Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Despite whatever opinions you have about Sandra Lee, Martha Stewart or any other domestic goddess, setting a table can make a party even more festive. With the holidays coming, you will have plenty of opportunities to decorate, so take the opportunity to design your table décor as well.
Susan Smith, event planner at VIP Grand Events, offers these tips on having a holiday table to die for.
Look everywhere for ideas (and it's OK to copy!).
Smith looks at every magazine she can find, reads blogs, watches wedding and home-themed TV shows, and attends trade shows and conferences to get ideas. Tons of free inspiration is available online, and design blogs fill the void that lifestyle magazines left when they closed. Spend time looking for inspiration and ideas for items you can personalize. If you don't have a complete china set, find tablescapes that mix mismatched plates and vintage cups. Go to a fabric store to buy some simple cotton cloth for napkins and tie them with piece of ribbon. The fabric will help unite your china and silverware.
Don't be afraid of a little paint.
Smith loves to use spray paint to change the appearance of decorations. It's a cheap and easy fix, and great options are out there for different textures and colors. Most old pieces of furniture can look better and more modern with a few coats of glossy black spray paint. The same theory holds to table decorations: paint collected branches, pine cones, thrifted candlesticksanything you can get your hands on. An easy decoration tip is to have an item in multiples that are unified with a single color. Ten brass candlesticks of various sizes at the center of your table will look better that one or two. Collect two dozen Christmas ball ornaments, spray paint them all the same color and toss them into a big serving bowl or hang them down from windowpanes. It's often easier to find items that are the same shape but different colors, and a $1.99 can of spray paint can go really far.
Look at unconventional shops.
Table decorations don't need to be bought just at home goods or party stores. Buy little succulents and plant them in mismatched tea cups and bowls for an alternative to flowers. Hardware stores, toy stores and dollar stores offer amazing finds to put an unconventional spin on your party.
Use what you already have.
Smith recommends draping a large piece of fabric over different sized boxes to set up a buffet table with levels. Your party guests won't know that your empty shoebox collection and old top sheet are creating the lovely, draped tablescape. Do you collect vintage postcards or old photos? Attach a small name tag to different postcards as a place setting. Did your grandmother leave you a miniature ceramic deer collection? Tie little red bows around their necks and arrange them with scavenged pine cones up and down the table. If you love the look of tiered cake stands but don't have one, you can make one with two different sized plates and smaller overturned bowls or glasses between the two plates. Use brooches or vintage shoe clips as sparkly napkin holders. Even easier, cleaned tin cans are great impromptu vases. Wrap a small piece of pretty paper or fabric around the center, or punch holes in the can, and insert a votive candle for mood lighting.
Know when to ask for help.
That's that friends are for, right? But if you really want to enjoy your special night, Smith recommends hiring help so you don't have to spend time shopping, prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning. Bringing in a caterer or event planner doesn't mean you will get a cookie-cutter event. Smith loves to use family china or recipes and encourages her clients to bring pictures or examples of decorations and events they love. Having a professional allows you to enjoy your event; he or she knows the ins and outs of coordinating large events and working with other vendors. Even if you are having a small dinner party but find cooking stressful, consider doing all the set-up yourself but bringing in food.
Collect eye-catching items year round.
If you see a perfect set of teacups at the thrift store in June, take them home. Now I have to warn you that this attitude is why I routinely end up with thrift-store finds, despite the silent protests of my full cabinets and the not-so-silent protests of my boyfriend. Do I use my 10 perfect polka-dot saucers every day? Or the atomic era salt and pepper shakers I had to have from an estate sale last month? Not to mention my insatiable appetite for vintage floral teacups. But some items are one-of-a-kind and can make a dull dinner table festive. Plus, it's fun, and that's what parties are all about in the end.
Tulip Floral Design Studio
Duling School Building, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 213