Once you’ve decided that you’re going to have a party, chosen the menu and guest list, it’s time to design the tabletop. The table design and setting is just as important as the food because it adds another element to the event and the overall experience.
I always start with one thing as my main inspiration. It can be some fabric I found at a discount store that I use for a tablecloth, some interesting dishes I won on eBay, or in the case of Thanksgiving, a ring that had belonged to my mother.
Thanksgiving was always a big event at my house, so drawing inspiration from something so personal was perfect. The colors of red, orange and golden citrine were definitely autumnal and evoked the season and the holiday.
So, the first step in dressing a table is always to allow for inspiration. You might be surprised where it comes from.
Once I’ve found my inspiration, my next step is to think about the feeling I want to evoke and the overall tone of the event. Is it a big holiday, in this case Thanksgiving? Is it an outdoor barbecue or a pizza party? Am I serving champagne in crystal flutes or chili burgers? I try to have the tone match the menu and the event. I don’t ever aim for perfection.
For Thanksgiving, I wanted an elegant, somewhat formal table setting. There was a touch of Downton Abbey in the sterling silver flatware and vintage serving pieces, salt cellars, and fine English china.
I also wanted it to be fun and joyous, so I included whimsical things from my collection. A blue Lalique butterfly (available at my Amazon Affiliate Store), an amethyst geode, a blood red Chinese vase and porcelain cherub bowls to hold the cranberries were all part of the mix. To add to the feeling of playfulness, I mixed several different types of china and table linens, all going back to the original inspiration of my mother’s ring.
It’s fun to use things in unusual or unlikely ways. In this case, I used vodka shot glasses for flowers. Notice how the few flowers simply spread around add to the beauty.
Even though I wanted it elegant, mixing different patterns of china made it more playful, visually exciting and expressed my unique style and showed off some favorite treasures, family heirlooms and flea market finds.
After inspiration and finding the tone, think about layering the table to make it personal and unique. If you look at the photos, you can see how the table came together and all the little details.
I like to think of dressing the table in the same way I get dressed for a party. I start with inspiration, the one thing I really want to wear, maybe it’s a pair of shoes, a piece of jewelry, or a particular outfit. Then, I add from there, thinking about where I’m going and the tone of the event. And finally, I layer the outfit, adding accessories, until I have an overall picture and feeling of how I want to appear and a unique expression of me.
Do the same thing with your table and you will create a magical experience for your guests.