Warmth is slowly making its way back into our lives again and I’m so grateful. Life starts to feel a little easier in spring, longer days bring me more energy and that golden light beaming into my windows fills me with inspiration within my home and work life. The drive to create beauty is at its peak for me at this time, I thrive in warmer weather. The need to create, achieve and socialise surrounds my thoughts.
The build-up to summer can be a busy time of year, work and home life is a balancing act as I try to freshen up tired areas of my home whilst remaining focused on producing designs for others. Easier said than done at times, I somehow find the ability to juggle what’s seems like a million jobs at once when I’m on one, which, like most can lead to a burnout, a life lesson I’m still learning the hard way. But for now, I’m sat here creating more work for myself by deciding a blog is what my next step should be, and so the 11 pm ramblings of a restless designer are born.
I have a thing for table dressings. There’s something about this area of a home that makes my heart swoon. I think it may be the combination of structure and freedom that sits so satisfyingly with me. Dining is the place where we gather and share a common enjoyment, even if it is just for a short while. Stories are shared, and bonds are formed, opinions may differ and debates may arise, but fingers crossed everyone enjoys the food, and for me that brings peace. The knowing of what the space is to become, fills my daydreaming mind with a charming energy.
With summer on the horizon, the thought of entertaining friends and family is very much here. And so table dressing season is upon us.
Setting a theme for a table dressing makes the process more directional for me. So if i’m going for a very clean contemporary space, I know I need to keep things simplistic with a use of neutrals.
A more organic approach would allow me to play around with flowers, plants and colour or dressing with fruits and foliage.
And then a luxury dressing can be a more structured look with a strong mix of metallics and marble, perhaps some moss balls to add greenery whilst maintaining structure.
All styles I love to create, but since summer is teasing us, I think the organic approach is more in-fitting. Im going to talk through a design I created last year for a client, but with a contemporary twist on it. It was a very romantic, atmospheric space that still resonates with me.
So starting with a base, table runner vs cloth. If your dining table has a strong design element to it then I would always opt for a runner, as it allows the design of the table to still speak, whilst setting a focal point. This is usually what I would go for, mainly due to the fact that any furniture I source is to have ownership in a room, so to place a table cloth over a dining table I have carefully selected for a client doesn't make a huge amount of sense for me, but that's not to say a table cloth isn't just as beautiful, if not more at times.
But for me a runner is usually my first choice, it's the banner for which arrangements can be placed, spilling off, weightlessly. (Ironically I used a table cloth here)!
I like to create dressings with the ability to mix things up. So a centrepiece filled with flowers, that can be changed seasonally. The same for plants, I currently have a small fig tree taking full glory on my dining table. I was searching for months for the perfect planter, which I knew I wanted to be antique, but was unsure of the material or shape I desired, it was one of those yearning purchases I knew I would be drawn to once discovered.
My fig now sits proudly in an antique terracotta milking bowl that I spotted when walking down the ghostlike streets of Pembrokeshire in mid-January, on the day of my Grandfathers funeral of all days! Ever the enthusiast I had to have it, so carried it down the cobbled streets in my best funeral attire, with mixed emotions of grief and slight fulfilment for my new planter that I’d been blindly searching out for months.
I have since moved this fig around my kitchen frequently since owning it, and although i’m happy with it taking full ownership of my dining table right now, I know that in a few weeks I may want a change again, so a switch of foliage and flowers or even succulents can set the tone here giving an instant lift to a familiarised space.
The flowers created for this dressing were all British grown. Created by the immensely talented India at Vervain Flowers, her organic approach to floristry absorbs me.
I had the pleasure of working with her again later in the year, but this time, in her neck of the woods. I got to spend the day seeing how she worked, which filled me with so much inspiration.
She's since set up a wedding venue which is filled with her award winning floristry and gardening creations. One of the most majestic venues I have set eyes on.
Back to the point of creating your own centrepiece though! What India had created for me is slightly more advanced than what most of us can achieve, but to create a similar vibe is easy enough. If you wanted to opt for this look in particular, an urn vase is what you want, with some wire netting within the vase to hold the stems in place, or for a more contemporary approach a slightly more structured vase would also create a beautiful free flowing display, particularly with tall bending stems. If you do want to create something more contemporary, go for a less is more approach.
As for what flowers I would recommend, this could be a combination of gypsophila, white peonies, white roses, asparagus fern and eucalyptus. Or for a contemporary look, a single stem, or mix of branches gives impact, or dried flowers, like pampas grass. I used some pampas in one of the Menu vases when styling a clients property, the best thing about dried flowers is that they last so long, so you really do get more bang for your buck.
All accessible from your local flower market. (Cardiff readers, our public flower market is in Bessemer Road Market, but they close by 10am, so it’s a fresh morning, flat white in hand kinda shopping trip). As for creating the display, try and be experimental with it. This is a very unstructured look, so allowing the stems to flow naturally is what you want. I may even do a video tutorial of this for you soon to help?
Candles are always a must have for a dining table for me. They set ambience to the space, a warm welcoming glow, not just for the hopeless romantic. In fact I love candles in every room, organically scented to give each space a different feel, I think the smell of a home is immensely important, it can set a mood, from relaxation to optimism.
I like to create different heights with candles on a table dressing. Candelabras have made a proud comeback, and add a nice contrast to a lower placed tea light. There’s a real contemporary, dramatic impression a candelabra portrays, which I love. Marble and metallic’s are some of my favourite materials to use both within interior design and interior styling, which is very apparent in many candelabras, adding a feeling of contemporary luxury to the space, which is exactly what I’m after here. Pairing with a long beeswax dinner candle then contrasts with a little bit of rustic charm.
Dinnerware is of course vital! I got in touch with ceramist, Deborah, founder of Febbie Day Ceramics for this project who made a bespoke set for me. What I wanted wasn’t off the shelf so I discussed my ideas with Deborah who then went on to creating the most incredible paper thin set with subtle touches of luxe. If you can’t find what you want, its worth talking through your ideas with a ceramists, because having something as unique as this set is such a nice touch. Bespoke sets any design above the rest!
You could keep things just as elegant and more contemporary, by choosing a neutral coloured dinner set paired with a linen napkin. Napkins are an amazing way of keeping a table dressing feeling new. They’re a fairly inexpensive way of adding colour, texture or pattern to the space which you can easily change up seasonally.
Adding extra personal touches through foliage, fruits or plants allows you to create something unique to you. So for now, I’m leaving you with this. I haven’t covered glassware or cutlery, as I feel like this post is turning into a bit of an essay… So for anyone who would like to know my faves here at the moment, drop me a message and I’ll happily send some over.
And to anyone who gives this a shot, I would love to see what you come up with, give me a tag on insta so that I can see your work. Abi X