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Set To Entertain?

Five Tips For Elevating Your Food Styling

Article by Judy Beaudin

Photography by Judy Beaudin

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

Growing up a Southern girl, I was taught by example that a gracious and proper host sets a gussied up table for company with special occasion china, fancy linens, and silver serving pieces. My mama’s classic, traditional style influenced my own style of creating spaces where we live, eat, and entertain. Your roots are probably woven into your current home’s look too. Familiar feels good. But adding a few trends makes it interesting and fun. The most eye-pleasing settings are a tasteful mix of different styles.

During my years of catering and entertaining, I had a knack for styling beautiful tables and food displays. All had elements of both classic and modern. I eventually developed a list of essentials for creating an inviting atmosphere. I love a setting that evokes cheerful energy and says “Come on over and enjoy. You’re special and I prepared this just for you.” 

My Top Five Entertaining Essentials
1. SimplicityFilling every inch of the table with décor can look cluttered. Open space is easier on the eyes and gives guests an open view across the table for conversation.
2. Unique Touches - I like to include a few details that veer from the expected. Glass cubes with one floating stemless flower or a row of narrow vases with a single stem are sleek. Plants and bright produce give a surprisingly pretty look. Yard-cut greenery woven
among serving dishes and candlesticks visually tie things together. Glass terrariums with succulents are fun. Household objects like antique boxes, collected artifacts, or even stacks of old books among votive candles are unexpected.
3. Texture and Height Variation - A contrast of textures and different heights on a table add interest. Use mixed materials for placemats and linens. Place ceramic vases among hammered gold candlesticks. Combine tall and short pillar candles. Place dishes on boxes of varying heights hidden under a tablecloth.
4. Fresh Flowers, Plants and Greenery - This one requires no explanation. Artificial anything on your table sucks the life out of a party faster than a burnt turkey.
5. Colorful Food - Yes, I’m serious. A menu of roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, white lima beans, and angel food cake for dessert looks a little blah. Barbecued chicken with a variety of roasted vegetables, tri-colored potatoes, and a lemon pie has instant yummy appeal.
Bonus Tip:
Light Snacks and a Flowing Bar Before Dinner - People won’t arrive all at once. Bowls of tiny crackers or nuts set out for guests to snack on while waiting won’t ruin appetites. Get the drinks going, because, well, drinks get everybody going.