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How to Set a Formal Table

How to Set a Formal Table

It’s not every day that we have the need to set an impressive formal table for our family and guests but it’s Christmas and the one time of year that calls for pulling out all the stops and enjoying a delicious holiday feast at a perfectly set table.

Knowing where everything goes simplifies serving and makes dining easier for guests who will have everything they need. The rules of setting a table exist to make everyone confident in knowing what utensil to use at the appropriate time.

Here’s a cheat sheet that will remind you how to set a formal dining table to impress your guests and help make the dining experience at your house a memorable event this Christmas. 

Curate this guide based on what you’re serving your dinner guests. Avoid cluttering up the table with unnecessary pieces. I keep a copy handy in my silver cutlery drawer so that whoever is setting the table for formal occasions can quickly refer to it!

What goes where?

Utensils are always placed in the order of use from outside in towards the dinner plate— what is to be used first is placed farthest from the plate.  Always start from the “outside” and work “in”.

The most common table etiquette faux pas is using the wrong bread and butter plate. Your bread and butter plate is always on your left beside your forks.

Glassware or drinking vessels sit at the tip of the knife on the right hand side. The water glass or goblet is always the closest to the knife as it remains on the table throughout the entire meal. Additional glasses stand to the right of the water glass in order of use if multiple wines are to be served.

Know your wine glasses.

Have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy dining in style with your family & friends this holiday season! 




Christmas in Black & White

Christmas in Black & White

When I celebrated Christmas for the first time in my new home, we had just moved in a few days before Christmas and I didn’t have time to think about a specific holiday style or colour scheme. I wanted to live in my new spaces for a while before spending money on creating a fresh new holiday décor style.

Before leaving my previous home (see below), a remodeled century home with a Hampton-style décor, my Christmas décor was more traditional and colourful. Although lovely, it wasn’t a look I had in mind for my shiny new mid-century modern home.

I decided I’d try to reuse what I could from my previous collection of Christmas decorations, which basically came down to my white flocked Christmas tree and a few clear glass bobbles and vases. Not having a specific accent colour in mind for my new home, I opted for a beautiful blingy gray, black, silver and white palette. I was quite pleased with how simple and elegant it looked when it was all done. Everything gleamed sparked b  the rays of natural sunlight streaming through my floor-to-ceiling windows. It was magical!

Here’s how I played with a chic, classic colour palette of black and white to create a modern holiday look for my first Christmas in my new modern home.

Photo, Karen Kirk

Above: Sculptural black, gray, white and clear Christmas balls sparkled on the tree and made a lovely accent for the coffee table arranged in a glass vase. What’s lovely about a neutral black, gray and white theme, any time of year, is the practicality. Add any colour you like to accent this grounding palette and you have a winner! Choose a different colour every year and greenery, fresh or faux, always looks amazing with black, charcoal or white.

Photo, Karen Kirk

Above: I adore how my flocked tree looks like I plucked it from the snow-covered woodlands just outside my living room windows. Trimmed only in the new gray, black, silver and white balls I love how well the tree transitioned beautifully from a traditional home to a muted modern space.

Photo, Karen Kirk

Above: With the tree trimmed, it’s time to start wrapping gifts using papers and ribbons in coordinating colours. I tuck in a fresh sprig of evergreen to add a hint of colour and when using a faux tree, it’s a great way to add the intoxicating fragrance of Christmas!

Photo, Karen Kirk      Rug, Imperial Rug Galleries. Leather chair, UpCountry. Hardwood floors, Lauzon Flooring. Cabinet, Parnand Design.

Above: Everyone loves to gather around the tree over the holidays so I park my bar cart next to the tree where guests can help themselves to a little Christmas cheer without leaving the party!

Photo, Karen Kirk   Hardwood floors, Lauzon Flooring. White chairs, Gresham House Furniture. Amantii Electric Fireplace, Vaughan Electric. Fireplace wall, Dekton by Cosentino in Sirius. Rug, Imperial Rug Galleries. Cabinet, Parand Design.

Above: I created separate seating areas in my living room. Two facing comfy chairs from Gresham House Furniture offer the perfect quiet spot to relax, have a private chat or read a good book by the fire. An electric fireplace, this one is an Amantii electric fireplace from Vaughan Electric, simply makes good sense in any room. You have the option of turning it on with or without the heater fan and changing the temperature and colour of the embers. I love how my fireplace looks just as pretty turned off, reflecting the wintery scenery in the glass.

Photo, Karen Kirk

Above: Silver glass trees that light up sit in an acrylic tray on the kitchen island. They look amazing in the evening giving the kitchen a warm holiday ambiance.

Photo, Karen Kirk  Hall table, Cocoon Furnishings. Flooring, Dekton by Cosentino in Kairos. Walls, Benjamin Moore Stone 2112-40. Heron print, Celadon Art

Above: I set the tone of my holiday décor in the foyer by using the colour palette inspired by my tree décor. Carry your holiday style and colour palette throughout the house to create an harmonious flow. The large white blooms of amaryllis look so festive with holiday greens including magnolia leaves and cedar boughs.

Happy Holidays! xoJ


Create a Welcoming Home for the Holidays with Florals

Create a Welcoming Home for the Holidays with Florals

Every holiday season I look forward to creating and buying fragrant seasonal florals and plants for myself and my clients. Whether it’s a simple hydrangea in a glass vase with a sprig of cedar or an over-the-top, nature-inspired arrangement composed of fresh cut evergreens and roses, I love to have fragrant florals and greenery throughout the house over the Christmas holidays.

This season, I decided to experiment a little and incorporate fabulous faux florals into my holiday décor. Today’s faux florals are truly beautiful and so realistic that they’ve earned a place in home décor. In fact, I’m finding that I’m quite happy to accent with faux plants in areas of the house that aren’t used on a regular basis – guest rooms, basements, out of reach spaces such as the tops of cabinets and bookshelves and spaces that don’t get a lot of light. It’s one less thing I have to worry about! I typically stick with using fresh in the living room, entrance hall and master bedroom where I can enjoy them most.

When Cityline asked to shoot my dining room for their upcoming Christmas decorating shows I wanted to create something special. I contacted floral artist Catherine Oxley, owner of Bouq Paper Flowers to create a paper flower holiday-inspired installation for my modern dining room chandelier. The results were stunning as you can see! Because my bulbs are LED they don’t emit a lot of heat, the blush paper roses and gray/green seeded eucalyptus stems made of European crepe paper, were safe to use. Fresh flowers and greenery would have left sap on the intersecting arms of the light fixture making the paper option a practical choice. Crafted in individual pieces, the arrangement can be dismantled and reused for other special occasions throughout the year. A matching place setting gift is a wonderful way to say, “Thank you for coming!” to my dinner guests.

When I built my house, I designed my foyer to accommodate multiple guests when I entertain. During holiday season, I greet my guests with a welcome glass of bubbly or a signature cocktail and invite them to carry on through to join the party in the living room. It’s a lovely way to get the party started while I greet my guests at the door. This year, I simply set up my foyer table as a mini bar complete with a fresh cut fragrant rose and evergreen arrangement by Andrea Ireland of True Flowers to set the festive tone for the evening and a bucket of chilled rosé bubbly from one of my favourite local wineries, Trius Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s always a big hit with guests and helps break the ice among partiers until everyone has arrived.

Here are three quick tips to keep in mind when creating your own floral arrangements this holiday season and throughout the rest of the year.

  1. Create natural movement.Sprawling arrangements that are styled organically in a vase – on a chandelier – create texture and visual interest. For dining tables, use low arrangements to keep sightlines clear during dinner.
  2. Include contrasting elements.Mix light and dark florals in soft tones and pair intricate flowers such as roses with simple stems like eucalyptus or hypericum berries. This balance will give your arrangement an effortless, natural look.
  3. Add unexpected details.It’s always fun to add an unexpected touch to your arrangements. This year I mixed blush pink roses in with my seeded eucalyptus and evergreens in both my fresh and faux designs. Sculptural branches will instantly elevate any classic holiday arrangement.

Merry Christmas! xoJ

Photos by Karen Kirk

3 Festive Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs to Give & Grow

3 Festive Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs to Give & Grow

With the holiday season in full swing, our days are packed with festive parties and our thoughts filled with creative gift giving ideas. My favourite gifts to get and give over the holiday season – next to wine – are fresh florals and seasonal greenery. This year I’ve discovered the waxed amaryllis bulb from Holland available in local nurseries, big box stores and gift shops. Because they don’t require any maintenance – no planting or watering – and come in a variety of colours, they’re the perfect holiday gift for anyone on your list.

When gifting them, add an extra-festive look and let the winter landscape inspire your designs whether ordering them from a local florist designers or creating them yourself. There’s so much to choose from – from the rich, colorful blooms of cyclamen and poinsettias to the fragrance and textures of fresh cut greens and berry branches.

Here are some simple yet impressive ways, spotted on my favourite online shopping sites, to present and use waxed amaryllis bulbs that I hope will inspire you too!


The waxed bulb holds all the stored energy and water it needs to grow and bloom so there’s no need to worry about water and soil damaging your surfaces. Some waxed bulbs like this one from Jackson & Perkins include a coiled wire embedded at the base to make it freestanding: simply place it on any flat surface, set it in a clear vase, or nestle it among other holiday decorations, and wait for blooms to emerge in four to six weeks. You can expect one or two flower stalks, each with up to four blooms. Because the plant only grows to approx. 18”- 24” tall there’s no need for staking.


Planted up in a cube container filled with a mixture of fresh or faux greens for texture and color,  the amaryllis will eventually burst open into a cluster of stunning blooms for an eye-popping holiday arrangement.

A waxed amaryllis bulb wrapped in Stargazers wire mini led lights is nestled on a bed of sheet moss and lichen-covered twigs in a shallow dish. Keep the moss fresh with a mister every couple days. It’s the perfect little festive touch for place setting gifts, an office desk, teacher’s gift or hostess gift.

TIP: Waxed amaryllis (3.5” dia.) prefer direct sunlight and consistent room temperature; avoid drafts. To slow growth if desired, store in a cool, darkened location.

I love to have several types of amaryllis in my house over the holidays. Here are some general amaryllis care tips from Sheridan Nurseriesso you can enjoy your amaryllis all season long.

Happy Holidays! xoJ

A Tour of My Cottage Trailer

While I renovated my new home, I purchased a new tailer home to live in over the summer during renovations and parked it on site so I could stay on top of the project on a daily basis. I renovated the interior for a fresh, modern look and created a fun patio with the help of Ikea furnishings and accessories. It was well worth it! My home is finished and my trailer, loaded with extras, is for sale! Email me at for more info.

Deck Styles

Talking Deck & Patio material with Tracy Moore on Cityline.

To Bidet or Not To Bidet

Having a little fun on Cityline with my funny friends, Kimberley Seldon and Tiffany Pratt. Talking Bidets!

Pet-Friendly Laundry Room

8 Great ideas for creating a pet-friendly laundry room complete with pet shower your pups will love!

Glam Master Bath

Design elements for creating a glam master ensuite with luxurious spa-like features.