From opulent and luxurious to casual and traditional, three style gurus share how to create
beautiful summer tablescapes, no matter what the occasion.
Photography Ellen McDermott • Styling Carolyn Dempsey, Ned Kelly, and Shari Lebowitz
Shot on location at Crabtree Kittle House, Chappaqua
Sophisticated Dinner Party
“I absolutely love outdoor entertaining, and I am so ready for the season after what seemed to be a forever winter,” says Carolyn Dempsey of Carolyn Dempsey Design. “Here, modern, black-and-white trellis print linen [is set] against contrasting pops of bold spring garden flowers, which I styled monochromatically.”
Her inspiration for this table came from the season, and she always loves to create the unexpected while entertaining friends. “It’s all about mixing elements that subtly pair perfectly together without trying too hard to create an ‘experience’ for your guests,” adds Dempsey.
Think bold and contrasting. “We used white-and-black linen [bold] topped with bright and colorful flowers [contrasting],” says Dempsey.
Mix old with new. “Pull out your candelabras and breathe new life into them,” says Dempsey. “Set it on your outdoor dining table in the garden for a fun evening of entertaining your BFFs; they will feel ‘oh so special.’”
“For me, I always go for a juxtaposition.”
Create the unexpected. “Adding those candelabras that you only use on your sideboard or dining table to an outdoor setting takes your table in a new direction,” adds Dempsey.
Forget tried and true. “Instead of tried-and-true classic white and green flowers, go for bright-colored flowers and group them, so they paint a beautiful color-blocked picture,” says Dempsey.
Cocktails for Two
A blue-and-white color palette is always classic and clean, and mixing and matching beautiful pieces is always in style. Sure, you may not always have time to set an elaborate table, but Ned Kelly of Ned Kelly & Company says you still want to do something extra for your guests.
“If you lack the time to set a full table, but you’re having a friend over and you want to serve Prosecco or a cup of tea, you still want to make it special,” says Kelly. “It’s not about cheap or high-end; it’s about finding things that are stylish and work.”
He says to mix high and low, like he did with the printed paper placemats, which he keeps handy for just such occasions.
“Mix it up!” says Kelly. “Melamine plateware and flatware with vintage glassware and fine-linen napkins, and an antique peppermill work great.”
“Friends don’t judge, so relax and enjoy entertaining friends with whatever you have. It’s the time shared that is most appreciated and maybe a good bottle of Prosecco!”
He also suggests hunting for unusual and unused items in your home. “An old silver coffeepot with creamer and sugar bowls becomes a great, new trio of vases,” says Ned. “A little bit goes a long way, and you want to make everything easier in the summertime.”
Lunch in the Garden
A colorful and eclectic table shines bright during the summer months, especially when hosting friends or family for a luncheon in the garden.
A simple color palette of green, pink, and white showcases the patterns and prints used. “The color story should stay tight when you have so much going on,” says Shari Lebowitz of Bespoke Designs, LLC.
She also says to mix and match.
“Everyone inherits items from their parents and grandparents and thinks, What am I going to do with this?” says Lebowitz. “I have had this china from my grandma, and I love how it mixes and matches. I always say use what you have, use what you love, and incorporate it with what’s new.”
“Use the good stuff; this is not a dress rehearsal!”
Lebowitz also loves to give her guests something to take home with them at the end of the party. She had her in-house illustrator and calligrapher create place cards that matched the ferns she used in the centerpieces and those found on the William Yeoward crystal glasses.
Anchoring the center of the table are vintage pagodas that hold beautiful ferns. Mint julep cups and Frances Palmer vases were used to hold the pink, white, and green flowers by Green of Greenwich.
There are also monogrammed Sferra napkins at each place setting, which highlights the floral tablecloth from Peter Fasano. “I love creating a monogram on paper and then finding other ways to use it,” says Lebowitz. It’s in the details that an ordinary table can become something extraordinary.