The menu is locked. The guests are confirmed. The big night (or day) is approaching. Everything is set—except your table setting. Don’t get timid when it comes to tablescapes. We asked our friends Kat Wolle (@wildartifact) & Grace Hamlin (@gracehamlin), as well as our internal expert Daniel Evans (Creative Lead), for their top tips to create a simple but extraordinary table. Let us be your guide:
Flowers Aren’t Always the Answer
Slow down before you pick up those pruning shears.
Kat Wolle from Wild Artifact: If you can't tell by the name, I love anything from the wild as well as vintage and antiques. I have a penchant for bringing in unexpected elements, like a leftover cowhide from a previous project or a piece of a thorn bush from a recent hike. If I find something interesting I will keep it until it’s useful. (A disproportionate amount of my life is spent looking for "a good show stick.”)
Grace Hamlin: As much as I love a beautiful floral arrangement, sometimes the perfect touch is a bowl of pretty fruit. I especially love lemons or oranges. Or, I’ll use potted herbs for a fresh and fragrant touch. The best part is that they can go right into another dish or cocktail for the next gathering.
Know When to Say No
It’s a cliche for a reason: less is often more.
Daniel: Don’t try and make everything the star. Basics can set the foundational scene and help accent other pieces. That’s why we usually opt for mostly crisp, white serveware to start and then choose other heroes to stand out at the meal.
Kat: A lived-in table is my favorite. It’s beautifully designed but not intimidating to guests. When you use gorgeous pieces with intention no one is scared to sit down and mess anything up. These pieces are meant to be used, passed, served, and, yes, sometimes scratched and scuffed in the process. Those marks are proof of memories being made. Why have good plates and use them once a year when life should be lived and celebrated every day? Even if the good glasses break, the alternative is that you never use them at all.
Master the Mix
Once you’ve got the key pieces picked, keep it lively. Even minimalists should maximize textures, finishes, etc.
Grace: Feel free to blend the old with the new, whether it’s your grandmother's silverware or a vintage find from a thrift store trip, I love incorporating treasured and storied pieces alongside a stack of simple plates. Just like a good outfit or well-designed room, I love tablescapes that feature layers of various textures and finishes. Play with contrast: marble and wood, paired with soft linens or even a pop of brass. This approach ensures that your table has some of your personality.
Daniel: Mixing textures is less intimidating with a unified color vision. Step one is landing on a palette. Once you lock in warm, neutral, or cool, all you have to do is stick to that tonal family and everything will complement each other without being too matchy-matchy.
Remember the Reason for It All
Focus on what matters: the food and the company enjoying it.
Daniel: Don’t forget to factor in your menu. If your entree is vividly hued, you may want pieces that fall to the background or reflect those rainbow carrots. On the flip side, if something tastes far better than it looks, use that opportunity to dress it up with a unique serving dish and other nearby accents. Consider them the glam garnish.
Grace: In the end, there’s nothing I love more than an excuse to bring people together.
Kat: Let go of expectations. While we are bombarded by Instagram and Pinterest of perfect tablescapes and custom napkin rings and homemade crafts that took hours, the intention is more important than the outcome. People will be touched that they were invited and that someone is cooking for them. Your guests just want to be a part of something. The connection is more important than stressing about the 2 days you spent putting together the perfect tablescape and hours writing their names in calligraphy.
If that’s not a reason to get-together then we don’t know what is. Start picking the date and your dish du jour so you can put our tips to good use. And if you need some new tablescape supplies, we’d love to be invited.