An entertaining expert on setting beautiful tables

Washington Post
Friday, November 17, 2017

Entertaining expert Liz Curtis, creator of the Table + Teaspoon party rentals service, joined staff writer Jura Koncius on the Washington Post’s Home Front online chat.

What advice do you have for someone who has never designed a table setting before?

No one comes out of the womb ready to host a dinner party. We all have to start somewhere. Look around your home and your closet for inspiration. Pick colors and textures that already play a role in your life. For example, if you lean toward preppy attire, go with a navy-and-white nautical theme. If you’re more of a black moto jacket and Converse kind of girl, go with dark hues and unexpected fabrics such as leather runners and jewel-toned water glasses.

How do you get inspired to design a tablescape?

I like to channel the mood of the meal. I ask myself what kind of person will be using the setting, who will be eating the meal and what feeling I want to convey. If it’s a brunch, soft tones such as dove gray and blush provide an elegant foundation. If it’s a bachelorette party, lots of pinks and greens make the meal pop. For something more sophisticated, classic black-and-white prints and dishware are always on point. I always start with the runner or tablecloth first. It’s the biggest piece of your tablescape, so everything else plays off that.

I am tired of ironing tablecloths for the holidays. Can you suggest some attractive and affordable alternatives?

Swap out tablecloths with metallic, netted place mats. There are several options out there, and the best part is that you can quickly rinse them off after a meal rather than laundering.

What’s the best way to kick someone out of your party?

This is an excellent question. If it’s a weekend, I typically plan for everyone to have an after-dinner destination (karaoke is always a favorite). If it’s a weeknight, or if your crowd isn’t up for a post-party, start doing the dishes. Either you’ll get help cleaning up, or people will take the hint that the evening is over.

We are thinking of hosting this year’s family Thanksgiving dinner in an old bank barn. Any ideas for decorating?

This is a dreamy idea. I’m jealous! If you have access to chandeliers, that would be a gorgeous way to glam up the space quickly. Rent them from an events company, or find mismatched chandeliers from thrift stores. If chandeliers aren’t your thing, market lights will also do the trick and make the space feel immediately more intimate for your holiday.

What is your favorite unexpected color scheme for a holiday tablesetting?

Skip the primary colors that are often associated with the holidays and go with deep jewel tones instead – for example, aubergine and emerald rather than red and green. Another option is to go with an all-white tablescape and tons of white taper candles (this provides a great contrast to the otherwise stark color).

Do you have any advice for setting a table made from reclaimed wood?

In this case, the table is the star of your tablescape. Skip the runner and place mats altogether and let the reclaimed wood shine. Find coasters for beverages.