Create Beautiful Place Settings for Summer: Here’s How!

Welcome to my brand new blog! I’m so excited about this chance to connect with you each week and chat about how we can make our homes more lovely and livable as we celebrate our own decorating styles. I’m going to pack the blog full of decorating tips and techniques, complete with step-by-step photo how-to’s. I’ll share about new decorating finds and keep you up on the very latest in decorating trends. I hope you’ll visit me each week, here and on Facebook (and of course, at the stores, which is the best way of all).

I couldn’t resist devoting my inaugural blog to one of my all-time favorite topics: building a beautiful tabletop, whether it’s for everyday dining or entertaining. I fully confess to being a dish-a-haulic, and my love of table linens is just about as out of control. So that’s why setting a stunning table is such an absolute treat for me. In today’s hurly-burly world, where we often grab meals on the run, there is nothing as sublime as enjoying a lovely meal at a table that’s a feast for the eyes.

To inspire you to create magic on your own table this summer, first plan a trip to Atchison in April for our month-long tabletop show at Garrity’s. Each dining table in the store sports a different look, from bright and whimsical, to dreamy and romantic, to stylish and sophisticated, all using decorating tools you’ll find at Nell Hill’s. Bring your friends and your camera and make a day of it!

As a preview, Chery, our visual designer for the Atchison stores (the one who creates the tabletop masterpieces) and I want to share some simple tips you can use right now to make your table sing for summer.

Step One: Pick Your Theme

Do you want the overall look of your table to be stately? Romantic? Playful? Do you want to build your presentation around a certain color scheme, a favorite set of dishes or a special theme? To make a tabletop shine, all the components on the table must work together, so take a few minutes to create a plan.

For our sample tabletop treatment, we’ve picked a garden theme because I’m dying to get outside after this long winter. And to bring it to life, we’ve wedding two dynamite color combos: black and white (my perennial favorite) with orange and green, this season’s hottest hues.

Step Two: Start with a Great Base

When I entertain in the summer, I love to let as much of the natural wood of my tabletop show as possible, so instead of picking a tablecloth, I often use wicker chargers, trays or placemats as the base of a place setting. We just got these darling two-sided black and white placemats in, and I really like how they are thick and quilted, which gives the table a more casual feel. Plus, they are so easy to launder you’ll be able to use them for everyday dining.

Step Three: Pick Powerful Plates

I like to build place settings on top of interesting chargers or dinner plates. Today we picked this perky green floral plate.

Then we added a salad plate in a similar pattern but contrasting color. I love how the splash of lime green and tangerine orange pops against the black and white placemat.

Step Four: Add Flatware

To keep things interesting, I like to use a variety of flatware on my tabletops. Sometimes I mix vintage patterns. Other times I pick flatware that follows my theme, like using faux antler-handled flatware on a hunt-club themed table. Today we went with simple, streamlined stainless to match the clean look we want to create on our summer garden table.

Step Five: Select Gorgeous Glassware

Mixing up the glassware on your table gives the display more visual intrigue. Often I’ll use glasses with three different patterns and colors on a tabletop. Today, we’ve picked one of our most popular patterns: clear bubble glass (brides love this glassware, and it comes in a rainbow of colors). Then, to bring in a bit of organic texture, we included wicker covered tumblers, which are the perfect size for juice or wine.

Step Six: Tuck in a Napkin

While I’m normally not a fan of a “matchy” look in decorating, I couldn’t resist the napkins that go with these adorable placemats. Chery folded them so the contrasting fabric showed, then sheathed them in a white napkin detailed with flowers embroidered in black, binding the bundle with a black metal napkin ring. I also love to use cute dishtowels as napkins because they come in millions of patterns, are affordable, launder easily and are a generous size that will completely cover your lap.

If you are pressed for time or want a simple, edited look on your table, you can stop here. The table looks lovely! But if you’d like to add a few more layers to bring more depth and interest to your display, keep going.

Step Seven: Add Layers of Fun

Glass cloches have long been a mainstay of the Nell Hill’s look, and one of my favorite ways to use this classic decorating tool is to cover each place setting with a cloche, giving the tabletop a bit of grandeur. Before topping our floral plates with a cloche, Chery and I stuck in a fun figurine. These inexpensive, adorable garden snails add whimsy to the table and make great take-home gifts for guests. We also added an individual vase with perky daisies, one of my favorites for summer.

You’ll want to finish off your tablescape with a dramatic centerpiece (I’ll blog about how to create great summer centerpieces in a few weeks) and interesting accents, like this playful teapot that’s the crowning touch for our fresh summer tabletop.

Ready to get started? The pieces Chery and I used on our sample table are available at Nell Hill’s, Garrity’s and Nell Hill’s Online — just click on the “shop now” button on my Web site home page and you can start shopping this instant. If you’d like us to check our stores for availability of certain pieces or ship to your location, just call Kathleen at 877-367-1086.

Next week, I’ll be blogging about how to create a dramatic summer bouquet using fallen branches and faux greens – the natural and stunning arrangements you see in our stores. Theresa, the landscape architect who creates these displays at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff, will give us step-by-step instructions on how to create the same look in our own homes. Come back and join in the fun!

Celebrate Your Style,

Mary Carol Garrity