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How to decorate your holiday table with a subtle, modern look

There are many reasons to take a subtle, modern approach to decking out the dinner table this Christmas.

For one thing, a palette of neutrals won't clash with the hideously kitschy, regrettably trendy, aptly called "ugly Christmas" sweaters that people are wearing these days. Rudolph, Santa and giant snowflakes emblazoned on an eighties-style knit imbue a room with more than adequate cheer.

For another, a mix of creams and beiges, with a hint of gold or silver, is both festive and inclusive, creating a cheerful holiday atmosphere without alienating any non-Christian guests. A manger-as-centrepiece or Jesus-fish napkin rings, on the other hand, might not feel as open and inclusive.

Most pragmatically, having a versatile table setting is economical. It's easier to recycle the holiday plates, candlesticks and name cards at Easter and Thanksgiving if they aren't covered in red, white and green. That means that instead of seasonal decor, more money can be spent on the truly important things. The presents.

The trivet

Japanese designer Masanori Oji’s shimmering trivet is ethereal and halo-like. It’s also practical. The disc is cast in solid, corrosion-resistant brass to prevent the bottom of the pan from scorching the dining-room table. Over time, the finish develops a rich patina. $88. Through

The centrepiece

Massachusetts-based Molly Hatch is both a ceramicist and an illustrator. She employs both skills charmingly with her Town Square sculpture series. When arranged together, the Old World stoneware buildings would make a whimsical centrepiece. From $24. Through

The placecards

When a bow of birch crashed down into Sofie Sausser’s backyard, the California-based designer was more inspired than irked. She started cutting up the wood to use as home decor such as cake stands and ornaments. She continues to source birch from local tree trimmers to make these rough but ritzy placecards. $40. Through

The lighting

As a sculptural stand-in for the three wise men, how about three white candlesticks? The cinched gold bands add a festive glow. The abstracted forms and the neutral colour mean they can be re-used for holidays throughout the year. $225 (U.S.) for the set. Through

The platter

New York designer Anna Rabinowicz loves to use luxurious stones for her colourful home creations. For a glitzy serving platter, she rims a thick slice of polished Brazilian agate with a band of sterling silver. The veins of the rock are almost too pretty to top with caviar and crackers. $280 (U.S.). Through

The serving dish

West Elm’s hand-painted Dip bowls are made in collaboration with Potter’s Workshop, a collective of ceramicists based in Cape Town, South Africa, known for their colourful patterning. The red creates a Christmasy pop. The blue and back dots mean the stoneware is suitable for everyday use as well. $5.50 each. Through
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