Elegant At Home Entertaining

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Yes, I am a non-recovering home entertaining addict. Those of us with this addiction know it was not easy during the pandemic. I longed for my napkins, placemats, dishes, and friends. I would see a flower and imagine an entire center table display. When it came to the menu, my withdrawal went into overdrive. The good ole menus were for six or eight of us. But it came down to just the two of us…My husband and me. And, he’s the chef – imagine how he was feeling.

Then, the window was slowly being raised, and we have enjoyed several special lunches in the past couple of months. We prefer to have lunch a little later, about 2:00, usually, instead of dinners. It’s a totally different vibe for lunch. More casual, allowing for a bit more playfulness with the table and the menu. Don’t you think so?

a single stem

Fifty Shades of Green

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I went to a great home accessories store here in Cuenca, Santorini. Which, if you live here, in Cuenca, you should not miss. I had an empty container sitting on top of a cabinet in the kitchen, and I finally decided to fill it with faux flowers | greenery. And Santorini has the best selection of faux flowers, greenery, and succulents. They did not disappoint. In fact, I came home with more than I expected. And the grand prize purchase were placemats! With a bold, oversized, in bloom, Magnolia print. The shades of green made me swoon – forget fifty shades of grey. Nothing beats green on a dynamic daytime table.

three placemats create a runner

Creative Inspiration

I actually started setting the table the day before. I was so excited about the new placemats and bringing out my old set of green/earthenware dishes from Vance Kitira. Like most of you, I don’t care for a heavy-handed, over-the-top flower arrangement in the table center. I like a low-lying grouping of small vases and containers with mixed flowers and greens. This time I used three short [no stem] vintage Art Deco Martini glasses, as bud vases, and two large white votive holders from Pottery Barn for the faux succulents. As most of you know, we have two dozen white (tinge of green) long stem roses delivered every two weeks. So, without thought, it was white roses (sans the long stems) in the deco Martini glasses—three vases with three roses each and two votive holders with Echeverri Green Pearl and platinum grey succulents.

Fresh and Faux

I’ve always liked the look of faux plants and fresh flowers. For my wedding, we did ‘Freeze-dried’ blue hydrangeas with fresh white roses and one good-sized (opened) Casablanca Lilly with a faux succulent for a green accent. My good friend Ken Ludwig of Kenneth Ludwig – Chicago Design Group introduced me to the concept of fresh and faux. With incredible style, he showed how to blur the lines between real and fake. The flower designs he created were a standout at the ceremony and reception. Follow the link for a tour of his retail store in the Roscoe Village neighborhood in Chicago. Another fun accessory for the table is the use of moss balls in your table center design. The smaller moss versions fit perfectly into a small urn or votive – instead of a tee light. Plus, the green is a great pop of color. I’ll also use larger fresh Bosc or green pears mixed in with the center design and create a summertime theme.

a summer garden lunch with both fresh and faux

More or Less – it depends on your surrounding space

I will say this – When it comes to faux flowers, there’s a fine line between elegant and tacky. The best way around this is to stay with subtle, natural colors, the colors of nature. You want the center of attention to be the fresh, not the faux. The faux should be a quiet accent rather than the center of attention. Look for the natural details on the faux that only come with fresh flowers, like brown edges on the leaves, variations in the flower petals, and color. Always go for the most natural-looking, high-quality faux. It will cost more but is truly worth the price. Take a look at Aforal.com. They offer a wide selection of floral, plant, and accessories. Be aware that more is not necessarily better. In some tablescapes, less is more. The above photo has two well-sized arrangements that work perfectly in the garden setting. There are only about five elements in the design. For a smaller arrangement, try styling individual stems in small groups for a fresh-out-of-the-garden look that harmonizes with the surrounding space.



Homework

We all have table settings that draw us in when flipping through a magazine or walking through a showroom or a retail store. Next time you see a table you like, take a minute and see how the textures and colors work together to create a visual dimension. These are good visuals that will help to recreate the look for your table? Reading through a few articles and chatting with friends that are showroom designers and knowing myself and my design limits, I know that we can create a beautiful table. I found that there are a few rules of the road for the table setting. First things first…You want your table to be inviting. It’s the first thing your guest will see before sitting down for a great meal. A tablescape sets the tone for your dinner or luncheon. Formal. Casual. Playful. Whichever you happen to decide, always use a light hand. When your table setting is over the top, crowded with no direction, it can be unclear. It becomes visual overload, and the food has not even arrived yet! Setting the table should be fun, not overwhelming. A few simple design elements you can follow will guide you in how you plan your next formal dinner or a casual lunch with friends.

The Theme

modern and inviting

What’s the THEME? Is there a set of vintage crystal glasses you want to use? I was not using a beautiful, older set of long-stemmed Waterford crystal wine glasses. The bowl was too small, I thought, for either red or white wine. When used as a water glass, it added a bit of elegance to an otherwise casual setting. It also made me think of a totally different theme – perhaps carry the vintage look through, with a lace table cloth, napkins, etc. But, I went ahead with the original casual garden look. This is one reason I usually like to set the table the day before…it leaves lots of room for design inspiration! The theme will usually drive the color palette when the napkin and the napkin holder hold center stage. You can also pop onto Pinterest or Instagram for ideas. And, once you have created a few themes, you’ll increase your design confidence.

The Setting

A woodland setting

The SETTING. Not to be confused with the place setting. We’re talking about your surroundings and the room or garden. You want to incorporate and complement rather than distract from the area. If your walls are white with minimal decoration, then you are free to create whatever is your fancy. But, that is not the case in most dining rooms. You also have an option of other rooms to serve in. You don’t need a large house. I love the idea of an intimate table in a living room or den. In that instant, the room does dominate the setting. You would be inclined to make it cozy and seasonal, especially if the fireplace is blazing. It could be a cabin in the woods or a winter wonderland. It’s really all about making it pleasing and welcoming for your guest. I love the look of a very organic, neutral table in a modern minimalist house. It’s all about balance.

The Balance

BALANCE. There is a fine line between just right and overdone! You do not want your guest to be visually assaulted when they approach the table. And, a too crowded and overdone table becomes less inviting. It would be best if you had a focus. A balance of modern and classic elements is paramount in creating an inviting table. For instance, if your centerpiece is the center of attention, you’ll want to keep the surrounding settings simple. You can still coordinate the centerpiece with the settings and mix it up a bit, but keep simplicity in mind. A more formal table requires a little expertise. There are so many elements that go with a formal table. A big role here is maintaining elbow room between your settings and your guest. And to keep your centerpiece simple. A few tapered candles with vines intertwine is elegant and simple. Don’t be afraid to mix styles. Use your grandmother’s antique flatware and glasses with a very simplistic, modern table.

Kate – where else – but at the table, apron and all

At some point, you will “have to step away from the table.” My husband does most of the cooking when we have guests. He knows I’m not going to be in the kitchen that much…I’ll be where ever the table happens to be for this particular gathering of friends. Other than, The Theme, The Setting, and The Balance, the best addition is great, loving friends and a table filled with laughter and good food.

I hope you enjoyed and found this helpful. And gracias for indulging my love of entertaining.

Author

  • Kate Granado spent several years in magazine publishing, but just below the surface her free spirit was hibernating and reemerged with a nagging frequency (asking)for her to break away from the corporate world and find her creativity. And with the mantra ‘I am open to whatever comes my way’ she began her quest. Over the next 25 years, she became totally immersed in design and product development for the decorative home accessories market. She has a fabulous blog, Platinum Boomer | Fabulous@anyage, which she writes from Cuenca Ecuador where she retired with her husband. Her inspiration for her blog is all the talented and accomplished women she knows. All have a spirit that has brought them to a special place in their lives today. We are the trailblazers that will forge the new paradigm of aging and the Platinum Revolution.

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