We asked nine women to share with PhilSTAR L!fe their holiday table settings and they gave us inspiration for the entire year, for whatever occasion.
Interior designers Chat Fores, Cyndi Fernandez-Beltran and Cynthia Almario, magazine editor Joanne Rae Ramirez, home store proprietors Kaye Tinga, Millet Liberato-Simeon and Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay, and food entrepreneurs Grace Barbers-Baja and Monica Guevara-Dela Cruz are hostesses that delight in putting together gorgeous tables for family and friends.
Yes, COVID-19 is preventing the usual big holiday gatherings that we Pinoys love to have, but even when we celebrate with just members of our household and close family, it shouldn’t stop us from having fun in the dining room.
Like the best outfits that mix off the rack and designer pieces, these tables use what’s readily available in your garden and in flower markets, accessories picked from travels, mix-matched dinnerware. And details we simply adore—like Grace’s miniature upholstered chairs and Monica’s coated wire reindeer for placeholders, and Millet’s napkin rings.
The holidays have always been a time for family and we celebrate the occasion with these tables made with love.
Chat Fores, designer, Chat Fores Design Studio
Chat is one of the quirkiest and most lovable designers I know. Just look at her amusing and sexy “butt” chair! That’s a Fabio Novembre design from Cartel.
At a Philippine STAR webinar a couple of months ago, she revealed that during the strictest lockdowns, she would actually dress up and put on accessories and makeup to go to her design studio—which is just across the street from her house. And on her table she uses those same accessories as decor.
These are her favorite “broken” Seletti plates (she doesn’t like matching items), while the other pieces were given to her as wedding presents years ago.
“Since the food also doesn’t have too much color, the plates are enough to liven it up.”
Chat sticks to an oriental theme and uses everything she has in the house—from the vegetables in her refrigerator to garden planters, books and trays to layer, rechargeable lamps from Bellhop Flos, and some of her chunky jewellery as napkin holders.
“I found some leeks to serve as my leafy arrangements, while the fruits gave the color. Since my tableware is already funky and colorful, I don't really need much fanfare with other accessories.”
Visit Chat Fores Design Studio here.
Cyndi Fernandez-Beltran, designer, Moss Design House
Cyndi is the woman behind Moss Manila, a design studio that’s responsible for designing some of the most glamorous events and interiors in the metro.
We can recreate this color scheme using our own stuff. But for her own black-and-gold modern art deco setting, she used baby’s breath and calla lillies in gold brass vessels. Her tablescape features plates by Christian Lacroix, and brass antlers and candleholders.
The red and white wine glasses are by RCA; costers are made from raw black agate stones, and table napkins from Moss Home.
Cyndi’s other baby is Moss Manila Home, which she co-owns with her California-based sister Happy Fernandez-Victorino. The store is known for its glamorous, eclectic and feminine pieces as they source from all over the world—not just the usual design-centric cities.
“Wanderlust is their primary source of information and life-long muse,” according to their website. “Moss Manila Home’s inspiration comes from art, nature, and traveling to interesting places that play with one’s curiosities. Along with luxe home decor from around the globe, they create exclusively designed furniture featuring contemporary maximalism aesthetics, depicting the stark contrast of modern details and timeless forms.”
With the yellow light from the candles, this bunch of baby's breath looks even more beautiful.
Visit Moss Design House here.
Cynthia Almario, designer, Atelier Almario
As a writer covering design and architecture, I’ve seen Cynthia’s work all over the country—in private homes, resorts and restaurants—and admire every single one of them.
More than that, I worked with her on a personal project some years ago and saw firsthand the joy she infuses in her work and in people’s spaces. She has an infectious laughter too, which makes the stressful time of doing one’s interiors joyful.
For her Christmas table, Cynthia combines pine green and winter white—with the cutest teddy bears playing musical instruments.
Look at the detail on the bear’s paw—an emroidered musical note!
Cynthia loves putting together dramatic, opulent, modern spaces that mix styles and eras. She loves Hollywood Regency style, mixing bold colors with metallic and glass accents.
Abundant cyrpress branches give the dining room a Christmas scent, while white on green makes for a chic and clean decor. Pine cones and tea lights are spread across the table.
Visit Atelier Almario here.
Grace Barbers-Baja, owner, Taste by Grace/The Spoiled Mummy blog
Grace is a natural at hosting. She loves building grazing tables for friends and family, and so it was natural for her to create a blog, The Spoiled Mummy, which began in 2012. TSM later expanded to Taste by Grace, a line of bottled food products, and Gatherings by Grace or events that she hosts.
Isn't this the cutest placeholder ever?
“I love preparing food for my friends,” she told me in a previous interview. “I usually put a grazing table in the living room, dining room or kitchen—it really depends on my mood and the guest list.”
Her home has two dining rooms, which can accommodate a maximum of 22 guests, but with the COVID lockdowns it’s been more about intimate meals for the Baja family .
“The main thing that binds us together is food. So when I created the food line it was like going full circle — from being a blogger sharing her love of food to a businesswoman selling food. When I launched Taste, people said, you should have done that long ago!”
Visit The Spoiled Mummy here.
Joanne Rae Ramirez, editor, ‘PeopleAsia’
A few months ago, Joanne and I were chatting about her tablescapes, which she had been posting on Instagram. She said the lockdown gave her what her career as a journalist never allowed all these years—the time to be a “housewife,” as she’s working from home like everyone else.
She creates beautiful tablescapes even for everyday meals using dinnerware from her travels and from family and friends.
This table combines American Thanksgiving and Christmas. “I cobbled a ‘harvest’ theme for my table. The pumpkin, said to be a symbol of harvest and rebirth, was the star of my table. In Cinderella, a pumpkin is the vehicle to a young lady’s fairytale night. In real life, a pumpkin is your everyday dream. Why not harvest dreams?”
She likes making tables as an expression of art and affection, and her husband calls her “La Mesa Dame.”
“On our wedding anniversary this year, I asked my husband Ed to give me lots of roses, red roses, and specified that they not be arranged in bouquets. Well, he gifted me with dozens of roses with which I created my own rose garden over a Burano lace tablecloth. To complement the roses, I used bone china from Royal Albert with the ‘Old Country Roses’ pattern on it.
“Marriage may not be a bed of roses, but you can make it rosy. And yes, don’t forget to snip the thorns.”
Visit PeopleAsia here.
Kaye Tinga, owner, W17
Kaye is a purveyor of good taste and refinement with her home store W17, which she founded eight years ago with Andy Vazquez Prada. She’s also an indefatigable fundraiser for the Red Cross for the last 10 years.
She told me earlier this year that she has one constant advice to W17’s clients: “It’s okay to not fill up your interiors. I always like it to be just enough or a little less, it’s better na kulang than sobra.”
But for this one, she treats us to a table laden with beautiful things.
Kaye loves the sourcing part of being a retailer and she uses a simple test when deciding what to buy for W17. “What we put in the store has to be something that we’re willing to put in our own home. If no one buys it, we should be proud to have in our home.”
That hardly happens as the items in W17 are all gorgeous and almost always sold out.
For this table Kaye used Candle Mercury pillar, hurricane lamp with platinum base, Novas pitcher in gray, Rossini chair by Sika design, napkin rings by Kim Seybert, Caldas glass collection, Gouche dining collection by W17, and artichoke tea lights.
Visit W17 here.
Millet Liberato-Simeon, owner, M Maison Manila
Millet’s passion for decorating tables and collecting plates led her to start M Maison Manila during the lockdown. It’s an online home store that offers a curated collection of curios—plates, goblets, placemats—to spice up your table.
Though she likes bringing in stylish and global-style pieces, she also loves mixing things on her tables. You’ll find her blue-and-whites mixed with ceramic chargers or native designs such as placemats made from bangkuan grass in Bicol.
“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love,” Millet says.
Her collections are named after her fave places—Portugal, Morroco, Seoul, and cities that have the best Christmas markets in Europe.
All-year-round plates with Christmas motifs in the accessories.
Visit M Maison Manla here.
Monica Guevara-Dela Cruz, owner, Your Bread and Butter
The woman behind the online bakeshop Bread and Butter, Monica makes artisanal breads, tarts, pastries and bespoke celebration cakes, which she learned at Enderun College. She also finished a diploma course on pastry art under French chef Leti Moreau.
She puts the same care making tablescapes as she does her bread. “A beautiful table is one way to brighten up the holidays,” Monica says. “I see to it that I do a tablescape for my family when we eat. I love simple decorating ideas that embrace a ‘welcoming home’ atmosphere.
Monica says there are some things that can be done in just 10 minutes to turn the mundane to magical.
“Sometimes I just get leaves in my garden and add them to flowers that I buy from my supplier. I like to say that I got my artistic touch from my mom—she taught me how to tablescape when I was young and now I love doing it.”
“One tip for holiday decorating: Give it all your love and try to do it all yourself. If you feel like you're not artistic, just practice and you will create wonders.”
Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay, owner, Casa Bella/Fig & Vine
A simple Christmas tablescape is made special with these Fig & Vine mini trees decorated with fresh pinecones and bright red atsuetes.
“You immediately bring in that yuletide spirit to this otherwise simple dining setup for 10,” Stephanie says. And your table will be filled with that fresh pine smell that everyone loves.
The mini tree with red trimmings is F&G’s bestselling Stella, while a more masculine one with blue mini berries and two-toned pinecones is called Angelo.
Classic holiday trimmings surround Stephanie, her son and her schnoodle, a schnauzer and poodle mix.
Banner images, clockwise from top left: Detail from Cynthia Almario’s table setting, Chat Fores' dining room, Millet Liberato-Simeon's M Maison Manila dinnerware, placeholder from Grace Barbers-Baja’s table setting.