I have a lot of “foodie” friends. It is always fun to go to their houses because you know you’ll get a good meal without fuss. I do not call myself a cook and fall into the category of making my guests feel celebrated by how I set the table. My meals are simple and I disguise this fact with a lot of smoke and mirror. For me, the fun begins when I set the table. A beautiful table, whether for two or a crowd, sets the mood of the occasion. It’s easy to set a creative table with things you may already have around the house. One of my most successful tables to celebrate the arrival of spring, – and no, it doesn’t have to be more of a reason than that – is to line clear glass Mason jars down the middle of a bare table and fill each one with a cut spring flower. Using the flower colors as the theme of the table, it’s easy to dress up plain linen napkins by tying each one with grosgrain ribbon holding a small bud under the bow. Placemats can also reflect the color of the flowers. Plates should be white. So simple, so easy!
Everyone appreciates it when the hostess makes an occasion out of an invitation. When you arrive at someone’s home it should immediately feel festive. Living in two resort towns, I attend many get-togethers of all sorts. I go to fund raising events, holiday parties galore and dinner parties for ten as well as intimate dinner parties for four close friends. And I like to share my home with friends as well. My people have a knack for making even a casual meal, served in the kitchen, seem like a special occasion. Using the things we own is the key to entertaining with ease – making a beautiful table without pretension and without making the guests uncomfortable.
My decorator friend, Michael Pelkey once coined the word “tableicisous” as a way to describe a creation he did for a party. It’s just what the name implies, a delicious looking table. We once thought we’d do together with that title showing people how to look at things with a creative, sometimes playful, sometimes sophisticated eye. The idea was short-lived as we both got involved with other projects. One of our ideas was to create a centerpiece for an Easter brunch with a basketful of colorful balls of yarn, rather than the traditional dyed eggs. If you are a sewing enthusiast, you might use spools of thread in a sewing basket as a centerpiece. One of my newspaper columns at Christmas time received lots of positive responses when I told my readers to take out everything red in their homes and create little vignettes on table tops: it might be a group of red plastic mixing spoons in a white pitcher on the kitchen counter or a group of your child’s toys on the dining table for a playful theme. This might be an idea for an Easter table as well. Just use everything
For a publishing party to celebrate my Key West book, I covered a round outdoor table with lots and lots of leafy greens like spinach, kale and such that I got at the supermarket. I’m a big fan of using food creatively for table decorations. Once the table was completely covered I scooped out the centers of cabbage heads to hold various dips. Using green as my color scheme I filled a tall, glass vase with just one large Palm frond. At other times I’ve used oranges and lemons, kumquats and limes and cranberries at Christmas time in creative arrangements. The materials for setting a table are endless.
Aside from my own creative tables and those of my friends, I have access to many designers and flower arrangers and the people who design tables for catered affairs. Shells are a favorite for beach wedding themes. Rather than flowers, fill hurricane lamps with one large white candle in each and surround it with sand, then top the sand with a variety of shells. Scatter more shells and white votive candles around each one. The napkins can be tied with one shell and lovely sand-colored satin ribbons.
While many of us appreciate a beautifully set table who has the the time, or even desire to spend hours and lots of money creating table settings. That’s why I’m always looking for everyday items or things I have on hand that can be used in creative ways. It’s just a matter of looking at things in a new way and realizing that selective groupings lead to interesting table settings.
There is an area of entertaining that is appealing for today’s lifestyle that includes entertaining simply but elegantly: fabulous without fuss, wonderful with what you have, No one wants to make a career out of entertaining but when we do it’s fun to set a table with personality. It might be simply discovering a new way to fold napkins, or creative centerpieces from your own collectibles, combining different colors or new ideas for arranging a buffet table. The idea is to stretch your imagination beyond the obvious. Anyone can entertain in style.