Artfully layered table linens, your favorite dishware, a clutch of candles and a bit of nature brought indoors. That's all it takes to make even the most casual get-together feel like an occasion and turn dinner into a dinner party.
When it comes to decorating, we like to keep things simple and seasonal, because no hot-house bouquet can equal fresh cut greenery for color and fragrance. And while spring and summer are bursting with bright blooms, late fall and winter have charms of their own.
Slip a pair of clippers in your pocket and take a walk
- Fall's blazing foliage is as beautiful as any flower arrangement, so why not bring a few boughs of maple or aspen indoors?
- Holly and nandina (AKA Heavenly Bamboo) are two lush green plants decked with bright red berries in the cooler months.
- Eucalyptus has leaves that range from silver-green to copper, and some types have silky red tassels or seed pods shaped like sleigh bells.
- Olive trees are evergreen, and their pale, frosty leaves are a symbol of peace, besides.
- Pine, fir and cedar fill the air with woodsy scent, and the varied shades and shapes of their needles and cones look amazing together, the more the better.
- Even though your rose bushes may not be blooming, they can still contribute to the table with ruddy orange-red rose hips on long canes that tuck easily into arrangements.
- Evergreen magnolia trees have glossy, deep-green leaves with slim, sturdy stems.
- Ivy comes in many shades of green, solid and variegated, with big leaves and small, and most are evergreen (careful to cut true ivy, though, and not poison ivy!).
- Don't overlook bare branches, rocks, moss and other natural elements. Anything you find lovely has a place at the table.
via Interiors Atelier AM
Once you have your cuttings, what should you do with them?
- Arrange a few branches in a pitcher or vase (with river stones or cranberries at the bottom for counterweight) to make a dramatic centerpiece.
- Roll each napkin, tie it with a length of twine, and tuck in a sprig of greenery to infuse individual place settings with cheer.
- Wrap string lights around bare branches to create a twinkling chandelier.
- Heap pine cones in a bowl or simply scatter them across the table along with tufts of moss or lichen.
- Drape ivy along the table for a green and tendrilling runner, or wind it around a napkin on each plate.
- Float autumn leaves in clear, water-filled containers, and intersperse them with votive candles to make the colors glow like stained glass.
- Use a contrasting grease pencil to turn smooth stones or large leaves into place markers or labels for dishes on the buffet.
Unlike formal flower-arranging, there really are no rules with a nature-inspired table. So get creative and have fun. Just be sure to leave the critters and bugs outdoors—they, and your guests, will thank you.