine to reflect light and add a little sparkle. Tip: Always keep greenery away from bulbs for safety.

Tie it Together

Allowing some pieces of burlap ribbon to hang from the chandelier at varying lengths is a simple way to relate decorations in the chandelier with those on the table. Small touches like this tie everything together for greater visual impact.

Fuller is Better

When it comes to table settings, fuller is better! A sparse table can look stark and uninviting. Use greenery and shells to create a feast for the eyes. Set up food and extra beverages on a buffet or side table.

Shell Searching

Keep scale, color and texture in mind when gathering shells to decorate a beach-themed table. Find a good mix of large and small, rough and smooth and varying shades of white, neutrals and brown. Don't stop the search at shells, though; smooth stones, glass fishing floats and netting would all look right at home here.

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