Table Setting Ideas

If you haven’t heard already, on February 25th, designer Tommy Smythe, H&H’s Mark Challen and myself are organizing and co-chairing the annual Snowball benefit event for Casey House, a special hospice providing healthcare support and service to people living with HIV/AIDS. I’m so honoured to be part of it and it has been loads of fun to work on conceptualizing this year’s event.

We’ve called the party “Elemental” as a tribute to nature and the elements, and it’s being held in the stunning three-storey Avenue Road (above) in Toronto. The night will consist of a sit-down dinner catered by Langdon Hall’s Jonathan Gushue, a live auction, and an after party with DJ Ticky Ty. There will be a video component and some amazing live performances as well. It’s sure to be an event to remember, and all proceeds are going to a terrific cause.

Since Tommy, Mark and I are decor obsessed, the table settings and ambience have been top of mind. Here are a few of the inspiration photos that we’ve been emailing to each other over the past few months trying to get it just right. Some might even inspire if you’re planning a wedding or big event of your own.

Be sure to buy a ticket to join in the fun. The dinner tickets have sold out — close to 300! — but lounge party tickets are still available: $150 each — just click here and we’ll see you there!

This is one of the photos that Tommy sent me early on. I think it was after our first meeting! Here’s what he said: “I’m not a fan of the ghost chairs, but I’m loving this garland idea for long tables.” I agreed, but you need a ton of space and a huge budget (flowers add up really fast).

Mark sent me this photo in reference to the simple strings of lights crisscrossing overhead — so simple and yet so effective. I flipped out over the canopy of trees, too. Eating al fresco is always great inspiration. I would be thrilled if our guest felt like they were dining under a starry sky!

Of course I found a lot of inspiration in Martha Stewart’s most recent book, Martha’s Entertaining (2011 Clarkson Potter). How gorgeous is this over-the-top centerpiece? Way too big for our long narrow harvest tables and you would have to take it away when you sit down to eat, wouldn’t you? But I love the totally natural wild flower look, especially paired with the rustic table and benches.

I’ve always loved the idea of moving your formal dining table outside to dine as Martha did here. The gigantic peonies in large glass urns are unbelievable. This time the oversized scale works perfectly on a buffet — they just create a lush backdrop. And the sideways pink runners create a nice rhythm and drape this backyard in festive pink.

Mark sent me this note when he forwarded this photo of the ferns under glass: “This tablescape with glass cloches covering little pots of maidenhair ferns is beautiful! You could jazz it up with some moss, maybe even a few candles. I saw something like this on a TV show recently and it totally caught my eye — elegant but not fussy. The organic feel ties into our whole theme of elemental + snowglobe.”

Personally, I also loved the slabs of wood (almost like raw-edge cutting boards) in the photo on the left and the hemp runner in the photo on the right — both work to ground the arrangements on the table.

Here, designer Brad Ford created a stunning centerpiece with parrot tulips in simple vases that create a lovely sculptural effect. We also like the birch bark candles (very Canadiana) and the pinch pots of salt and pepper.

Simple potted plants in a row don’t have quite the same impact but they are still so pretty and your guests can take home a plant that will last longer than flowers.

I love the quirkiness of craspedia and they are so perfect to tuck into a napkin roll with a bit of twine as a special detail.

Of course tarnished silver cups or trophies make perfect vases, especially with a bit of timeworn patina and just green and white flowers. The rough-hewn plank of wood running the length of the table helps define the vases and adds texture to the table.

Bird motifs are fitting for nature-inspired settings.

Here is a tabletop setting that the H&H team produced using a collection of ceramic vases as a centerpiece. If you have a great-looking collection, a party is the perfect place to show it off. I actually like that the branches are off to the side, adding impact and drama without taking up space on the table.

River rocks have this inherent simple beauty and weight that is nice to bring to a table setting. Run them down the middle of the table with votives or place them in the centre of a plate with a stenciled number to mark a place setting. Super simple and effective.

Take a cue from your wall colour and go monochromatic like this deep blue-on-blue-on-blue look. It really packs drama — especially for an evening event.

If you have the space, create a cross formation with your tables — it allows for a tall, dramatic centerpiece in the middle of two tables. This black-on-black scheme is perfect for an evening event, and the gold plates really pop.

And here is my own dining room set for a food shoot we did back in 2009. H&H style editor Stacey Smithers set up the shot and completely changed the room — in a good way! It may not be as grand as most of these inspiration shots, but I love how the graffiti artwork fills things in to create an intimate but edgy space. Plus all of the tabletop items pull from the colours in the art for a cohesive look. Stacey also did a great job with a creating a variety of heights down the middle of the table.

For more information on Casey House or the event, follow Casey House on Facebook or Twitter @caseyhouseTO.

Photo credits:
1. Avenue Road, photography by Evan Dion
2. Coco + Kelley blog
3. Brennan Wesley blog
4, 5, 8, 15. Martha’s Entertaining (2011 Clarkson Potter) by Martha Stewart, photography by Frédéric Lagrange
6. Love Olio blog
7. Brad Ford
9. Triple Max Tons blog, photography by Kristina Lynn
10. Casa Bella blog
11. Two Shades of Pink blog
12. House & Home April 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
13. Martha Stewart
14. House & Home September 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
16. House & Home March 2009 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald

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