Published on December 6, 2020

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Having conceptualized and styled countless dinner-party spreads, Domino’s associate style editor, Julia Stevens, can put a tablescape together in no time. Her expert advice for doing your best holiday decorating is simple: There are no rules. The season is meant to promote joy and togetherness—and what that looks like differs from person to person.

Let Loose

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“I think it’s an outdated idea that every place setting has to match,” says Stevens, explaining that her personal style has been influenced by her parents’ laid-back, modern California approach. They embrace an eclectic mix of rustic textures, design eras, and layered patterns, and nothing is ever taken too seriously; her father, she says, was “definitely a former hippie,” and she fondly describes the formidable silverware collection her mother has built over the years: “No two forks are the same.”

For her own table, Stevens, a fan of anything tie-dyed, chose marbleized blue and white plates to alternate with a neutral solid-colored set.

Match Your Palette With Your Personal Style

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“You can be festive and holiday ready without relying on red and green,” says Stevens, who has always opted for the blues and beiges that align with the California landscape. Her choice of indigo placemats allude to the textiles her mother would dye at home, as well as the familiar expanse of the sea. “The ocean has always been really important to me as a source of inspiration,” she says. “Even after years of living in New York, I’m a Cali girl at heart.”

Create Depth Through Contrasting Textures

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Pieces like a wood cutting board and fringed placemats add a natural feel to the table and bring Stevens back to long hikes in the woods with her family. As the wood grain patterns and fringed fabrics start to add up, she balances them out with more refined shapes.

“When we style shoots with a more rustic space or table setting, we always bring in one or two polished elements that add an extra layer of shine,” says Stevens. These can include golden flatware or tapered candles, an excellent source of mood lighting that instantly elevates a space.

Spend Your Time With Your Guests, Not in Your Kitchen

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When it comes to the food, don’t overwork yourself in the kitchen. A hearty homemade soup served directly from the pot is a consistent crowd-pleaser in the colder months, and Stevens counts her Dutch oven as an essential. As the meal winds down, she’ll set out a plate of dates or dark chocolate with tea—decaf rose hips or soothing ginger poured from a Japanese pot. “This is my favorite part,” she says. “It’s a perfect way to extend the meal.”

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