“In many ways the holiday table is the art of the possible,” Tricia Rose explains. “It’s wonderful to have all your extended family over, but few of us can seat a large number of people at our everyday dining table.” As the founder of Rough Linen, a California line of handcrafted linens, she knows a thing or two about the perfect holiday table — and we’re all ears. Today, she’s sharing what it takes to have a functional (and beautiful!) event, from the basic set-up to the finishing touches. If you’re expecting guests in the coming weeks, you’ll want to take notes: 

— The first essential is to have enough tables and chairs. They can be folding tables: a good linen cloth is a wonderful equalizer. Proper linen cloths and napkins are essential to me – they can be harlequin (a polite way of saying they don’t have to match), but you need something that feels good to the hand, and that can cope with gravy and sauces.

— A proper table doesn’t have to be elaborate, but some elements are essential in my mind.  Obviously you need the basics – plates and glasses, flatware etc., but to create an elegant, festive air, fresh greenery or flowers at each place setting is welcoming and more personal than a large floral arrangement, and doesn’t interfere with your view of the person opposite, or take up valuable tablespace that could be better devoted to delicious food. Similarly, a large gathering might not be the occasion for candles, but it is always important to have an adequate but flattering level of light. Let’s all look our best!

— It is traditional to bring out our best finery for holiday feasts, but I would like to suggest using our good things every day. Good linens, silverware, and china make everyday meals so pleasant, and nothing should be so precious that it lives out its beauty in a cupboard.  Saving the special items just for special occasions is one concept I would cheerfully toss out – they should be enjoyed everyday!

— I think the new rules are simple: a gathering is about people coming together, so the focus should be on ease, comfort, and the food. If you’re a believer in having a kid’s table make it special too -but nothing so formal it creates distance or pretension. They deserve to have beautiful linens and proper (but perhaps not exceptionally valuable) glassware and china.

— And I have one final plea: that the food, and the plates, should be properly hot!