Look to the Garden for a Sensational, Sustainable Summer Gathering
The warmest months of the year can bring an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini and herbs in the garden or at the farmer’s market. Before you despair at the sheer volume of vegetables filling the refrigerator, and your family rebels at the mere mention of yet another zucchini bread, throw a relaxed garden party (indoors or out!) and make use of all that gorgeous produce on your table, rather than on your plate! The rich colors of vine-ripe tomatoes need no other adornment, and can tumble down the center of your table to create a lush, fragrant centerpiece.
Image Credit: Casa Tres Chic
Arrange fruits or vegetables directly on the table in a loose line, almost like a living table runner. Or use an assortment of clear glass bowls, platters, even cake stands, filled and piled with whatever excess you have on hand. Bunches of chard or kale can be given the “bouquet treatment”, standing up in a vase or pitcher at the center of the table. Take a cue from the French and arrange a large platter of radishes with their leaves still on, with soft butter and finishing salt for guests to help themselves. In this case, the hors d’oeuvres double as the centerpiece. Fragrant herbs, such as basil, thyme and mint don’t have to be reserved for the meal either. Arrange bunches of herbs in glass jars marching down the table or placed at each setting, or simply take the herbs you already have on your windowsill in small pots and arrange them right on your table for a truly “garden party” look. Jars and small vases of varying heights create interest for the eye, and you can build a collection simply by saving empty jam or mustard jars.
Even if you don’t have pints of extra berries languishing on the counter, citrus fruits make an incredible centerpiece, and once the party is over they last a very long time in the fridge. Perhaps you might even dabble in preserving or making a batch of fruit-infused shrubs or flavored vodka.
During the height of summer, wildflowers picked from an obliging field or roadside interspersed with votive candles, create a delicate, romantic look. Or consider cutting some leafy branches from trees on your property to make a strong statement at no cost.
Image Credit: Whimsical Wonderland Weddings
Play with the idea of mismatched tableware, too. Summer is a time for laid-back gatherings, and your china, linen and flatware can align with that lighthearted tone. Instead of sticking to a single design, mix and match different patterns, but keep the look cohesive by staying in the same color family or choosing two hues to mix. Layering a variety of patterns and scales will create a relaxed, effortless vibe.
Rather than feeling you need to choose one complete, extensive set of china, build your collection over time by simply seeking out pieces that you love. Perhaps a grandmother or an aunt gave you some family heirlooms, but you haven’t started using it yet because it’s not similar to what you have. Change your perspective about matching and explore how you can simultaneously use inherited pieces or finds from vintage shops with new items you’ve purchased. If you love the look of all the pieces in your collection, they’ll likely all work together. Don’t overthink it. Have fun with mixing new and old, and combining unexpected patterns or color combinations.
Whether you are hosting a casual dinner party or a more formal affair, think about topping off your summer table with place cards or menu cards. These added touches create yet another layer of color and design, and when handwritten feel quite personal and special. At a small, relaxed party, use place cards to write witty jokes or conversation starters rather than your guests’ names at each place setting.
Finally, think of these ideas as a loose guide for finding inspiration in your surroundings. A stylish summer party should be fun, affordable and enjoyable for the host as well as your guests!
Image Credit: Veranda Magazine