Make a meal to remember with a well-dressed table or buffet this Christmas. Apply the same creativity and panache you dedicate to your tree to the table for an impressive start to any meal. Imagine a brightly painted watering bucket filled with fresh cut juniper from the bush outside your door as a centerpiece? Or a simple crystal vase filled with red roses and spruce. What about a nutcracker guarding each dinner plate? The best thing is, you can create an amazing presentation with any budget, whether you're using exquisite heirloom china and crystal or your everyday dishes decked out for the holidays. Creativity is the key here, so put on your thinking cap to come up with some unforgettable ideas!

Tips for Table Linens

Christmas tablecloths are not required. Try washable Christmas quilts, the amazing colors of felt available, or yards of fabric in Christmas motifs or plaids, stripes, taffeta or even stars. Pick up plain napkins wherever you see them, then dress them up with a holiday bow or imaginative napkin ring to make them special! I love when I am able to locate candy canes shaped into a circle, perfect and edible napkin rings! How sweet!

When readying table linens for the celebration dinner, whatever you choose to use, iron them several days before. This not only gives you some quiet time with an iron-yes an iron, a little music and a cup of hot Joe, but it allows the linens to dry completely. This gives you a fresh, crisp canvas as a starting place for your well-dressed table. Prep cloth napkins by ironing and hanging them on a pants hanger for a crisp, crisp, crisp look!

Mix-and-Match Dinnerware

Setting the table for an elegant Christmas dinner does not need to break the bank. It is very chic in tabletop to blend different patterns and types of dinnerware right now. In the tablescape shown here, I started with a classic china dinner plate of ivory with a gold band and then layered a plaid ceramic JC Penney luncheon plate over it. It is the idea of combining different dinnerware pieces that makes the table take on that elegant allure! To complete the look, a large-scale Santa pitcher filled with both real juniper berry branches combined with faux spruce and berry branches takes center stage, anchored by a pair of tall brass hurricanes for dramatic lighting. Napkins are tied with opulent plaid ribbon with candy canes tucked inside for a touch of whimsy. The ruby water glasses look regal, but I picked them up at a Target after-holiday sale for $1 a piece years ago.

A Beautiful Buffet

Let's take a look at creativity in action with a buffet staged on a dining room table or island. If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of the buffet because it gives you the chance to be a bit more relaxed and maybe even fanciful in your approach. So, imagine you're hosting a dinner for 12. But oops, you only have eight dinner plates. Here is where the merriment begins! Borrow four dinner plates or make a visit to an antique mall (such as the Pigeon's Roost), where you're sure to find four more plates that will work well with your dishes. Suddenly, sweetie, you have service for 12! Don't forget to look for some additional dinnerware to add as well. Perhaps a wonderful butter dish with a cover, salad plates, or even a charming platter that works will with your new "combination" dinnerware. Oh you are so chic and savvy!

Now, just for grins, let's say you are designing a buffet suited to Santa and his elves, jingle bells and all! Now Dasher! You plan to arrange the buffet on the kitchen island, which will be covered in Christmas green felt. For a 6' island, buy 3 yards of felt and let even amounts fall off each side of the island. (Keep the felt folded or maybe split if it's too wide.) At the left end, the buffet's starting place, position that wonderful ceramic 24" tall Santa you received as a gift decades ago! In front of the Santa, place a tray that serves up a stack of dinner plates, with the new plates mingled into the stack. Wrap your silverware in napkins, tie a ribbon with large jingle bells around them, and arrange them on the tray as well. The silverware bundles make it easy for guests to grab all they need and find a spot to eat. If the napkins don't match, don't worry as the common thread will be the ribbon, perhaps a Christmas red with white polka-dots!

Next, start placing your meal—entrees, side dishes and then your delightful dessert down at the end. To balance the Santa at the start, place a three-tiered plate stand at the end. Finding one is a cinch; just look at big box stores, Bed Bath & Beyond and online. You will find use after use for it—a gift to yourself, gorgeous! For some additional sparkle, fill some hurricanes lamps with Christmas balls or large pillar candles to shine a lovely light on your buffet. Remember to ooch down the lights above the buffet for a softer affect.

Don't Just Set the Table—Create a Tablescape!

Creating a fabulous tablescape honors the meal you've spent hours—maybe even days—preparing and turns it into a memorable feast for all to savor and enjoy. It never ceases to warm my heart when people take in the vision of a well-dressed table or buffet and respond with oohs and aahs worthy of an amazing fireworks show. Sure, it takes a bit more time, but these moments are labors of love. And this season, after all, is all about sharing the love with family and friends. I invite you to take the time to create a photo-ready tablescape—and share your pictures with me. I love to see new ideas!

I conclude with these wonderful words from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale:

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful!"

I had a question from a reader this past week…love the questions!

Q. When adding ribbon to the tree, what exactly do I do with it?

A. I prefer wired ribbon, twisting and tucking seems to work a bit better when wired, width of ribbon is up to you. As for amount-that really depends on how dense you want the ribbon to be. I think if you plan on somewhere around 5 yards per foot of tree height you should in the ball park. To surround the entire tree in ribbon, first tuck the ribbon into the top of the tree so it's not noticeable. Then, let the bolt drop to the floor and start twisting and turning the ribbon as you make your way around and down the tree, similar to way you would place a garland. Another option is to cut the ribbon into long strips of the same length—5 lengths of ribbon usually works for a good balance to the tree. Attach the ribbons (inconspicuously) near the tree topper and let them stream evenly positioned from the top down. Roll the ribbon so it comes down in curls around the entire tree, maybe two-thirds of the way down. I hope this helps. Keep the questions coming!

Merry Christmas to you all and I will see you next week!

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design.

She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Today she spends a majority of her time completing her new book which will be available in the first quarter of 2013. After many years in the traditional interior design profession, "I found that the educational aspect is far more satisfying for me personally."

Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: