SETTING a festive mood with a holiday table elevates the feast to wow. But don't tie yourself down to the same old accessories and linens, advises Liz Scarlett, owner of Old City home boutique Scarlett Alley. Your tabletop can reflect your personality and create a tone from formal to family.

You don't have to spend a lot. Artfully placed tea lights, mix-and-match vases filled with foraged greens and an off-the-grid color scheme are a few ways to think outside the box, she said. Bring a photo of your dishware and the dimensions of your table to the shop and Scarlett will help you come up with a plan, ideas like:

* "Use colorful placemats on top of linens to complete your table. Choose the kind you can wipe with a damp cloth - great for kids or less than neat eaters.

* "Clearly, don't stress over the 'right' glassware. Multi-purpose tumblers, like stemless glasses, goblets and coupes, are all fine for beer, wine, water, champagne and even dessert."

* "Feature slate boards as placemats. Not only can you write the guest's name at each place, but the kids can keep busy creating artwork."

* "Add red mugs, soup bowls or mini casserole dishes to your everyday tableware to create a seasonal note."

* "Consider lending an international note to your table with imported textiles or swaths of bright fabric. Scarlett Alley sells mix-and-match Bodrum Turkish linens that are both elegant and washable and come in lots of color combos. Use a tablecloth you already have and update with a runner for a snazzy effect that won't break the bank."

-Beth D'Adonno