After more than a year of virtual Thanksgiving, pandemic Christmas, Hanukkah via Zoom, and New Year’s Eve spent alone watching the ball drop, raise your hand if you feel rusty at being around other people—let alone entertaining. But have no fear. You can gather friends and loved ones in your home once again, whether to mark a holiday or just to see faces you’ve missed, with a minimum of stress. If you’re looking to leave your guests in awe as they sit down for an amazing night of comradery and delicious eats follow these pro tips for the perfect place settings.
Glory Barbaris, founder and creative director of Sterling-based Wildflower Hill Co., used decor that draws on earthy elements and textured neutrals to create this natural look. Her approach? Mixing and matching items to create a clean, breezy vibe—perfect for NoVA’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle.
Barbaris layered in flatware from Amazon, vintage coupe glasses from Wildflower’s rental collection, and plates from Bed, Bath & Beyond. A silk chiffon runner from Amazon builds a sense of movement.
Your dinner guests should feel comfortable at the table, so Barbaris suggests adding in throw pillows and soft blankets for a relaxed, cozy aesthetic. (She typically sources affordable items from HomeSense or HomeGoods.) Drape them over the backs of chairs or fold them on each seat. It’ll lead folks to linger—and keep them warm in the cooler months.
Dried materials are synonymous with boho style, so Barbaris made sure to team them with fresh florals throughout her setting—a mix of garden roses, butterfly ranunculus, amaranthus, bunny tails, wheat grass, bleached scabiosa, seeded eucalyptus, and astrantia. She sourced these, and the pillar candles, from Metro Flower Market in Chantilly.
The Name Cards
These designs by Wildflower Hill Co.’s team elevate the tablescape, giving it a touch of formality with assigned seating—particularly important if someone has dietary restrictions.
Entertaining gives you the opportunity to flex your creative muscles—just like Janice Carnevale, founder of Falls Church–based Bellwether Events, did for this contemporary spread, in which each element becomes a piece of art.
The Table Runner
Carnevale worked with Arlington-based painter Brittany Branson to dream up this custom table runner, though this could be an easy DIY project. Break out a few paintbrushes and try freehanding an abstract design. “Just be sure to mix your acrylic paints with a fabric-binding agent,” says Carnevale.
The Objets D’Art
To add dimension, Carnevale used mini canvases and easels to make small-scale 3-D artworks. (Branson contributed her painter’s brush to these pieces as well.) Fresh flowers poke out from the canvases, and candelabras were also filled with blooms to add interest. Carnevale picked these at Potomac Floral Wholesale in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Because the event industry is experiencing a flower shortage, Carnevale advises keeping blooms to a minimum and incorporating plants instead. Maybe you even have some already sitting around your house. “Botanologica in Falls Church sells some of the most beautiful plants and containers that can easily move from your windowsill to your table centerpiece without a second thought,” she says.
The Place Settings
“Using layers of plates, napkins, and stationery can create a welcoming and exciting first impression when your guests arrive,” notes Carnevale, who relied on goods from DC Rental in Shirlington and Select Event Group in Tysons Corner. “Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and styles, as long as you’re staying consistent with the color palette.”
Woodbridge-based Perfect Planning Events founder and creative director Tara Melvin started at a sentimental place for her sophisticated spread. She wanted to celebrate what she calls “Black girl magic,” or the bond between close companions and their culture. “Imagine you and your best friends at an elegant table that represents your inward and outward beauty,” she says.
On a whim, Melvin picked up these antique diamond-cut vases at a DC flea market, knowing she would eventually find a reason to use them. “Don’t ignore flea markets,” she advises. “You will find some of the most perfect gems.”
The Napkin Rings
Not only do these ivory agate napkin holders from Amazon add a hint of sparkle, they also symbolize calmness and peace—perfect for a party with pals. Melvin says they work well because they can be dressed up or down, for formal or casual dining.
The Little Details
When it comes to decorating for your party, shop around your house, says Melvin. These ornate decorative balls, for example, were pulled directly from her personal decor—she uses them in her living room, office, and bathrooms.
The Wine Glasses
Here, Melvin used an oversized bubble red-wine glass. “I recommend using a red wine glass, especially when you are not sure which wine your guests will prefer,” she says. Sticking to one type also eliminates excess on a crowded table. Find options at spots like Evolution Home in Alexandria.
Amp up the drama with multiple candles, like Melvin does here. (Look for them at local stores like Gift & Gather in Occoquan.) She incorporated black and gold tapered designs to complement the china and tie in with the bold, dynamic tablescape. “They set an elegant tone and energy,” says Melvin.
Melvin purchased these black-and-white-patterned pieces for a friendship dinner with her friends; she sourced them from Walmart, though she advises you can find special plateware at The Old Lucketts Store in Leesburg. Think about how you can reflect your guests in the decor: The medallion shapes, for instance, represent her friends’ tenacity and drive for success.