I have to be honest with you – I’m not much for fancy or fussy “tablescapes.” Not that I can’t appreciate their beauty, but I just can’t see putting in all that effort for a one-night-only event. I reserve that energy for more permanent installations – such as the furnishing and decoration of rooms! I am all about quick and easy, yet elegant and refined when it comes to dressing a table for entertaining. And I like to find the right balance of great style and low maintenance, all while sticking to a reasonable budget.
These are a few favorite tricks and products I use in my own home.
1. Invest in a high-quality, easy-care tablecloth
We all know how beautiful a classic linen hemstitch tablecloth looks – when it is perfectly pressed and stain-free (ha!). The reality for many of us is that we have neither the time nor the desire to achieve this look. And don’t forget how costly all of that professional cleaning can get. Thankfully, there are some excellent products available today that exhibit a great balance of classically elegant style, and the ease of machine wash- and dry-a-bility.
My favorite line is from Sferra (available in Bloomingdale’s stores and elsewhere). The jacquard-woven designs are subtle and tone-on-tone, and range from a basic diamond pattern to a more showy damask. They have a beautiful hand and drape, and release stains amazingly well. While they are not inexpensive, just remember the cost savings from skipping the dry cleaners, and the time savings of not needing to iron (music to these ears!). You can mix and match different colors and designs with their coordinating napkins, too!
2. Go stemless with your wine glasses
Stemless wine glasses have been around for awhile – and they’re actually pretty popular. While wine snobs may scoff at the notion of holding a white wine by the goblet (thus warming it with body heat to a slightly less-than-ideal drinking temperature), generally people welcome the idea of using these more modern-seeming glasses. They look great, and are less likely to break in the dishwasher, or be knocked over by a dinner guest who’s refilled hers a few times already. As a bonus, you can buy them for cheap!
Crate & Barrel sells these unique seeded glass versions for under $3 per glass for white – much less if you buy the set of 12, making this a great option when you are entertaining a large crowd, or hosting a holiday gathering.
3. Mix and match the dishes you have to feed a crowd.
If you’re anything like me, you may not have had the foresight to register for a dozen of everything when you got married. Apparently, neither did my late grandmother. I inherited her wedding china set – service for six – long before I had any use for it, and also acquired new ‘casual’ china (the dishwasher-safe kind from Crate & Barrel) in the same quantity. Now I can seat 12 at my dining room table, alone – and I did just that on Christmas Day (I cooked for everyone too, including a huge kids’ table, by the way!). I invested in 12 identical chargers, but used all of my existing dishware to create place settings using a layered approach – first laying out the chargers, then alternating grandma’s colorful English chintz-patterned large plates with my more modern and basic large plates. Then I circumnavigated the table again with the bread plates, which I stacked on top of the large ones, placing a chintz plate on top of all the C&B ones, and vice versa. Did they really go together? Nah. But because I put them together, I created a new, unique composition that looked like an intentional, coordinated scheme – one far more interesting than a fully-matched 12-piece set.
You can achieve this look if you’re buying some new pieces to “fill in,” as well. You can find reasonably-priced dishes to mix with your existing set at Home Goods (and the like) to add different colors, textures, and designs to your table. Be bold – even combine formal and informal pieces!
source: ABCD Design
4. Invest in a few “wow” napkin rings; mix in different textures at a lower price point
Really pretty napkin rings can be irritatingly costly. Buying 12 at nearly $100 (or more) a pop was not my idea of a wise financial decision. So I found some sparkly stunners at a price I could stomach, picked up four of them, and sourced the other eight at less than $5 each. I made sure to incorporate additional color and texture to add interest to the scheme. Use the same alternating principle to scatter your biggest, most dazzling rings throughout the table. And when you have a smaller dinner party, you can just bring out the best!
Source: Neiman Marcus
5. Make a simple centerpiece using your own special container – or take it to the florist to be filled
This is where you can really bring in your creativity. I like centerpieces that can stay on the table to be enjoyed during the meal (what’s the point of doing it if they’ll just be moved out of sight as soon as everyone sits down?) – so it’s best that they be somewhat “low” and not occupy too much table space. You may need two or three, depending on the size of your table. Take stock of what you’ve got, and don’t be afraid to mix unlike items; it only makes it more unique and interesting. If you’re not feeling creative, take a special bowl or other decorative container to your local florist – I love using the ones at the supermarket – and have them create a special arrangement for you while you shop for groceries.
I made my Christmas centerpiece using a silver bowl given to me by my mother-in-law as a housewarming gift (good to use when she will be in attendance, too!), a boatload of oranges my husband ordered from a fundraising neighbor, and inexpensive white carnations and green hypericum berries from the supermarket. It took me about 5 minutes to arrange. As an unexpected bonus, the oranges gave our dining room the most pleasant aroma before the meal began. After that, it was pretty much the meaty scent of Beef Wellington wafting through the air :).
Here’s how everything came together at my home on Christmas Day (which seems like ages ago now, doesn’t it??).
Photo by Kelly Rogers
If you are really into creating tablescapes, you can of course add other fun decorations and personalized items like place cards to your table. Since we eat our meals family style, with all of the bowls and platters right there on the table, I tend to keep it clean and simple.
Do you have any favorite tricks to creating a beautiful table for entertaining? If so, please share them!