At holiday time
— and at just about any gathering of family and friends — the
focus is on the dinner table where most of the festivities occur. Like
a landscape, a tablescape creates the backdrop for your meal. "A
tablescape should draw you in with a variety of interesting
details," says Pam Stasney, photo stylist, set decorator and
interior designer. "Start by finding something to inspire you —
it can be anything. Your closet is full of patterns and designs;
nature has an abundance of colors and textures," she says.
"Maybe you have a favorite piece of art or, like me, you’re
inspired by the architecture of the Milwaukee Art Museum. All of these
can serve as a springboard for your table décor," she says.
When choosing a
centerpiece, make sure that it will add to the beauty of your table
without overpowering it or blocking conversation. Fresh flowers in low
arrangements are always beautiful, but don’t rule out new ideas.
"Think outside the box. Use seasonal fruits or veggies to create
a feast for the eyes," Stasney says.
Bill Johnston of
Elegant Events likes to set a scene with table design. "Depending
on the occasion, you can use natural elements like greenery, branches
or shells you picked up on a family vacation. Make it something
unexpected that will surprise your guests," he says. "For
one Christmas party, I used old Tonka trucks as a table decoration and
the guests loved it. You don’t have to buy something new. "
essential on any table, Johnston says. "It’s true that everyone
and everything looks better in candlelight. It adds the element of
romance," he says. Stasney agrees. "You can create a
gathering of candles. Place candles on an elegantly framed mirror, and
it becomes a lake of luminous reflections," she says.
eye-catching table with risers and pedestals for height with visual
interest and maximum visibility. Use an assortment of levels to
display the food you are serving, Stasney says. "Whether you use
cake pedestals or create levels by covering boxes with fabric —
whatever your method, having a variety of vertical levels on your
table will make an amazing first impression. Of course, the food needs
to be scrumptious to keep them coming back for more," she says.
If you have a
small dining area with a table that leaves little room for serving
pieces, consider presenting your entire meal on one large platter,
Johnston says. "Place the meat in the middle and garnish with the
vegetables. It can still be beautiful."
Stasney says. "I live in a small condo and only have a small
dining table. When I entertain, I break out my two 6-foot folding
tables. When those unsightly tables are covered with a fresh, fun
tablecloth or an elegant fabric, it’s like magic," she says.
Having a large
gathering? Don’t be concerned if you don’t own an entire set of
matching china, Johnston says. "Choose items that complement one
another, but this doesn’t mean that all items should be the same;
just that they work together. Gone are the days when your place
settings need to match. If you collect china, mix and match the
pieces. If they are things that you really love, it doesn’t matter.
You can make every other place setting the same, just try different
combinations and different colors. Whatever you do, the decorations
and style of your table should be a reflection of you," he says.
Look around your
house and make use of what you already own, Stasney says. "Mason
jars become flower vases, photo frames become serving trays. You don’t
have to spend a lot of money to create a ‘wow’ impact," she
You will keep
your stress level down and save your best self for your guests by
prepping ahead. "The more you do in advance, the more you will
enjoy visiting and feasting with your guests," Stasney says.
"Give yourself time to play with your table arrangement of
platters, bowls and serving vessels before your party. Once the food
is finished you will know exactly each item goes on the table, and you
won’t be scrambling for a serving spoon at the last minute,"
she says. "Leave yourself a little time for a cocktail or a taste
test before the doorbell rings."