The Challenge: Design a fall table mixing cherished china with local, budget-friendly finds. And, who better to answer the call of duty than accomplished interior designer, Aida Saul, and her good friend Leslie Culberston, who recently started an outstanding party planning company called Parties that Pop.
The Audience: One of my city’s most beloved garden clubs, Splendor in the Grass. This lovely group of women have been together for over 10 years and while they often meet to educate themselves on horticultural and environmental subjects, on a recent evening, they met to delight in the ceremony of seasonal changes. And, with autumn approaching, the season conjured up gardening questions, outdoor entertaining fears, and among other things, how to dress a fall table.
Open Road Kitchen (ORK): When approaching a table, where do you draw inspiration?
Aida Saul (AS): To start, I look at the season for color, then the occasion for theme and level of formality. Often I am using the same china for a dinner with close friends or for a Christmas dinner, and accordingly, I will set the table much more casual and experimental for friends and then for Christmas with more sparkle and light.
Leslie Culbertson (LC): Similarly, I draw from the season and color to inspire for the most part, unless the party is theme driven. If the hostess has a certain aesthetic, I will take that into consideration and create from there. Also, I think food can be an inspiration…if the food will be center-stage, like a lobster roast, then i may make it easy and go with red/white/shells/etc.
ORK: Speaking of themes, you didn’t have one here other than the inspiration of the season upon us. How did you all approach this table setting?
LC: Aida showed me her china and from there the stage was set. And, with autumn approaching, in spite of all this heat, I had to lighten the typical “fall” look that can be so dark with a pop of bright citrus green in the napkins and the candles. And, then I added the planters, horns and chargers to relax the look and finished with silver and antique, vintage glasses to add a final touch of shimmer, something all tables need.
ORK: This all sounds fabulous, but my concern would be the expense. How much did this cost to execute?
AS: For me, the cost has been stretched over the course of many years…I started my collection many years ago and decided that rather than buying serving pieces, that I would buy dinner and salad plates until I had enough to serve a large group, buffet style. I am now up to service of 26 and I occasionally go on e-bay to add to my Herend collection, and relish in the opportunities to use this for intimate gatherings. But, to be honest, my fantasy of serving a buffet diner with this collection is no longer a reality, as i have found it much more convenient to contract a caterer to bring and take away the dishes.
LC: I see this time, and time again with my clients. They will mix their finest china with rental glassware, and it works! And, I encourage everyone to use familiar stores like World Market and the Home Store, which fits all budgets. And for flowers, I use Costco, Trader Joes, the local farmer’s market, and, quite frankly, any store selling a lovely orchid would suit me fine, as it can stand the test of time and ground the table as a simple, yet elegant center piece. And, to answer your question, I spent $32 on the centerpieces featured on this fall table.
ORK: That is truly inspiring. Just look at this table…it seems like it is something out of Veranda or Elle Decor and you did it on a dime! So the details…explain the table, then we will get to the meal.
LC: Together we sourced flowers, cabbages, herbs, and ferns from the local farmer’s market and created supple arrangements rather than contacting a florist to execute our ideas. And, true to my mantra of mixing high and low, we mingled Aida’s stunning collection of china and my vintage glassware with everyday finds like rattan chargers, wooden napkin rings and horned candlesticks.
ORK: And, now to the meal. If either of you could name a quintessential fall meal, what would it be?
AS: Roasted root vegetable panzanella salad…and i love fresh burrata. Can you make that happen?
ORK: Challenge accepted my friend, just give me a couple of weeks. I’m still taking in the table.
Xoxo, truly humbled by this moment. E.