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FRESH and Festive: FRESH Tablescapes

I’m one of those weird people who think planning a party is nearly as much fun as the actual party. It’s easy during the summer…grilled everything, ice cream, your beverages of choice and you usually have two or three centerpieces…the grill, the picnic table and the kiddie pool.

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we finally got a few days that didn’t top 100 degrees, but for party planning, that means you need to move beyond the picnic table and start thinking fall. So, once you’ve picked the date, made your list and checked it twice, got your theme, got your menu (which of course you called FRESH catering to prepare for you), and picked out the music, you need to think of the decorations for your home, and more importantly, the centerpiece for your table.

Unless you’re doing a throwback to Billy Idol and planning a White Wedding and everything is ultra formal, take your cues from Mother Nature. Mother Nature is not uptight and she isn’t always upright. She is not rigid and doesn’t use straight lines. Even when I’m preparing large parties for four or five hundred people, I do my best to mimic nature.

What does that mean?

Think waterfalls…think of the way leaves are naturally blown into piles…flowing.  There is a high point, a mid point and low point (table level).  The principle is the same whether you are using a 10-foot table, or a card table…it’s all to scale and proportion anyway.

Another example I like to use is to think “Farmer’s Market” – simple, but bountiful. Or, put another way, the cornucopia (what we used to call the horn of plenty) on the Thanksgiving table…filled to overflowing and spilling out onto the table.

If you’re hosting a more formal party, your containers might be crystal or cut glass. If it is more informal, they might be baskets of different sizes, or copper or even pieces of natural stone like granite. Build different heights and let your “ingredients” flow from one level to the next. Whole clusters of grapes naturally follow that movement and make great filler. Fill up your vase, basket or bowl and tip it over a bit…gravity will help you decorate. Then fill in the blank spots.

There is a time and a place for the strange little pumpkins and gourds and I’ve used them a thousand times, but don’t get in a rut. Use artichokes and chili peppers. Brussels sprouts are really fun if you can find them still on the stalk. If you use a group of pomegranates, cut some in halves or quarters. I believe everyone has an artist on the inside. Most people just don’t know it, and they’re a bit afraid to try.

My grandmother and my mother never took an art class or hired a decorator or party planner in their lives, but they came up with some of the most beautiful displays I’ve ever seen. Their secret? They relied on nature and used what nature provided. (New slogan!! FRESH—Nature’s newest BFF).

Next time you are planning a party and aren’t sure what to do for a centerpiece, take your cues from nature…and don’t forget to say Thank You to the One who supplies it all.