Summer has officially arrived. It’s time for beach days, pool afternoons, and lots of outdoor entertaining. Second to the food, the most important element of this is the tablescape. It adds to the dining experience and sets a mood. Fortunately, creating a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy tablescape isn’t as challenging as it looks. Here’s how to design a perfect summer tablescape for Independence Day and beyond this summer.
Build Your Tablescape Around Food
Dianne O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Weston Table has a simple yet brilliant approach. She considers tablescapes to be accessories to the food and drink. After planning the menu around the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables, she designs the tablescape around the colors of the food. “I want the mood to reflect the emotion surrounding the occasion, and I choose a color palette that helps my guests to understand the evening’s ambiance.”
For example, even if something as simple as hot dogs is being served, the table can be beautifully accessorized with red napkins. Making summer salads or zucchini? Opt for green placemats.
July Fourth Tablescapes
July Fourth is the kitschiest holiday of the summer and most people go overboard with red, white, and blue. However, O’Connor has a more elegant approach to designing tables for this holiday. Skip the hamburgers and go with more gourmet fare instead. “Given I let the food and season guide me, I dream of eating luxurious catches that most people only consider for celebrations or over-the-top entertaining—not your average weeknight meal fare. This year it will be Maryland blue crabs delivered live overnight for an elegant crab boil.”
What makes a table festive and unique are the small touches. “On arrival, I provide a 100 percent pure linen bib. Each place setting includes a complete kit for eating in style: a mallet, crackers, and a pick.”
Leave the flags in storage this year and approach the red, white, and blue color scheme subtly instead. O’Connor uses vintage baskets to hold extra Nantucket red linen napkins, and puts out individual French glass dishes filled with ripe summer blueberries.
She also uses newspapers to decorate the table. “I use a white tablecloth covered with newspaper. Newspapers are everyday ordinary but we make it extraordinary with what sits on top of it.” Just be sure to avoid the politics section.
Create Your Own Tablescape Collection
No matter what, skip the paper plates. They aren’t welcoming, stylish, or good for the environment. But it’s also important to also be practical. If there are children around, concrete or pavers under an outdoor dining table (or adults drinking a lot of alcohol)—consider melamine plates and cups because this material won’t break. Safety first— glass can be a disaster to clean up outdoors.
It’s best to have tableware just for summer serving as many do for the winter holidays because it makes these times feel extra special. The Emma Bridgewater Blue Star Plates are a perfect example of this.
Then add fun platters and serving pieces. Buy a few new things every year to add to the collection.
“My signature style includes a mixture of vintage and new: a collection of hurricanes that stay lit in the wind, vintage baskets filled with flowers clipped from the garden, and soft, luxurious linens,” says O’Connor.
Be Inspired By The Outdoors
Every summer tablescape should include at least one outdoor element. Add fresh flowers, miniature plants at each place setting, or a vine that runs the length of the table.
O’Connor recommends choosing place settings around these natural elements for a cohesive look. “If hydrangeas are in bloom, I choose white plates to cleanse the palate, colored glassware and pink, purple, or blue linens to add visual interest, and neutral-colored flatware that does not compete with the vibrancy of summer’s vegetable-forward bounty.”
Don’t Forget The Extras
The weather can change in an instant during the summer months. Keep this in mind when inviting over guests. For example, keep a few extra umbrellas inside the house.
If the temperature dips, there are other ways to make guests feel comfortable. O’Connor tells me, “In preparation for a gentle summer breeze, I drape lightweight throws over the chair of each guest.”