5 tips for setting a stunning spring table

04/25/2014 12:00 AM

04/24/2014 5:15 PM

Light and breezy, super easy: It’s a good motto when it comes to setting a stunning table for a spring soirée. The spring tablescapes that lift my heart are filled with intriguing layers and a beguiling combination of colors, yet feel airy and fresh. Here are five insider tips on how to achieve this delicate balance:

•  Use vessels and vases in your centerpiece. Your centerpiece can be a show stealer without taking lots of time to craft. How? Create drama in a jiff by using vases and vessels in creative ways. A phalanx of three glass compotes will hold graceful tulip bloom bouquets, inexpensive cash-and-carry bouquets you can nab at the florist or grocery store. Keep vessels like these at your table’s center year-round, so all you need to do is add a seasonal flourish right before guests arrive.

Here’s the same idea, executed a little differently. A ceramic jar is used as a beautiful focal point. A constellation of small vases holding a single spring bloom surround it. I love small-mouthed vases because no floral arranging skills are required to make them look lovely. If you don’t have time to snatch flowers before your party, sub in a sprinkling of votives.

Have a few more minutes to build a centerpiece that will be the talk of your friends? How about this darling idea we hatched up at my store, Nell Hill’s, inspired by Beatrix Potter.

Start with a riser, a stage that will elevate decorative elements so they are visible. Place an arresting collection of items on top, like a bunny holding a placard just waiting for a personal message from you, such as the menu or a greeting to party guests. Vertical space in the background can be filled with a lovely vase holding a spray of faux spring foliage.

•  Ground each place setting on a charger. If you like to entertain, or just want a table that fills your senses as much as your stomach, I recommend investing in three sets of chargers. One should be a fun and inexpensive color burst that gives your table a jolt of energy, like kicky green plastic chargers, perfect for spring. The beautiful, bargain chargers come in a rainbow of fun colors, and they are one of my favorite ways to launch a place setting that makes people smile.

The second must-have set? Anything that features organic materials, like wicker placemats. Shockingly inexpensive, these are another go-to tool I use when I entertain. I love to pair these twiggy mats with fine china to shake things up.

The third set? Something that goes with everything, like wood chargers. You can take these anywhere from ultra-formal to casual just by combining them with different dishes.

•  Make magic with your dishes. Some women can’t have enough shoes. I’m that way when it comes to dishes. I have never seen a set I didn’t want. Thankfully, the limited storage space in my home has kept my dish addiction in check. If you just have room for one set, I recommend a set of timeless white dishes, the go-with-anything essentials for any table. Then, as your budget and cupboard space allow, invest in accent dishes that allow you to completely transform the look of these chameleons.

I love everything that’s old or has a vintage feel. Dishes are no exception. If you are lucky enough to have dishes that have been passed down through your family, or you’ve collected pieces through the years like I have, mix them into your spring table. Even patterns that feel stuffy or dated can be reborn when paired with newer, fresher colors and designs.

•  Layer in seasonal linens. I keep a few interesting 52-inch square tablecloths in my linen drawer at home that I can use to create a few different looks on my table when I entertain. Turned on the diagonal at the center of my table, they break up the wood of my table and add a shot of color, texture and pattern.

Pick a few sets of cloth napkins that go well with your table toppers. Stark white napkins have won my heart and loyalty because they look crisp and clean, like white sheets and white towels. Seasonal napkins are also an ideal way to add a bit of color and pattern to your table and create a multilayered look.

•  Finish with complementary flatware and stemware. Because I entertain so much, I’ve collected a few sets of flatware that allow me to finish off my tablescapes with distinctive style. The most important set you can have is a go-with-everything basic. Then, as storage space and budget allow, add in a few extra looks, like a set with colorful porcelain handles or faux antlers or bamboo. How about an odd assortment of vintage silver or silver plate?

For a clean, crisp look, use an assortment of clear glass goblets on your table, perhaps working pieces that have slightly different designs, like an etched pattern or a gold rim. Or, have some fun by mixing together different colored stemware to pull in the various colors featured in your tablescape.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.

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