Fall is my favorite season. I love to take advantage of the ideal combination of warm days and cool nights by hosting an annual outdoor dinner party. It is the perfect excuse to gather friends around a beautifully decorated table and serve up some delicious comfort food. In this post, I share my thought process for creating the decor and table setting for this dinner party.
Several years ago, I purchased a set of antique English transferware at an estate sale. It provided just the sort of rustic elegance I desired for this dinner party. Its cream colored background and floral pattern consisting of brown, gold, and orange colors perfectly reflected the fall theme and became the starting point for the entire table setting.
Because nothing is more elegant than a white linen tablecloth, this was the table’s first layer. Another vintage tablecloth with a yellow-orange damask border was positioned diagonally across the center. Overlays such as this create an opportunity to introduce additional color and texture while giving the table a luxe feel. Matching napkins were gathered up in the wine glasses to add height and dimension to the setting.
Because my tables are somewhat narrow, I needed a centerpiece that would not interfere with the flow of food or conversation. I placed a rustic lantern in the center as an anchor and created a “runner” of greenery consisting of eucalyptus and other leafy clippings from my yard. I topped this base with branches of ornamental eggplant, also known as “pumpkin on a stick.” These cute mini-pumpkins added color and texture while giving the table a whimsical touch. Tiny white fairy lights and votive candles were dispersed throughout the plant material for extra sparkle.
I recently started collecting mismatched vintage silverplate flatware and I set the table with it. Though tarnished, worn, and imperfect, it was a nice compliment to the antique china which was also crazed and imperfect. Incorporating older pieces, even when in less than pristine condition, can add loads of character and personality to a table.
As a party favor, each guest was given a loaf of homemade cranberry-apple bread in a ceramic baking dish. Wrapped in cellophane paper and banded with dotted orange craft paper, a name tag that doubled as a placecard was attached with jute string. After guests were seated, the breads were removed and placed off to the side so that the table would not get too crowded. The favor was returned to each guest at the end of the evening to take home as a memento and perhaps to be enjoyed for breakfast the next morning.
Menu cards stood in little slices of tree branches to announce the coming meal. I designed the menus and name tags using clip art I found on line.
In anticipation that the weather might turn chilly by nightfall, cozy polar fleece blankets were folded over the backs of the chairs. A patio heater was positioned at one end of the space and the fireplace was lit at the other end so that warmth would be evenly distributed. I purchased a few white plastic tablecloths from the local dollar store, gathered them up, and stapled them to the top of the beams at the entrance of the patio. These easy, inexpensive makeshift curtains created a sense of intimacy, as well as helped hold in the heat.
Once the meal was over, we lingered around the table enjoying one another’s company. While the glow of the candles, the crackle and warmth of the wood fire, and the jazz playing on the stereo created lovely ambiance, it was the company of good friends gathered around the table that made it a truly enchanting fall evening.