Set up a dining area that echoes the warmth and colour of the season.

This is a favourite time of year for entertaining. The cooler weather has nudged us inside and seasonal holidays present many opportunities to gather around the table and celebrate with family and friends. Planning a party can be overwhelming for some, especially if you’re not prepared. Here are some tips for making the most of this busy season and guarantee that the host has as much fun as the company.

Plan well ahead. Begin by matching up your dining room with the season. These are details that will last for more than one meal. Change up buffet or shelf displays by adding a few books with fall and winter themes such as fall flower arrangements, winter sports, and colourful travel guides. Nature photography is a powerful reminder of the beauty that nature offers throughout the year. If your light fixtures are up to the task, decorate with twigs and small hanging lanterns as shown here.

Have plenty of glass vases and candle holders on hand. Containers of all sizes can be found in secondhand stores. Recycle jars, vases and ceramics that can be placed around the room and filled with decorative flora, fruit, fall veggies and nuts. Create displays that have a long life by including dried flowers, branches and grasses, gourds and nuts in their shells. Mix candles with non-flammable materials in a glass lantern. Pebbles make a good base. Battery operated candles and lights are the safest.

Blankets and cozy fabrics with tangible textures have visible charm. Instead of linen, why not cover your table with a plaid blanket or two? Wrap dining room chair cushions in wooly fabric. Stock up on an assortment of table napkins in glorious colours. Make unique napkin rings using store-bought tassels, recycled bracelets, burlap and twine, paper and cardboard. All this is done ahead of time and will last or can be reused.

Party day has arrived and you have got control of the setup. The ambiance is warm and welcoming. Now for the table. The centerpiece you devise should balance with the size of the table. Instead of one, if the table is long or large, think about two or three small arrangements. They shouldn’t dominate or take up much needed space for the place settings, food and drink. Fragrance-free fresh or dried flowers cut low work well. Small seasonal ornaments – baby pumpkins, twig figures, colourful twine balls, or tiny paper napkins holding sweet treats can be arranged along the table. These can also be used as place tags and favours for each guest to take home.

Line up candles small and tall. Dark hues have a special mystery about them. Votives twinkle with their low, flickering light. Candles housed in glass are always the safest, but also their containers add to the sparkle. Light the candles as you are sitting down and extinguish at the end of the meal. Even protected candlelight should never be left unattended.

No, I didn’t forget about the food and its presentation. That’s a topic all on its own. But I do know that whether you are a super chef or prefer to order in, your guests will be delighted by the wonderful setting you have created just for them!