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What's Up Magazine

Inspired Table Settings to Dazzle Your Friends

Jan 12, 2011 12:12AM ● By Anonymous

You may want to build your table setting around an unexpected, yet still relevant theme. For instance, when a local book club had supper together, the hostess based her table designs on the book. Because the story was set at a beach, she scattered sand in patterns down the length of the table and added seashells to place settings. Another couple, who live on the Magothy River, grew a mini-green field of lettuce sprouted in an oblong decorative planter. During a dinner party held in early spring, guests plucked their own salad for the first course. Though that particular feat does take pre-planning, consider what another busy hostess did. Because the guest of honor at her dinner was a bird-watcher, she gathered simple boughs, criss-crossed them to provide elevation, and placed a painted bird house in the center. She positioned this setting at one end of the table, so guests could still see each other.

For a summer crab feast, line your table with plain white paper or newspaper. Invest in some Old Bay seasoning cans and build a pyramid in the center. You can put extra large ones on the bottom and then midand small-sized ones on top, or you can use all one size. I favor the giant boxes, as they are more dramatic. When your guests leave, invite them to take one along as a memento. Scatter four or five giant balls of string on either side of the pyramid and position two extra large crabs (found at a craft store) locking claws. Galvanized buckets filled with mallets, iced soda, and beer, are practical and make a nice finishing touch.

As you move into fall, make use of the roses in your garden that have faded and produced deep red and yellow rose hips. Use these to create your own version of a Dutch still life. If your table is solid wood, wipe it down with water and a rag. If not, lay down a dark gold tablecloth. Fill a very large pewter or silver vessel-like vase with rose hips and flowers in hues of gold, blue, and russet loosely arranged, with the tallest flowers in the middle of the arrangement. Drape a large white linen napkin or table covering in front of and around your vase. At the far edge of the napkin, place three pears and a pomegranate cut in two. Let the pomegranate straddle the edge of your white linen napkin, so it looks like it has rolled there by accident. Experiment with different vegetables if you wish. On the other side of your flower-filled vessel, group three very thick pillar candles together in contrasting heights. Now, dim the lights and you’re set for an enlivened evening.

Winter is a particularly wonderful time for the most inventive and unusual arrangements. There is not much in season, it seems, so look to natural objects around you and integrate them into your creation that is provoking in its austerity. Begin with three small wooden boxes…wooden yoga blocks work very well for this. Arrange them so they form a single step. Purchase an orchid or a single rose and place in a glass or pottery vase. Position the vase on the lowest box. On the tallest box, arrange just one or two things from the natural world, such as a deer antler, a stone with intricate veins, a piece of unusually formed wood (including driftwood), shell, or natural grass. If you have an unusual small bowl or handcrafted object, display that as well. The idea is to call attention to the subtle splendor of natural forms.

Spring brings with it an explosion of herbs and fresh flowers. For an afternoon lunch, set your table with earthenware or pottery or whatever simple dishware you have available. Roll up a linen napkin, wrap a chive around it, and tie it simply. If the blossom is still attached, position it in front. The effect is really dramatic. For flowers, fill an earthenware or pottery bowl and arrange with clusters of bright yellow daffodils and blue hyacinths. Play some quiet music during dinner. The subtle fusion of blue and yellow hues, the aroma rising from the hyacinths, and the earthy look of the chives, which you can also eat, appeal to all of your guests’ senses.

If all of this is just too much for you, skip it all together. Instead, arrange midsize votive candles in a helix that runs the length of your table. Experiment with a black tablecloth and white votives or vice-versa. It looks like you have worked for hours and all you need are candles and a match. Ensure that you place the candles on a table cloth and keep an eye on the wax. Certainly, your friends will steal this trick from you and may even act as if they thought of it. Don’t get mad. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.