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Tips for Setting a Gorgeous Table

Anuschka Pashel of BLOOM shows us how to set the scene for celebration



Photography by David Patterson

While we were shooting Anuschka's house for this issue, we asked if she’d set a few tables and let us in on her mad compositional skills. Here, she offers expert advice on flower arranging and table tableaux—from fun to formal.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. I always tell people that the safest bet is to stick to one flower. Hydrangeas, roses, two types of dahlias and vanda orchids are in play for this shoot. If you mix flowers, keep it monochromatic. I use a knife, but garden shears are best for amateurs.

GO LOW. You want to see across the table and allow your guests unobstructed conversation space.

THE VESSEL IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE FLOWER. These are recycled French candleholders, and they come in multiple colors, so once the candle is done you can recycle it as a vase. Colored glass, brass or ceramic vases all work, as long as they’re low. It’s nice to have multiples of the same shape.

BUY MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED. “I always buy extra, because I like the arrangement to look full, and it takes more flowers than you think. If  there are extra, make a bouquet for the powder room. I do that whenever I have a party, because everyone uses it and it’s so unexpected.

ARRANGE FIRST; CUT SECOND. I arrange flowers in my hand in a dome shape before I cut. I then hold them next to the vase to estimate where to trim. You want the blooms just above the rim. Keep cutting until the length is right. 

DON'T CUT TOO SHORT. You can always trim more, but you can’t add stem. Trim off leaves (they can contaminate the water), and use excess buds or stems for adding creative touches to your arrangement later

"Flowers make everything look more beautiful" - Anuschka Pashel

BRUNCH-Y CASUAL

USE WHAT YOU HAVE. For casual dinners, I use our Heath Ceramics Coupe dishes we bought in San Francisco. They are durable, robust and rustic. We have four different colors of plates—gray, tan, black and white—so I like to mix them up on the table. For glassware, I use Crate & Barrel tumblers and classic Riedel wineglasses.  

LAYER YOUR TABLE. I put a Moroccan tablecloth under grass place mats and linens from India for added funk. Throw on different linens and textiles to add more texture and layers. Mix and match, but don’t go crazy. 

EMPLOY YOUR VESSELS. Use anything in your kitchen to hold items on your table. For this setting, I put flowers in old candle vessels. Use trays, coasters, bowls—anything goes!

EMBRACE THE UNEXPECTED. We used Crate & Barrel Jett black flatware for this setting. I really liked it, but I want to buy brass flatware for our home. I’m also looking for new water glasses in a different shape with a deep-red color. They would look great with flowers.

MIX UP THE SEATING. I use place cards because I don’t want all the men sitting on one side and the women on the other side. I’ll usually tuck the card next to a flower or in a piece of fruit.

DECK THE HALLS

USE YOUR BEST. Don’t let your nicest tableware just sit in a cabinet. Use it! I love the formality of our Georg Jensen silver, William Yeoward Crystal glasses and Villeroy & Boch china from our wedding registry.

GO FOR ALL WHITE. This is my look for Thanksgiving, Christmas and all formal dinners. The white provides a neutral, clean background, so the other colors on your table really pop. You can have fun on the table with a white backdrop, especially with flowers.

TOP THE TABLECLOTH. For this setting, I used a lace runner, but sometimes I’ll use a colorful, Mexican hand-stitched runner or an Asian runner for a different texture and feel. And don’t forget beautiful salt and pepper containers. They add a little curiosity to the table.

CANDLES, CANDLES, CANDLES. They create an intimate and festive atmosphere. I use at least seven to 12 votives on an 8- to 12-foot table. I like candles from Hudson Grace, but you can buy inexpensive ones at Cost Plus World Market, Target or Williams Sonoma. 

TRY A NEW CENTERPIECE. Instead of flowers, I sometimes line the table with pomegranates, oranges, pears, lemons or limes. Or you could use leaves, orchids, succulents, pebbles or rocks

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