Sometimes, all you need is a bit of inspiration. Whether you’re looking for a color scheme, ideas for centerpieces, or napkin ring tips, the dozen or so tables I’ve set in the pictures that appear below will, I hope, provide some sparks to light your creative fire.
One of my favorite tables ever
This tablescape that Becky and I created for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago is still one of my favorites for spring. No tablecloth or placemats. Instead, we used giant tropical charger plates as the backdrop for a set of dishes I got from Horchow. They were designed by Tracy Porter, and they are just fabulous! We made a bouquet of roses in the three colors (orange, yellow, fuschia) in the plates, and alternated napkins between pink and yellow.
In this picture, you can see how the roses were done. We lined the square glass vase so the stems wouldn’t show. (Can’t remember if we used a wide tropical leaf or pebbles.) We cut the roses three different lengths. The yellow ones were shortest. They formed the outside perimeter. Fuschia next in a row inside the row of yellow, followed by the cluster of orange roses in the middle. Two vases of lily of the valley for my mother and aunt to take home flanked the main bouquet. We placed the floral arrangements on mirrored pieces of a table runner to give them even more effect.
The tablescape was so beautiful that it created a memory I will always cherish. The food that day was yummy, too.
Placemats or Tablecloth?
I tend to think of placemats as being less formal than tablecloths, but let me point out one other important difference. If you’re serving young kids or elderly folks, tablecloths can pose a bit of a hazard as your guests get up and down from the table. Imagine the tablecloth being pulled off (accidentally) with everything on it. Personally, I don’t have to imagine it. I lived it once. Not a pretty sight, and not a way to ensure harmonious digestion after the meal either.
Although this tablescape uses placemats, it’s still plenty elegant. Part of the reason is because of the type of plates used. The antique white china is thin and delicate. The blue square plates underneath essentially serve as chargers. If I had instead set the table with Fiestaware, it would have been decidedly more casual.
The placemats were so cute that I didn’t want to “hide” them, so I chose lucite handled flatware and clear (rather than colored) drinking glasses. I also positioned the plates slightly off center so that it wouldn’t all be just partial bunnies showing.
Don’t limit your festive tables to your main meal. Here, I gussied up the table for breakfast. Even those who aren’t morning people smile at this combination. Take note of how the whimsical napkin ring and the modern flatware design play off each other. And in case you’re wondering, “Chicken or egg?” — I already had the yellow tulips, so I went looking for whatever dishes I had with yellow. Once the breakfast plates with the turquoise rim caught my eye in the cabinet, the rest of the elements fell together quickly. Did you notice the woven charger under the plates? I wish I had taken a picture without it so you could see for yourself how much it adds to the mix.
I studied Italian for a while, but I guess I never got to the chapter where they told me how to spell “Capeesh,” as in “Do you understand?” so I’m giving it to you phonetically. What made me think of it was the lovely capice shell placemats that formed the basis for this tablescape. I just love the vibrant colors and the capice shell placemats add a beautiful touch of nature.
I found the most fun set of flatware on eBay. It’s only a service for 4, but what a huge WOW factor with multicolored “jewels” embedded in each piece. I love how the modern design of the flatware contrasts nicely with the antique amethyst goblets and plates. I put the amethyst plates on top of larger cream-colored dinner plates. Without something light underneath, you can’t appreciate their beautiful color. My flower arrangement was looking a little tired, so I added some fanciful eggs to it.
This gives you a good idea of how the table looked as the guests gazed down on it. I experimented with white napkins, purple napkins, green napkins, and all kinds of napkin ring colors. When I pulled out the hot pink napkins and the turquoise napkin rings, the table said “Pow!” I swear. I heard it! One note. This is not a lunch or breakfast look. There is something about the combination — maybe it’s the jewelled flatware — that bespeaks evening elegance.
Feeling “in the Pink”
The next morning, with the capice shell placemats still out, I lightened up the mood a bit. I stuck the few leftover tulips in a charming container I found at an estate sale and added a few pink ones snipped from in front of the house, although it was painful to cut them, because the mass of tulips looked so good out there. Such sacrifices we make in the interest of a beautiful table. The incredible green compote dishes were a gift from my friend, Carolyn Herr. Here’s the cool part: they fluoresce under UltraViolet light! But even when they aren’t doing magic tricks, they look totally fab for morning fruit (or evening dessert, for that matter!).
See the napkin ring? It began its life as a tassle to hang on an armoire, but when I saw them offered for sale in these vibrant colors, I knew I would make them moonlight as napkin rings. In terms of the rest of the table, I actually had two of the rose flower plates (and lots of the bowls. Go figure.), so I set them up two and two. I used rather sedate taupe-colored pearl handled flatware.
At the other two places, I used pink lotus plates and bowls. Since the colors of all the dishes were the same, it all worked out and gave the table an ever-so-slightly eclectic look.
Let’s try a tablecloth, shall we?
This most egg-cellent tablecloth was a great find at Ross. I think it was under $6.00. Lacy and lovely. I was serving lunch, so I had the little bunny statues, a cute, but short, bunny vase with flowers, and embroidered Easter napkins. If I had set the floral plates directly on the table, you can imagine the horror of it all — way too much pattern going on. By using a rather large white plate beneath each one, there was sufficient separation to make it work. Cute little individual soup tureens in vegetable shapes completed the table. The flatware was green pearlized flatware. Green goes with everything. These versatile drinking glasses seem to go with half of what I own, too, which is remarkable.
Here’s a closeup so you can see details, like the napkins and napkin rings. And here’s a tip: If you aren’t going to have lots of dishes, don’t choose something as distinctive as these luncheon plates for the few you do have. You’re better off having solid colors. You can accessorize the daylights out of them and totally change the look with napkins and tablecloths or placemats.
For grins, I did play around with other combinations. I must say, I really liked the way this poppy plate played with the orange Fiesta plate I placed underneath. It gave it a whole new look.
Everything’s coming up ROSES!
The colors are a little off in this pic, but I’m using the same tablecloth I used before, with different plates, napkins, flower arrangement, napkin rings, glasses. Note that I was experimenting a bit with the napkin rings, with two lime flowers and two white satin love knots. Tweak, tweak, tweak. The gerber daisies were left over from a larger arrangement of various types of flowers. The individual vases made them stand up straight. A-ten-SHUN!
The white napkin ring eventually won out after I looked at the pictures. As the light changed throughout the day, the colors in the tablecloth and floral napkin rings went different directions and could not be reconciled (even with counseling). While I bought the rose plates originally for Valentines, they certainly work for spring, too, as virtually anything floral would. Except poinsettias, of course. Don’t get too carried away.
Ditch the pastels!
When we think of Easter, we tend to think of soft, pastel colors, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I like to shake things up and occasionally add some wild, bright colors, as I did here. The gigantor carrots were kissing cousins for the orange placemats and they pulled out some of the colors in the hand-blown eggs that were safely nestled in my large glass vase. The orange tulips with yellow tips finished pulling it all together.
Here’s another view. I absolutely love all the color. But when it was time to actually eat, I had to move the tall items to the buffet table and substitute something else we could actually see over.
Remember the moss purses I made the peony bouquets in last spring? Well, I pulled out one of the purses and paired it with a moss slingback pump vase for my orange table and filled them with spring flowers. So cute!
This pic gives you a better view of the pump and purse. While the pump was cute, the purse is still my favorite. Plus, it’s easier to arrange flowers in and it’s immediately clear what it is.
I didn’t want to make the table too crowded, but I used small votive candle holders for individual flower arrangements at each place setting. I used pansies, daffodils, rosemary — whatever I could find outside that was in bloom.