While there’s definitely a lot to think about when hosting a dinner party—will everyone show up on time? Will the meals turn out OK? Will people have fun?—one thing you don’t have to sweat is setting a beautiful table. This is your chance to showcase the amazing pieces you’ve inherited or collected over time. Here are four ways to use the things you love to create a unique and special evening for you and your dinner guests.
No fine china? No problem When it comes to tabletop heirlooms, it doesn’t start and end with Grandma’s silverware. Anything goes, really, especially if it tells a personal story, like these large clam shells my mom, sister and I collected on the beach one summer. My mom took them home, put them in the dishwasher and thoroughly cleaned them. Then one day, when she had guests over, she decided to use them to serve a French scallop appetizer. They were such a crowd-pleaser that she continued to use them for years and probably still has them today.
Serve Up Different Dishes (Literally) Sometimes it’s fun to mix and match all your different dish and glass sets to create a unique look. I love to do this, especially because it reminds me of the time when my friend and I hosted dinner parties right after we graduated college. Since we couldn’t afford a matching glass set, at the time, we went to flea markets and bought all these different wine glasses. When we set the table, every person got a different wine glass. It made for a great conversation piece among the guests who compared their different glasses.
Redefine Potluck Food, of course, is a key element to any party. It’s also the perfect platform to share heirloom recipes. As the hostess, you can coordinate with your guests to create a menu where each person is sharing a dish they have either inherited or turned into their specialty over time. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve made my mom’s apple strudel for dessert and my friend, Alice, who’s from the south, has made her signature crab cakes for appetizer. It’s fun, easy, and you can swap recipes at the end of the night.
Decorate with Your Collection If you’re a collector, consider turning your prized finds into tabletop décor for an evening. As you know by now, I collect teapots and, occasionally, I love to use them as vases. I’ll set them in the center of the table and color-coordinate them with the dishware. One time, I set white dishes, white candles, and white and yellow teapots filled with white roses on a white embroidered runner (see photo above). It created a clean, sophisticated, beautiful effect using pieces I adore.
Obviously, this idea doesn’t translate well to all collections, but you would be surprised what you could do with a little imagination. If you collect books or antique letters, make photocopies of them and use them as placemats or write the menu on the back. If you collect seashells, like a friend of mine, consider placing them throughout the table or at the center on a bit of sand if you live near a beach. Or if you’ve collected photos, use old snapshots of friends and family as fun and intriguing place cards.
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