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The table is set for New Year

By STEPHANIE ZUBIRI, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 30, 2021 5:00 am

There’s nothing I love more than fixing the finishing touches on my dining table and taking pause to admire how pretty everything looks. I love the anticipation that comes with knowing guests will feel welcome and special — that all this effort was made to welcome them in style.

Setting the table is like setting a scene. One creates a special kind of mood to convey a certain feeling to your guests. Do you want a festive spread? An intimate table? Are you dressing up and being glamorous or is it more laidback and rustic? Either way, a beautiful table is a sign of generosity, a symbol of an open heart and an open home, and an invitation to deepen the bonds of family and friendship over good food and good conversation.

Here we have two incredibly creative women — Aliza Apostol Goco and Michelle Hui Lao — who have made an art out of setting an intentional table.

Aliza Apostol Goco: Classic and timeless

Aliza Apostol Goco, lifestyle content creator, wellness thought leader and entrepreneur, prefers a classic table with natural touches.

Describe your own personal holiday style.

When it comes to holiday style, I always keep it classic.

What do you love most about creating beautiful tables?

Being married to a chef, mealtimes are considered big in our household. With zero house help, Robby is in charge of cooking. He spends a lot of time cooking and while he’s at it, I make sure I create a beautiful setup for the family. It sets everyone’s mood. I personally like seeing pretty things and is it safe to say I enjoy my food more!

Can you share a little more about the inspiration behind the tables you will showcase?

I always try to keep my tablescapes simple. I personally don’t like my table being too busy. On regular days, my centerpieces are always food. I play with different shapes of serving platters that I use down to its shape.

On special occasions like Christmas, I become a little extra. I like investing in classic pieces with a touch of Christmas. With this specific tablescape that I prepared, I used a table throw and table runner for texture and used these artificial eucalyptus as centerpieces. I added holly berries for that pop of color surrounding cute Christmas ornaments and candleholders with different heights.

I also used these gorgeous scallop plates designed by Filipino designer Monique Lhuillier for Pottery Barn. My go-to place for classic pieces would be Pottery Barn. Everything that you see from my table are all from Pottery Barn, which I have collected through the years.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

From the food my husband prepares, or the specific occasion or what is in season. Sometimes it also depends on what I feel and how it will complement my guests and the food.

Is there a difference in your décor when setting up for a smaller, intimate group — let’s say four to six guests — and much larger settings?

Yes. For a smaller group, I usually do sit-down plated meals or family-style so space is limited. For a larger group, I do a buffet setup. This allows me to prepare a beautiful tablescape with nice, clean centerpieces.

Can you share some tips on how to create a beautiful holiday tablescape at home?

Know what food you are serving so you’ll know how to create your table setting. For example, no need for a soup bowl if you are not serving soup. For dinnerware, I suggest you invest in classic designs that can be used multiple times.

White is always a classic! You can always play around with your table napkins as accent or use different themed centerpieces. Be sure to add layers and textures to make it look festive.

For centerpieces, you can use different heights of candleholders. Don’t be afraid to use ornaments to add to your centerpiece. Good to add a touch of red for that holiday pop of color. And, oh, be sure to have fun while you’re at it!

Find Aliza on IG @mustlovemom and @mustlovefinds.

Michelle Hui Lao: Warm elegance

Michelle Hui Lao, fashion and lifestyle consultant and designer, loves the idea of pared-down elegance with a touch of drama.

What does celebrating the New Year mean for you?

To me, a new year always offers chances — a chance to restore broken relationships, a chance to strengthen the resolve to read more books, take more walks, go on that diet; a chance to revitalize a wish that has been gathering dust somewhere between your heart’s desires and your reality; a chance to forge ahead and carve out the life you have always dreamed of, yearned for and imagined; a chance to reflect on what was, what is and what will be; a chance to watch a BTS concert live!

What makes a table festive?

What makes a table festive is the people who sit around it. It is not the bright colors or the fancy decor. It is the joys of stories told, laughter shared and memories made that is the secret sauce to making any table come alive. Humble yet impactful, there’s honesty in its charm; it shines yet it’s not shiny; there’s warmth in every detail, just the right amount of sparkle.

What is it do you love most about creating beautiful tables?

To me, tablescaping is about being able to share a piece of myself with the people I love and care deeply about — people who gather around the table with me. With my table I am saying you are beautiful, you are welcome, you matter to me, you are loved.

Can you share a little more about the inspiration behind the tables you will showcase?

Quite recently my friend, Kitty, sent me a photo of a table decor and I remember the feeling of surrender as I marveled at its beauty. And then I got a message from you about asking me to be part of a four-part series on holiday tablescapes, so I instinctively referred to that photo and created my own take on it.

I wanted to show a Christmas table as I see and feel it from where I find myself at this moment in time. It’s stunning in its simplicity; it’s raw; it reflects light and love; it’s dramatic; it embraces you with its beauty and warmth.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

What inspires me, ultimately, are the people who gather around my table. When setting a table you’re painting a picture, telling a story; and I want the people seated around my table to be able to say, “Thank you for letting me watch, hear, taste and experience this story.”

Is there a difference in your décor when setting up for a smaller, intimate group and much larger settings?

Much like the people who gather around it, each table (big or small) is different. Although I am inclined to favor intimate settings, I find that when decorating on a larger scale I always refer to the core of how I create — my heart and my sincerity.

Can you share some tips on how to create a beautiful holiday tablescape at home?

Decide on a theme, then stage the whole look. Experiment, build, edit, and most importantly, have fun!

Reach Michelle on IG at @michellelao_ and @lightitupsolano.