How to set up a beautiful dining table
January 07, 2022
Create a memorable scene with a nature inspired dining table setting
Whether an intimate gathering or a formal feast, the fondest memories are created around the dining table. Styling a memorable occasion requires dressing the table as equal part theatre and pleasure.
Indeed, the art of tablescaping, much like ikebana, the classical art of Japanese flower arranging, expresses emotion, balance and drama.
Despite the necessity of perfect tableware, crystal and cutlery, when it comes to a memorable setting nature-themed foliage is an inspired choice.
Such was the story for an intimate gathering at Kemps House in West Sussex. No detail was spared in creating a magical atmosphere when Alex Willcock and Felix Conran
played host to a winter feast.
Part of Kemps House's country charm is how this elegant 16th century home sits partly hidden amongst a bountiful landscape. When family and friends entered the dining room, they experienced an abundance of greenery that brought this immediate countryside indoors.
The recent 1stDibs report cited a "strong desire for biophilic motifs that bring greenery indoors and create harmony with nature" as a significant interior trend. Hence, it's no surprise the desire for botanical arrangements made from locally sourced foliage.
Senior stylist Anita Bell explains the process behind a botanic theatrical setting. Follow her unique decorating ideas for creating a beautiful scene and come join the table.
1. WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR TABLESCAPING THEME?
"The inspiration came from the sense of history that Kemps House holds and the grounds including the beautiful trees that grow there," shares Anita Bell about transforming the dining room into a nostalgic experience. "I wanted to style the space so that it would look how it might have done back in the 1600s when the house was built."
Knowing that Alex has such a strong love of nature led Anita and her team to "construct very long garlands taken from the Hemlock fir tree outside and tied the fronds onto long lengths of string that spanned the diagonals the room."
Anchoring the room was a beautiful natural Jute rug which enhanced the room's welcoming ambience.
2. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO BALANCE CRAFT AND NATURE IN YOUR CHOICE OF MATERIALS AND DINNERWARE?
"For the table, I chose to use wonderful locally handmade beeswax candles on the table for their gorgeous colour and sense of warmth," shares Anita. "We then decorated the centre of the table with sprigs of fir to tie in the green of garlands."
For the unique glassware, Alex found some cut crystal coupes from Brassica Mercantile, a Dorset housewares boutique, which Anita says, "reflected the candlelight beautifully."
3. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR HOMEOWNERS TAKING THE TABLESCAPING PLUNGE?
"My approach would be to keep it simple and choose perhaps three main elements," advises Anita. "For the table, I chose natural foliage, beeswax candles and the crystal in the glassware as the main focus for the setting. I would suggest exploring your garden or the countryside nearby to see what beautiful things you might find growing to bring in."
4. WHAT WAS THE CONCEPT BEHIND LIGHTING ABOVE THE TABLE?
For the room's lighting, Anita wanted to use natural light. "We placed candles on all surfaces, including tables, window sills, ledges and mantlepieces, to create that wonderful sense of calm and cosiness."
5. HOW DID YOU DESIGN THE HANGING FOLIAGE ABOVE THE TABLE?
"I knew I wanted to do something dramatic with the ceiling," shares Anita. "It lends itself so well to the long, long fir garlands. When sitting underneath the hanging foliage chandelier, it gave such a sense of being out in the woods; it somehow took you somewhere else."
"We crafted a terrific chandelier of eucalyptus, fir and hazel to hang over the centre of the table. It was very much about bringing the outside in."
Story by Catherine Caines