Take a cue from the season for your next get-together by keeping the table airy, natural and easy. “If you feel like there’s too much going on, there is,” says Christy Johnson, owner of To La Lune Events, who designed these eight complementary place settings for summer gatherings and beyond. These ideas encourage improvisation and working with pieces you already have.
1. Highlight nature. A foraged fern leaf pops against the all-white setting, where it’s used here as the placemat. We also see how you don’t have to set the table with a napkin, in case you want to stack them somewhere else or keep them all together in the center of the table.
Tip: Dried blooms, vines or anything from the yard could be swapped in for the leaf. Before using them, rinse, pat dry and flatten them, if necessary, under a heavy book for an hour or two.
2. Dress up with a napkin. Place a trifold napkin underneath the dinner plate to dress up the table. Johnson chose an off-white linen, but you could easily use a quality paper napkin. Play around with how far you want it to hang off the edge of the table for the look you want.
A calligraphy name card with a wax seal embellishes this understated setting. You could also use printed or handwritten name cards.
3. Decorate with food. “When people sit down, they’re instantly greeted with something delicious to eat,” Johnson says. The key is choosing something with a beautiful texture and structure that can sit out for a little while. Here, an apple tart welcomes guests. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with starting out with something sweet,” she says.
4. Switch up name cards. Here, vellum and a relaxed script add a playful vibe. A scattering of walnuts gives people something to munch on right away.
Tip: If you love the idea of using name cards but don’t want to dictate where people sit, feel free to write something else on them, such as “welcome” or anything festive for the occasion.
5. Play with the linens. A loosely knotted napkin builds height and structure and changes up a traditional setting.
Tip: “Playing with napkins is funny,” Johnson says. “There isn’t a direct formula to it. There is a starting ground, but you just have to play with it.” Here, she folded the napkin diagonally, like a bandana, and then knotted one of the corners on itself.
6. Use one plate. If you want to use only one plate, or would like to stack the salad plates elsewhere or serve a salad separately, try adding a fern leaf that’s slightly smaller than the plate, curved around the edge. This plate has a curved lip, which nicely frames the leaf, but you could also just lay the leaf on top of the plate.
7. Offset it. Pull your salad plate to a corner of the dinner plate for a more artistic effect. With the fern leaf curved around the dinner plate, the offset salad plate hints at the greenery below.
8. Embrace geometry. The spirals of the leaf, the pattern of the offset plates and the morning bun create almost a geometric art piece. A darker gray linen napkin pops a little more against the white dinnerware here.