I love setting beautiful tables and making them season-friendly. In our all-too-short summer season here on Prince Edward Island, I like to use fresh locally-grown flowers whenever I can. With beautiful pink flowers like those in the photo below, it’s easy to set a pretty alfresco dining table.
I have a collection of white milk glass and like its clean look. I find it transitions well to any season and any color of flowers. One of the biggest advantages I find to using the white vases is that they conceal the stems and make a cleaner-looking tabletop. When I add to my collection, I try to find pieces of the milk glass that are different shapes and sizes and, when using them in a tablesetting, I use varying sizes and shapes to add more interest to the tablescape. Taller vases add a dramatic effect and “lift” to the tabletop. Just make sure that they and the flowers are not so tall as to block guests’ views of each other as this makes tabletop conversation more difficult and gives an obstructive ambiance to the setting.
This setting lends itself well to the use of my vintage Grindley (England) Cream Petal dinnerware in the apple blossom pattern.
When I am setting a table, I first decide on whether it will be a casual, informal, or formal setting. Then, I choose my dinnerware accordingly and then select linens, flowers, vases, and glassware that will complement the dishes. Pink was an obvious theme color for this setting and was derived from the pink pattern on the dinnerware.
In this case, I chose a small-checked pink tablecloth and simple ivory-colored napkins to match the off-white color in the dinnerware’s background. Because I am using a collection of vases on the table, I need to use table linens that are fairly solid in color so they don’t distract the eye and create a chaotic look. The checks in this tablecloth were sufficiently small that they work. And, of course, it goes without saying that, regardless how casual or formal the event, the tablecloth must be ironed and all creases from any folds removed. It’s a sign of a well-set and dressed table when the linens are pressed and wrinkle-free. A casual style tablesetting does not extend to the point that the host/hostess has not taken the time to properly prepare the linens.
When using patterned dinnerware and you want to show off the pattern, choose plain colored napkins and a napkin fold that is placed on the table rather than on the plate covering up the dinnerware pattern. The napkins on this table have an embossed pattern which adds a level of texture to the table. To keep tablesettings simple for a casual dinner, use a basic napkin fold and position it under the fork(s). If you aren’t adept with fancy napkin folding, this is the easiest fold to do and it is always classy and always in style.
When using multiple bouquets as a tablescape, it’s best that they be in odd number format, versus even, as this is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It’s also preferable to vary the height and size of the vases as this adds interest to the setting. The great thing about using individual vases is that they can be configured in any format on the table – i.e., spread out the length of the table as I have done here, clustered altogether in the table’s center, or they can be clustered into small individual groupings here and there along the center of the table. If spreading the vases out, I recommend placing them in an “S” shape, as shown in the photo below, to make the arrangement more interesting.
The main thing to keep in mind with this type of arrangement is not to overfill the vases with flowers, trying to create an entire full bouquet in each. Keep it simple and casual by placing only one or two stems and perhaps a bit of greenery in some (but not nesssarily all) of the vases and varying the size and variety of the flowers used.
In this arrangement, I have chosen, among others, Sweet William, Sweet Peas, Estoma Lisianthia, and cress, varying the size, shape, and color intensity of the flowers chosen. The colors range from soft white to pale pink to medium-deep pink. By keeping the colors in the same palette and varying the color intensity just a little, it is less chaotic and more calming to the eye. The use of vivid colors on this tabletop would have provided too much contrast and taken away from the dinnerware. A tip to keep in mind when selecting flowers to use as single stems in vases is to ensure they have strong enough stems to stand on their own without drooping over giving the impression that they are wilting on the table.
My choice of floral varieties was deliberate because I wanted them to be the varieties that would suit vintage dishes and the flowers chosen are all ones that would have been found in old English-style gardens from long ago. All flowers came from Island Meadow Farm in York, PEI. Owner, Barb Jewell, grows the most amazing array of beautiful flowers and I love to pay her a visit to find some wonderful flowers for my tablesettings. You can check out her website here. She is the florist of choice on PEI for many brides for their summer weddings and I have seen photos of weddings in which brides carried stunning bouquets that came out of Barb’s small flower shop.
You can also check out this link to another, more formal tablesetting, I did using this Cream Petal dinnerware and beautiful flowers from Island Meadow Farm.
When constructing a casual tablesetting, don’t hesitate to use mixed glassware as not everything has to be perfectly matched. Here, I have used my vintage water and wine glasses and they are not a matched set. Because the dinnerware is vintage, I have chosen to use similar style glassware as opposed to sleek, contemporary stemware. Of course, the more cuts in the glass, the more sparkle and life that natural sunlight will add to the table.
As you can see from the photo below, this setting was for an alfresco dinner held on a beautiful summer day.
Even for casual tablesettings, I tend to arrange the placesettings that reflect the order of the meal to be had. Here, the placement of the salad plate on top of the dinner plate and the addition of two forks, suggests a starter salad will precede the dinner. While it is not necessary to place the plates on the table if the meal will be plated from the kitchen, doing so sets a pretty and inviting table as guests arrive. Without the plates, I would find the placesettings to be missing something.