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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.
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
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
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!