Want a gorgeous tablescape?
You're one step away.
What’s happening over there in your kitchen? In case you missed it, in last week’s Friday edition of the Fresh Letter, I shared a little career update that’s meant I have a lot more bandwidth to spend in my own kitchen. I’ve used that extra time in a number of ways: to make some renter friendly updates to my office (read: the kitchen), to start work on a couple really exciting projects with Abigail, and most relevantly to today’s edition of The Fresh Letter, to host and document weekly dinner parties for the people I love.
In addition to the really lovely feedback I’ve received on the Micro Dinner Party series (thank you!) I’ve received a version of the question that’s inspired today’s Fresh Letter more times than I can count:
How do I create a visually pleasing tablescape?
And I get it—type the words “beautiful tablescape” into Google Images or your Pinterest search bar and you’ll be served with some really over-the-top displays that include things like place cards, professional floral arrangements, and twee little candle-filled mason jars. So many mason jars. Why are there so many mason jars?
For most people, this setup looks (and is!) unachievable. That said, in my humble opinion, one of the only things that sets a run of the mill Wednesday evening dinner apart from full on dinner party is an intentional tablescape. And dear reader, having a gorgeous table setting is so much easier than you think! In fact, you’re just one step away:
To achieve that illusive beautiful tabletop that perfectly toes the line between intentional and unfussy, I want you to set the table and keep a single word in mind while you do: abundance.
To me, a full table is a beautiful one. Take a peek at my dinner party Pinterest board and you’ll see what I mean. The images that are most attention grabbing to me aren’t beautiful because they include matching placemats or ironed napkins or perfect florals. The dinner tables that look best to me are beautiful because they’re extremely welcoming and the word that comes to mind when I look at them is abundance. Food is, of course, a major part of this. That said, I’m not talking about overloading the table with an excessive amount of food—waste is not the vibe!
There are so many ways to make the table feel abundant, so let’s run those down.
1: Table Linens
Tablecloths, table runners, and little doilies are definitely not a necessity, that said, laying one down on your table takes about 5 seconds and adds an immediate sense of fullness and abundance. I have a vintage doily from one of my great grandmothers and an embroidered tablecloth from my mom, but I also love these really affordable 100% linen table runners. And as you can see above, I really don’t think ironing a tablecloth is all that necessary…but to each their own.
Cloth napkins immediately elevate things. I have a large collection, a number of which were made by my very talented mother in law, Shanty, but if you’re looking to shop, I also have these beauties from Hawkins New York.
2: Dish Ware and Such
Dishes are never a focal point for me. I have these really standard everyday dishes and use them…everyday, including while hosting. That said, if I had fancy China, I’d be using that everyday as well. Basically, what I’m trying to say is use whatever you have, use it well, and use it often. If I have bits and bobs of food to accompany the meal (think olives, pickles, herbs, and other condiments) I love setting them out on little dishes I’ve thrifted or stolen from my very sweet mother over the years.
Silverware, like dishes, is a use what you have affair over here at Fresh Erica HQ. What I have happens to be really special—Quentin thrifted a set of ornate silver before we met—it’s tarnished as can be, but I like it that way.
Cups, wine glasses, and the like can be a really fun way to add a pop of color to the table. Like with dishes, I think you should use whatever you have on hand, but I’ve enjoyed collecting some fun colorful glassware like these yellow drinking glasses and these vintage green-stemmed wine glasses.
Serving Platters are…you guessed it…a use what you have situation! Quentin and I got a few really beautiful pieces as wedding gifts, but I frequently use our everyday bowls as serving platters and have also had a lot of luck thrifting larger dish ware from my local Goodwill.
Alternative Serving Dishes are great as well. And by alternative I mean serving the food in the dish you cooked it in. In the cooler months, I use my dutch oven most days. It’s functional but it’s also stunning, so you’ll regularly catch me dropping it on a trivet directly on the table. It’s huge and really adds to that sense of abundance and pssst, it’s 20% off right now. This really fancy copper pot also makes a regular appearance both on my stove and on the table at my dinner parties.
Keep it simple, baby! It never hurts to have flowers on the table, and a good way to do this with minimal effort is to make an arrangement with a single floral variety. I often opt for cat-safe options like sunflowers, stock, or gerber daisies. And as with the rest of your table setting, abundance is key with simple florals. A full vase almost always looks better than a sparse one so keep that in mind when selecting your florals.
My vases are all thrifted. They’re a really easy item to find second hand at a great price. If you’re curious, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Brooklyn spots here.
4: Candles and Other Lighting
I wrote an entire newsletter on this one. Head this way :)
5: Miscellaneous Decor
If you’ve decanted your salt and pepper into beautiful containers, add them to your tablescape! A pinch pot of flakey salt is also always welcome on my table.
I love adding pottery from around my home to my dinner table. As with a tablecloth or table runner, placing a favorite ceramic item on your table automatically lends to a sense of abundance. I often incorporate my donabe and favorite ceramic bowls that I fill with…
6: Food & Bev
Produce! Have a bag of lemons? Or maybe a couple orange and a lime? Perhaps you just grabbed some stunning ruby red cherries from the market?Place whatever produce you have on hand in a regular ol’ bowl or if you’re feeling fancy, an aforementioned favorite ceramic and voila! Another thing to add to your table that looks really intentional but actually to you about 10 seconds to assemble. Bonus: if you place pitted fruits or veg on your table, set a pretty little discard dish out right beside it and you’ve got another item that adds to that sense of abundance, plus, you’re inviting your guests to nibble on fresh fruit/veg. How lovely.
I can and will write an entire installation of this newsletter on approachable food styling, but in the meantime what I’ll say is that you shouldn’t overthink it. A smattering of herbs or a wedge of lemon or lime go a really long way.
Wine bottles are beautiful these days. If you partake, don’t shy away from keeping your wine on the table and considering it a piece of the very abundant tablescape.
Like wine bottles, many condiment containers are really thoughtfully designed. Grainy mustard, chili crispy, mayo, jam…you name it and you can probably find it in a pretty container. If you have some vibe-y condiments that pair well with the meal, placing a few on the table will add to that sense of abundance quite beautifully. That said, if you’d rather not set your Heinz bottle out on the table, feel free to decant it into a sweet little bowl.
7: Most Importantly, Attitude
Remember, feeding people is a generous (…some might even say abundant…) gift! Don’t stress. You’re doing a beautiful thing for the people you love. How lucky is that?
Okay, I think I’ve made myself abundantly clear (sorry, couldn’t resist) that you’re really just a mindset shift away from a beautiful, easy, breezy tablescape. But if you have any questions at all, please, ask away. You can respond directly to me here via email or the comments board. Or feel free to DM me via Instagram.
Alright, I’ll leave ya here. I hope you have a lovely, abundant, well-fed week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,
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