Welcome to my brand new blog! I’m so excited about this chance to connect with you each week and chat about how we can make our homes more lovely and livable as we celebrate our own decorating styles. I’m going to pack the blog full of decorating tips and techniques, complete with step-by-step photo how-to’s. I’ll share about new decorating finds and keep you up on the very latest in decorating trends. I hope you’ll visit me each week, here and on Facebook (and of course, at the stores, which is the best way of all).

I couldn’t resist devoting my inaugural blog to one of my all-time favorite topics: building a beautiful tabletop, whether it’s for everyday dining or entertaining. I fully confess to being a dish-a-haulic, and my love of table linens is just about as out of control. So that’s why setting a stunning table is such an absolute treat for me. In today’s hurly-burly world, where we often grab meals on the run, there is nothing as sublime as enjoying a lovely meal at a table that’s a feast for the eyes.

To inspire you to create magic on your own table this summer, first plan a trip to Atchison in April for our month-long tabletop show at Garrity’s. Each dining table in the store sports a different look, from bright and whimsical, to dreamy and romantic, to stylish and sophisticated, all using decorating tools you’ll find at Nell Hill’s. Bring your friends and your camera and make a day of it!

As a preview, Chery, our visual designer for the Atchison stores (the one who creates the tabletop masterpieces) and I want to share some simple tips you can use right now to make your table sing for summer.

Step One: Pick Your Theme

Do you want the overall look of your table to be stately? Romantic? Playful? Do you want to build your presentation around a certain color scheme, a favorite set of dishes or a special theme? To make a tabletop shine, all the components on the table must work together, so take a few minutes to create a plan.

For our sample tabletop treatment, we’ve picked a garden theme because I’m dying to get outside after this long winter. And to bring it to life, we’ve wedding two dynamite color combos: black and white (my perennial favorite) with orange and green, this season’s hottest hues.

Step Two: Start with a Great Base

When I entertain in the summer, I love to let as much of the natural wood of my tabletop show as possible, so instead of picking a tablecloth, I often use wicker chargers, trays or placemats as the base of a place setting. We just got these darling two-sided black and white placemats in, and I really like how they are thick and quilted, which gives the table a more casual feel. Plus, they are so easy to launder you’ll be able to use them for everyday dining.

Step Three: Pick Powerful Plates

I like to build place settings on top of interesting chargers or dinner plates. Today we picked this perky green floral plate.

Then we added a salad plate in a similar pattern but contrasting color. I love how the splash of lime green and tangerine orange pops against the black and white placemat.

Step Four: Add Flatware

To keep things interesting, I like to use a variety of flatware on my tabletops. Sometimes I mix vintage patterns. Other times I pick flatware that follows my theme, like using faux antler-handled flatware on a hunt-club themed table. Today we went with simple, streamlined stainless to match the clean look we want to create on our summer garden table.

Step Five: Select Gorgeous Glassware

Mixing up the glassware on your table gives the display more visual intrigue. Often I’ll use glasses with three different patterns and colors on a tabletop. Today, we’ve picked one of our most popular patterns: clear bubble glass (brides love this glassware, and it comes in a rainbow of colors). Then, to bring in a bit of organic texture, we included wicker covered tumblers, which are the perfect size for juice or wine.

Step Six: Tuck in a Napkin

While I’m normally not a fan of a “matchy” look in decorating, I couldn’t resist the napkins that go with these adorable placemats. Chery folded them so the contrasting fabric showed, then sheathed them in a white napkin detailed with flowers embroidered in black, binding the bundle with a black metal napkin ring. I also love to use cute dishtowels as napkins because they come in millions of patterns, are affordable, launder easily and are a generous size that will completely cover your lap.

If you are pressed for time or want a simple, edited look on your table, you can stop here. The table looks lovely! But if you’d like to add a few more layers to bring more depth and interest to your display, keep going.

Step Seven: Add Layers of Fun

Glass cloches have long been a mainstay of the Nell Hill’s look, and one of my favorite ways to use this classic decorating tool is to cover each place setting with a cloche, giving the tabletop a bit of grandeur. Before topping our floral plates with a cloche, Chery and I stuck in a fun figurine. These inexpensive, adorable garden snails add whimsy to the table and make great take-home gifts for guests. We also added an individual vase with perky daisies, one of my favorites for summer.

You’ll want to finish off your tablescape with a dramatic centerpiece (I’ll blog about how to create great summer centerpieces in a few weeks) and interesting accents, like this playful teapot that’s the crowning touch for our fresh summer tabletop.

Ready to get started? The pieces Chery and I used on our sample table are available at Nell Hill’s, Garrity’s and Nell Hill’s Online — just click on the “shop now” button on my Web site home page and you can start shopping this instant. If you’d like us to check our stores for availability of certain pieces or ship to your location, just call Kathleen at 877-367-1086.

Next week, I’ll be blogging about how to create a dramatic summer bouquet using fallen branches and faux greens – the natural and stunning arrangements you see in our stores. Theresa, the landscape architect who creates these displays at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff, will give us step-by-step instructions on how to create the same look in our own homes. Come back and join in the fun!

Celebrate Your Style,

Mary Carol Garrity

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30 Responses to “Create Beautiful Place Settings for Summer: Here’s How!”

  1. Kelly Alexander Says:

    LOVE

  2. frenchgardenhouse Says:

    Mary Carol,

    Great post! Loving the posts. Happy Easter! Lidy

  3. frenchgardenhouse Says:

    Sorry, hit the send button too fast before editing.

    You are always a font of inspiration. xo Lidy

  4. Emily Says:

    I think you tablescapes are gorgeous, but how do you serve your meals? What do you do with the cloche & snail when you are ready to serve? I usually entertain buffet-style. I would appreciate any tips you have. Thanks!

  5. Emily {Frilly Details} Says:

    What a cute place setting! Can’t wait to see what’s next on your blog :)

  6. lynne@lynnesgiftsfromtheheart Says:

    I’m so excited you’ve created a blog.. word of warning along with everything else on here, it’s very addictive..lol…. I can’t wait to get into your store and see it up close and personal.. Welcome to the world of blogging..
    hugs ~lynne~

  7. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Emily,
    Thanks for your question! When I entertain, I usually plate the meals in my kitchen. If I’ve set the table with cloches, I wait until everyone is seated, then I carefully remove each plate, still topped with the cloche and gift (in this case, it’s the cute snails), and take them into the kitchen. I fill the plates with food and bring them back in to the guests, but leave the cloches in the kitchen. You could also remove the snail before you take away the cloche and plates and put it at the top of the place setting.
    Enjoy!
    Mary Carol

  8. Sherry Says:

    Welcome to blogging! Tabletops are a big hit with us too! We will love getting to check out your latest looks in our favorite format-the blog! Love your style, such fun to see what you do next.
    Sherry

  9. Lynn Says:

    Love love love your ideas…have to admit I’m “stealing the willow charger with the napkin through handle for Easter. If it turns out I’ll post a picture.

  10. Donna Says:

    I am so excited that you have a blog! I love all your books. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  11. Christal Says:

    Your new blog is my “chocolate”! It is an absolute treat for my soul. I love taking in every detail and learning how to utilize the ideas. Dish towels for napkins?! Great idea. Thank you for taking time to share with “me” specific how-to tips and trends of the season! Can’t wait for a tablescape posting!

  12. Pat@Back Porch Musings Says:

    Mary Carol
    I am so happy to see you have a blog.

    I’ve shopped your stores in Atchison and KC and have had the pleasure of touring your beautiful home many times.

    I enjoyed my visit here and will return often.

  13. Jeanne Says:

    Hi Mary Carol, I was introduced to your store last summer by my good friend Dana at the, http://thestonerabbit.typepad.com/. She LOVES your stores and now so do I. Today I came over from Pat’s blog at, http://www.backporchmusings.com/. She mentioned your blog on her post. Both of these gals live in MO. I live in NC. You might remember we had our photo taken together in front of your store. I am thrilled to see you blogging and in such a beautiful way. I will be your loyal fan. BIG smile!

    Your post looks lovely and is very informative. Love the place setting with the colors you chose. I am looking forward to more.

    Enjoy your day.
    Jeanne

  14. Lynda Coulter Says:

    Hey M.C.— Your new blog is the best! The first video was great and you have a really talented gal in Miss Chery. Tabletops have always been a favorite subject of mine and Nell Hill’s has consistently presented the MOST creative ideas in this area. Love to you and I’ll see you “in the garden” soon.
    L.C.

  15. Lavender Wool Says:

    We are huge fans of your on line shop and website, thank you for all the time and energy you put into it!

  16. physician assistant Says:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  17. The Tablescaper Says:

    Welcome to the land of blogging. We have a great time! I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts. I have truly enjoyed your books and only wished I lived closer to your stores!

    I post a tablescape every week. Come visit!

  18. Kathleen Grace Says:

    Yay! A blog with all the beautiful decorating advice I have come to love in your books:>)

  19. Randy Says:

    Bunny and I send our best, delightful and creative, as always!

  20. Helen Says:

    Blog is a GREAT idea. Could you please tell me the paint color on your green wall? Love it! I have been looking for that color and cannot find it.

  21. Kirsten Sundell Says:

    I am so sad that I will be in DC with my family when you are having your big tent sale in June.
    Thank you for always giving me special attention even though I am usually an “under $100″ spender.
    Love your store, your books, your style. I honestly get a stomach ache when I come in your store because I get so excited to be there!
    Take care,
    Kirsten

  22. DiAnn Grimes Says:

    Hi,
    I just love the blog. I live in San Antonio, TX and I am in Kansas three times a year and I cannot come without coming to Nell Hill’s stores. I have so much fun seeing what you have done new and different each time I come. I always come away with some really great stuff for my home, plus new ideas for the old stuff. Thanks for all the great combinations of that make my home so comfortable.

  23. Linda Zimmerman Says:

    The Blog is wonderful. I have just ordered the set of 8..14″ square willow chargers from Nell Hill’s and can’t wait for them to arrive at my door here in British Columbia. I plan to use them each year through the summer months and then at Thanksgiving…they’ll look wonderful on the dining table with my willow a horn-of plenty. By the way…I still have the copy of ‘VICTORIA’ magazine where Nell Hill’s was featured some years back. Decorating has become so much more fun through your eyes.
    Cheers, Linda

  24. Gail Says:

    Even though I live in California, I was fortunate to get to stop by your store in Atchinson on my way from the East coast. I had read some of your books and a friend of mine in Kansas City mentioned that she thought I would enjoy seeing your store. I was there when fall was changing to Christmas so I got a taste for both. I purchased one of your books and read it on the way home. When I got home, I decided to start my own blog and one of my first posts was about your book and store. I also purchase one of your knit tops and when I wear it, I think of the fun time I had shopping in Atchinson. Thank you for your inspiration and I am looking forward to visiting you through your blog.

  25. maureen Says:

    Love this tablescape and it’s not complicated! Too bad I am in metro New York City area and can’t visit the store but I have bought from the website in the past! Love the products and the shipping was super fast!

  26. Anthony Says:

    Love this tablescape and it’s not complicated! Too bad I am in metro New York City area and can’t visit the store but I have bought from the website in the past! Love the products and the shipping was super fast!

  27. Simon Says:

    Even though I live in California, I was fortunate to get to stop by your store in Atchinson on my way from the East coast. I had read some of your books and a friend of mine in Kansas City mentioned that she thought I would enjoy seeing your store. I was there when fall was changing to Christmas so I got a taste for both. I purchased one of your books and read it on the way home. When I got home, I decided to start my own blog and one of my first posts was about your book and store. I also purchase one of your knit tops and when I wear it, I think of the fun time I had shopping in Atchinson. Thank you for your inspiration and I am looking forward to visiting you through your blog.

  28. Tony Says:

    Blog is a GREAT idea. Could you please tell me the paint color on your green wall? Love it! I have been looking for that color and cannot find it.

  29. Debra Says:

    I just LOVE your site!! There isn’t anyone or anything that compares. Nothing. I love your style and can’t get enough of your ideas, and suggestions not to mention the visuals. I have most of your books and dream of someday having a home where my entire home is decorated with your beautiful items. You are just amazing and I just hope that one day I can come out and visit your stores (I’m in California)
    Thanks again,
    Debra

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