We are welcoming the warm brisk embrace of Autumn. The cooler weather naturally gathers us inside and together. So for September’s Styling how perfect for us to focus on the essentials of an intimate autumn gathering at home. Whether it’s a dinner for ten or two, but especially for one, there is something special in setting a table that is effortless and simple, but also intentionally beautiful.
Truthfully I believe any dinner at home should always feel a little special, even if it’s just using linen napkins, lighting a candle or having everyone sit at the table together. When having people over, it’s an even better reason to create a lovely setting, one essentially casual at its core. You don’t need to be the most creative. You simply have to infuse each element and design with a refined approach that is easily attainable — from the menu, to tabletop decor and florals. As always, simple ideas, but thoughtfully executed ones.
In September, and now much of October, the days are still warm and pleasant. While the sun sets, that distinct autumn breeze settles in, and when wrapped in cozy layers with the flicker of candlelight…there’s nothing quite as intimate and romantic.
THE RITUAL & INTENTION OF SETTING A TABLE FOR AN INTIMATE DINNER, THESE SIMPLE LUXURIES HAVE THE ABILITY TO ENRICH OUR EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES
For this styling, I setup a bistro table in my garden, layered with crochet and linen. I then added a small appetizer plate with an organically draped napkin and tiny dish filled with starter bites of crackers, almonds and dried fruit. This was a charcuterie tapas dinner, so flatware is kept minimal. When setting your table, it’s important to keep your menu in mind. Sometimes you don’t need a full service dinner setting or you might need to set steak knives for guests to enjoy their meal better.
Foraged elements from Nature burst of Autumn beauty like rocks, chestnuts and branches paired alongside various colored bud vases with dried florals.
If there’s one thing an intimate gathering cannot be without, it’s candlelight!! I prefer to use beeswax, or soy, as burning too many candles also isn’t the healthiest or most sustainable. When the lights flicker in the dimness of night, it adds an ambiance and coziness that can’t be achieved with anything else. Fill your table and space with battery powered candles if you prefer, and keep in mind to NEVER setup scented candles on a table where eating is involved. This alters a person’s taste and smell.
To finish it all off, a light and comforting cocktail….yes, just for me…and just for you, too.
With the start of Autumn, it means the holidays are also beginning soon. And what a lovely opportunity to incorporate all these ideas for a gathering you may be hosting, or a new Autumn tradition of making your solo dinners something to truly look forward to and cherish.
If in doubt, follow our quick tips below to create an intimate at home gathering and set a stunningly effortless table…..
NEUTRAL COLOR PALETTE
When designing a table, my preference is to start with a neutral color palette. From there you can then layer the color, texture, and pattern that fit your aesthetic or specific envisioned look. Allow natural elements and earthy hues to set the foundation. And allow your ingredients; the food, the flowers, the place settings — to offer the vibrancy you wish. Seek out the sun-drenched and the faded, these are eternally timeless details that you’re really just allowing Mother Nature to do all the work for you. The key is to not overthink it!
CREATE VISUAL DIMENSION
As you can see in this styling, and in all my stylings, to create an intriguing design, even one that is simple, one has to include depth. I always layer my pieces so the heights vary and create a natural flowing horizon. And always, always, add in textures, especially for Autumn! When styling a table, do so as you would any room, by using scale to create visual cues that draw in the eye. This breaks up the monotony, and is what makes the difference between a nice table from an intentionally elevated tablescape.
Just make sure your elements, like candles/flowers/serving dishes, aren’t too high they block guests’ view and prevent conversation. The same principles apply even for a small table for one or two. The intention is always to build up visual cohesion.
FORAGE FOR FLORALS
Working with the seasons is at the core of everything we do. Walk outside, into your garden or around your neighborhood with clippers in hand, and snip a little bit of nature for your table. **Please, please make sure you’re not drastically taking from someone’s home, or simply ask for permission if you can cut flowers/foliage.**
Whatever sparks your eye grab it — leaves, a rock, a branch, dried chestnut pods, herbs, seasonal in bloom flowers or dried beauties. Then take a walk in your home and use whatever you can find — ribbon, seasonal fruits, vintage trinkets or books. Now open your mind and heart to blend all you’ve discovered. I’m a firm believer in not needing to go to the store and buy new to host a gathering, holiday or party at home. One of my main tips for any intimate and intentional setup, is about working with what you already got!
While I simply adore the artistry of an arranged floral centerpiece, but we’re also thinking about the menu, dinnerware and every other detail. More often I forego formal arrangements with only store-bought flowers and go into my garden to create with what I already have. Don’t be fooled into believing you always need lush blooming florals to have a beautiful tablescape.
For this table, simple dried scabiosa pods, baby’s breath and hellebores served as the perfect backdrop nestled amongst the rose bushes for my romantic setting. Less is always more, and always, more special!
FOOD CAN BE DECOR TOO
As with every other element, let the food and seasons guide you — from palette to decor. Fruits and vegetables simply placed in groupings onto the table or in pedestal bowls, or place them atop each plate along a name or menu card. Or even create an organic “garland” down the table which can make an elegant impact.
Use your dishes and meals to create a visual feast, after all we do eat with our eyes first. When artfully arranged, a cheese board works beautifully as decor. Always consider the shapes, textures, sizes, and colors of serving platters/dishes as you layer them. Overall, a more casual approach to a tabletop feels refreshing. Placing the meal within your tablescape is great visually and an ease for guests to interact as they serve themselves. But if you don’t have the space you might end up overcrowding the table and creating an environment that is a little too intimate. For that read below for my tips…
CONSIDER A SELF-SERVE STATION
Serving your meal off the guest table and creating a separate self-serve station is very much casual but can still be beautiful and elevated. Keep dishes spaced out well enough for people to serve themselves without being on top of each other or reaching over too many other dishes. Guests can bring their plates from the set table, or if you have the space, choose to setup your self-serve station with plates and anything they may need to serve themselves. Mingle as you savor, because let’s face it, we all rather gather casually about, than be confined to a formal dinner. It’s where the magic happens…
LIGHT IT UP
Nothing is more flattering, more intimate and special than candlelight. I’m aways looking for ways to bring that flickering romantic warmth to any table. Here I mixed taper candles with pillar candles grouped together atop a tiny vintage cake stand, while a single votive flickered atop a rock. Whether indoors or outdoors, differing candle height across a table creates a lovely intrigue for the eye. And when there’s a chill in the air, candlelight always seems to make it feel more comforting.
Get all our tips for effortless entertaining here…