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March 1998 Issue
Tablescaping: Tables All Aglow
by Jenny Wojcik
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Welcome back to Home Style where we'll share tips for making our homes personally stylish, inviting, welcoming and comfortable. Here's where we will talk about simple elegance, and how to achieve the look we want, at a price we can afford. From crafts to interior decorating, from the ultra cheap to the ultra chic, we will look at ways to create our own Home Style.

Do you have comments, questions about or suggestions for future Home Style topics? Great! Email me - I'd love to hear from you.

Always creating,
Jenny Wojcik


To tablecloth or not, to placemat or not, whether everyday dishes or family china are the perfect base, those decisions are yours to make. After all, there really is no right or wrong, there's only personal preference when it comes to your creations. My contention is that you need not make the same choice time after time, but rather vary your tablesetting. I call that table'scaping'. Most of us don't wear the same clothes everyday, but we do tend to use our favorite accessories (pearls, diamonds, gold) with every outfit from sweats to that little black number. Just as we accessorize our wardrobes, we can accessorize our tables, our windows, our doors, our walls - well, you get the point.

I am a big fan of continuity. I like it when my food and my tablesetting "match". To tablescape a shellfish dinner, first cover the table with newspaper. Because shellfish (and newsprint) are 'neatness challenged', cover the newspaper at each placesetting with hand towels for placemats, use coordinating washcloths for napkins, and the largest dinner plates you own. Create finger bowls (ramekins or small bowls work great here) with a half lemon in each! For a centerpiece, you might choose a rugged lantern, some decorative fishnet, seashells and a large platter lined with purple cabbage leaves, spinach leaves and fresh slices of lemon. The platter, while colorful and fragrant, serves a dual purpose; as a centerpiece and as a receptacle for the shellfish discards. Add a votive candle and nutcracker at each place setting, and you can almost smell the ocean! Remember, continuity is easy, and continuity adds style.

Formal occasions can be challenging for even the most experienced dinner party enthusiasts. It seems that when we say "formal" we get a little glitch in our throats. A centerpiece? Do I need one? Guess I'll buy one. How big should it be? There is only one rule on centerpieces. They can be anything, period. Centerpieces can be made, bought, dug out of closets, stacked, lit, fresh, old, hard, soft... you name it.

Formal dinners imply elegance, so you will want your centerpiece to be equally refined. But, there's no rule that says beauty and elegance must be elaborate. What you do need to keep in mind however, is that good decorating always takes into consideration size, scale and proportion. Therefore, the larger your table, the larger your centerpiece.

A votive candle would be lost as a centerpiece on a large table. A single bud vase and rose would be equally out of proportion, unless the vase and flower were tall and imposing. How tall? Your centerpiece should not prohibit conversation, so it should be either below eye level or above eye level. Simply from a design standpoint, I recommend tall rather than stocky. You can stack a vase (or any centerpiece object) on a clay pot, books, bowls - anything that provides secure height can be used. You can then drape it with fabric that coordinates with your overall color scheme. Height adds drama by commanding attention. A tall centerpiece draws the eye to it and becomes the focal point of the tablescape.

Now for the "what". As I said, centerpieces can be anything. Flowers, candles, fruit, vegetables, topiaries, potted plants - live or silk, a combination of these things and more. For more formal occasions, fresh flowers and candles are always stylish. Don't be intimidated when working with fresh flowers. You don't have to be a florist to arrange an attractive spray. Some general rules apply: when using more than a single stem, use an odd number; for stability, use floral foam (soaked oasis for live flowers) and floral tape (duct tape works well too). Add greenery to cover the foam and tape, position your flowers at random heights, and you're in business. Floras of the same color make a more artistic statement. You can mix the flower variety, just maintain the same color family for your more formal occasions.

For a more contemporary feel, bowl vases in metal stands look quite smart with floating candles and flowers. Live flowers are best in this instance, and because you use only the flowering portion, you may be able to get some very inexpensive flowers stems from your grocery or florist. A beautiful crystal bowl (or a squeaky clean gold fish bowl) will also work - just lift it off the table to give it some height and prominence.

Today's more contemporary centerpieces often include two large neo- classic vases centered by a candle; two topiaries accompanied by a large pillar candle; a garden statue surrounded by potted plants and candles, and so forth. For an artistic, yet organic centerpiece, use natural fruits, vegetables and nuts. These can be hot-glued to Styrofoam cones or topiaries for a stunning presentation.

Have a glass dining table? Try this idea to make your entire table glow. Purchase an up light - available at most stores for less than fifteen dollars - position it beneath the center of your table, add a 40 watt bulb and turn it on. (Be sure to hide the cord and secure it to prevent your guests from tripping.) This is an exquisite look with an open weave or lace tablecloth, as the light not only shines through, but also creates a beautiful still life on your ceiling.

Solid surface tables can be made to glow as well. Try using a mirror as the base for your centerpiece. Top it with a crystal vase of flowers and crystal candlesticks. To the candlesticks, you may wish to add a clear bobeche (to catch wax drips) and a small tassel. Sprinkle some clear stones (or any color that coordinates with your table) around the base of the candles, light your candles and enjoy the glow! The mirror will graciously reflect light from your candles as well as light from your chandelier overhead. Lighting from above and below will make your table warm and graceful, yet alive and sparkling. Your dinner guests will relish the special effort you've put forth on their behalf, and they will truly appreciate your Home Style.

When it comes to decorating, there are some common mistakes that many of us make. Next time, we'll look at some little things we can do to give our interiors a big facelift - as well as a few Home Style tips on getting ready for spring! Hope to see you then!



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